Book Review: Infinite Bandwidth

One of the (good) problems about the Church is that she has a lot to say about a lot of things. This is good because the Church is concerned with many things and brings to bear the Gospel message on all facets of human life. It is a problem because wading through all the writings on a single topic — and walking away with a systematic understanding of that topic — can be time consuming and overwhelming, even for those of us used to reading ecclesial language.

Infinite Bandwidth: Encountering Christ in the Media does the work for you by  condensing  and systematizing the Church’s teaching on social communications. In doing so Dr. Eugene Gan provides an invaluable resource for those of us engaged in and interested in new technologies and their impact on the work of the Church.

Dr. Gan has pulled from nearly 100 years worth of Church teaching on media seven general principles for how Catholic are called to enjoy, produce, and interpret media messages. Each chapter follow a general pattern:

  1. a basic overview of the principle in question;
  2. concrete examples for how the principal is used or ignored;
  3. reflections on why the principal matters;
  4. and a section on applying the principle in real life.

For instance, in in the chapter explaining the Church’s teaching that media should be truthful, Dr. Gan starts with an objective truth; reflects on the truth contained in Schindler’s List, contrasting it with the false impression and fabrications often  encountered  in the online world; notes how the media uses stories to influence our understanding of truth; and ends with some practical ideas and  reflection  questions.

Thankfully, Dr. Gan avoids a strident parochialism in his book. Along the way he praises both explicitly Christian (EWTN, The Passion of the Christ, SQPN, etc.)  and overtly secular media productions (The Dark Knight, Life is Beautiful, etc.). He also doesn’t pull any punches criticizing religious productions that take shortcuts with production values and fail to make themselves attractive to their target audience.

Infinite Bandwidth should be required reading for anyone interested in the intersection of faith and media. Just as the Theology of the Body makes Bl. Pope John Paul II’s teachings on human sexuality accessible to the average reader, Dr. Gan’s book makes the Church’s teachings on social communications less intimidating and more lucid.  In fact I could see catechists and educators using this book with high school students or adults as part of a media literacy curriculum.