South African film producers create Catholic social network
I must admit: when I learned that the two producers who were coming to meet me in my office are both from South Africa, my mind was stuck on films like District 9, Elysium, and the upcoming Chappie, all three of which were directed and produced by South African-born Neill Blomkamp.
But the conversation with my visitors quickly expanded my parochial thinking. My visitors – Norman Servais, film producer, writer, and director, and Cris Riego de Dios, attorney by trade and training, not only produced films that have been shown on EWTN, but they are both enthusiastic about their Catholic faith and have created Awestruck.tv, a Catholic online social networking site that is unique in more ways than one. Calling it a “Catholic Facebook” would really do it injustice, I soon learned, but I couldn’t help wonder: Do we really need another Facebook (or Google+ or LinkedIn etc.)? Why would we need a “Catholic Facebook”?"
Tell us about Awestruck.tv. What is it all about?
In essence we’re a Catholic social network targeting a niche community. So, we need to do things differently. By mimicking existing offerings on the internet we cannot add real value.
Giant social networks like Facebook, because of their necessarily inclusive approach, are, of course, not there to promote the Church; and they often contravene their own terms and conditions by tolerating and sometimes promoting content radically opposed to faith and good morals. Vimeo and Tumblr (for example) are infested with porn and repeated attempts to close a number of hate groups on Facebook have not been successful. This situation calls for a niche social network dedicated to celebrating the faith and promoting the Church — a trusted space where Catholics can feel “at home," discover trusted Catholic content and have the tools to easily share content to networks outside of Awestruck. We’re outward looking instead of inward looking.
Awestruck is headed by the Archbishop of Cape Town and president of the Southern African Bishops conference, Archbishop Stephen Brislin. We are run by a team of volunteer lay people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
That’s Awestruck in a nutshell!
I just tried it and it’s a simple log in process. If you choose to, you can use your existing Facebook account and literally make it a one-click sign in…couldn’t be easier. What can those who log in expect to experience on Awestruck.tv?
After logging into the homepage of Awestruck.tv, the new user may be surprised to arrive at a blank page. This is intentional because we want users to be able to customize the network entirely to their liking. It’s a similar approach to Facebook. You see the content you choose to see, so we encourage members to personally build a network of friends. The more effort that members put into this the more valuable the network becomes. It’s essential for our users to be able to easily discover activity going on across the network as and when they wish by viewing the public “Activity” stream. This feed has all sorts of content that may interest the user. It’s up to each user to choose to “Friend" or “Follow" feeds of other users. In this way one builds a personalized “Your Stream”.
What inspired you to create and set up Awestruck.tv?
The Catholic world, though huge, is a relatively disconnected world. There are many people doing many things, but it’s not necessarily easy for the average Catholic to discover these new initiatives going on in the Church. We want Awestruck to be a place where Catholics can get a message out to the Catholic community easily and effectively. It’s a tall order and an exciting challenge. For now we are focusing on the English speaking world, but that will change. The challenge for us was to build a network that allowed for a customized method of networking that would best serve the Church. We’ve created an intuitive social interface, similar to Facebook but which helps Catholics stay in touch with events in the Church, deepen their faith, facilitate easy sharing of media and build connections with others around the globe. The network is still a mustard seed of what we hope it will become, but we hope and pray that the concept catches fire.