Durham: MediaLit

CODEC will be holding its sixth MediaLit training course from 8th to 12th June 2015 exploring Christian ministry and the media

Previous MediaLit courses, held annually since 2010 (see ‘Related Links’), have been greatly valued by the participants – ministerial students/ordinands, ministers, media professionals, diocesan and district communications officers.

MediaLit is open to anyone interested in engaging with the media – mass media, broadcast media, social media, community media, with a core group of ordinands at Cranmer Hall partaking in the course. You do not need to know how to ‘do technology’ to partake in the course – simply be willing to partake in discussions and activities.

I am the current course convenor, and will be teaching sessions on digital culture and digital literacy.

Book with CODEC

#Digidisciple for #Gain15

So, the other week I heard about #GAIN15, and after contacting @KosterLundqvist via Twitter, agreed to join them for a 5 minute Skype session this morning, before I head to Karate. Here’s what it looked like from their end:

And here’s what it looked like from my end (pre-session!): skype

and just as we kick off:


and here’s the notes I was working from:

The Challenge of Discipleship in a Digital Age: GAIN

  • So, have we had a ‘digital revolution’? New forms of technology have shifted what is possible – what does it make possible, and what does it limit? Sheer numbers online (with younger in particular not seeing this as separate from so-called ‘real’ life). How does it impact our discipleship practices?
  • Churchgoing not the ‘cultural norm’ for many in the UK, too much competition for other activities on a Saturday/Sunday – those who are even ‘looking’ more likely to come via a website, or, even more likely, via their friends.
  • Anecdotally, around 2012, questions from those working within churches changed from “we don’t need this” to “how do we do this”? Emphasising the importance of understanding digital culture in order to engage with it (effectively).
  • God is a communicating God, and the digital age offers opportunities for more voices to be heard (although we need to challenge pre-existing power structures – the digital doesn’t provide a free for all), and if we concentrate on ‘social’ not media, then the digital with its emphasis on relationships is a powerful space – and we are entrusted by God to be good stewards of our interactions in that space.
  • Church not about ‘bums on seats’, but about developing that discipleship journey: we’re not trying to ‘sell’ something to the world, but to ‘be’ something that is distinctively different, inviting connection from the rest of the world, and an opportunity to be part of a global community.
  • There’s an importance for us as technology users to, yes, be competent users of technology, but not if we are incompetent in what we might be sharing with others, so part of our own discipleship journey is to challenge ourselves as to our practices, including personal spirituality, community, and mission.
  • “Disciples keen to engage modern culture need to understand how to exist in, listen, read, and speak into the digital age: being immersed in the culture, but also acting as a change agent within that culture.” So, so glad that this conversation is on the agenda!
  • On our site: “#Digidisciple(s) have written on a huge range of topics, including tweeting in church, legal and ethical questions, reviews of the latest scholarship, demonstrating graceful communication, thinking before tweeting, the importance of listening, undertaken a digital pilgrimage, relationship development online, authenticity, drawing upon best practice in the secular world, the use of language, attitude, and wellbeing – including taking digital time out. Overall, the group explores how digital practices and values (e.g. social, always-on, immediate, responsive, iterative, accountable, avatar use) contribute to contemporary discipleship and how discipleship values (e.g. authenticity, integrity, discernment) shape the digital environments that are engaged with.”
  • Core to my belief to this is that we are engaged in lives that encompass both the digital and the physical, and we should be looking for consistency in our presence. The digital offers new opportunities to engage with others in our community – share experiences, practices, discuss theology, but also for (some of) those conversations to be in the public sphere, opening it up to our other friends, using the new opportunities to share the spiritual activities that we are engaged in for sharing not for proclamation = authenticity!

Some thoughts extracted from: https://www.academia.edu/8724570/The_Digital_Age_A_Challenge_for_Christian_Discipleship

 and now it is time to run to Karate!

CODEC BOOK CLUB: How We Think by Katherine Hayles

Reblogging from the CODEC blog, posted earlier today:

Thow-we-thinkhis week the CODEC team focused upon the third chapter of Katherine Hayle’s How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (University of Chicago Press, 2012). The third chapter focuses upon ‘How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine’, and certainly gave us lots to chew on.

Initial comments were that we liked what was written, but found the emphasis on all the negative reports about digital as frustrating. An oft heard argument is that our reading is worse ‘because of digital things’, and some members of the team felt that there were broader cultural factors at work rather than solely technological factors. There was agreement that the forms of technology may be changing the manner of reading, as we referring to the ‘F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content’, noting that the further a user scolls, the more eye attention tends to drop off. On p.66, Hayles noted that “Canny web designers use this information to craft web pages, and reading such web pages further intensifies this mode of reading” – so in a self-reinforcing manner, as this form of reading becomes common, more people write for it, so it becomes more common.

There was a short debate re p55, that people “are doing more screen reading of digital materials than ever before”, referring to other kinds of screen reading such as OHP, reel-to-reel cinema, and microfiche, but these were largely seen as recent forerunners of ‘screen’. Debating the etymology of the word ‘screen’, we wondered when/how it stopped being a word that stopped a user being burnt by fire, and became something projected upon a screen. Was it the safety screen at the theatre? We noted that many words for technology come from the analogue world, and referred to an earlier conversation that day in which CODEC prepares to run the worship for Cranmer Hall later this month, that we a) didn’t want it to be a service of gimmicks (the technology serving the theology and not vice versa) and b) did not want the experience to be too far from the established format for the service (otherwise risking being seen as irrelevant). We wondered if screen was a printing technology term, as it certainly still uses a lot of the structure of print.

On p78, Hayles referred to Wordle as a form of machine reading. We debated whether Wordle’s are machine reading, or whether it is a visual method that provides visual data, offering insights into e.g. frequency rather than tone. The @bigbible’s Tumblr, which takes each chapter of the Bible and represents it visually, has received feedback that it gives new insights into reading the Bible, and others that it is not the Bible, and shouldn’t be interpreted as such. We then questioned how often we use these kind of tools in our everyday theological reflection, rather than as ‘something special’, and if they are ‘tools of our time’, whether we should be using them more to be relevant for our culture. If we read faster, is it necessarily distracted reading. Is this a different way of reading – this is part of what the chapter seeks to address. Are the programmes that exist signposts of the digital age? Why did someone create a programme that allows text to be grouped like Wordle? Was it for fun, or was culture changing and this was something produced as a response? Are they beneficial, and do they help us?

With Pete having recently been to an event on DarkNet, we turned to looking at recent events in which GCHQ and NSA have been identified as downloading emails. They indicate that they are not reading them, but just storing them. The machine ‘reads’ those emails, and algorithms will have been set up in which keywords identified with particular terrorist activities will send up a red flag. A level of human reading is then required to contextualise that email to identify if it is a threat or not. Surveillance and machine reading aren’t an either/or, they are different and complementary. Machine reading gets through vast amounts of data, close reading gives deeper insights into human intricacies.

Josh referred to the classic ‘How to a read a book’ as we questioned whether hyper-reading is something particularly digital, or whether it is in fact a very familiar form of reading to academics, particularly those who need to get through a large volume of data. Bex noted that her PhD, focused on 20th century history, required hyper-reading of vast quantities of data, whereas earlier periods of history have to work with sparse sets of data. She noted that when she started her PhD, the Public Record Office (now the National Archive) used paper-based indexing systems, whereas part-way through it converted to digital indexing. We concluded this hadn’t specifically changed the way she read, but allowed easier access of (even more) material.

As we return to notions of what machine reading is, we referred to the fact that CPUs don’t currently match human brain-power, but there is an expectation that in 15-20 years it will do. As we listened to some computer-reading, we questioned what the loss of intonation changes. We got involved in a debate about as to in what sense does a machine understand something? Can it close read and “understand”, or does it have to work within the limits of the fact that it is programmed by humans? Speech recognition software, what is it set up to recognise? Does Siri work in understanding meaning? Are we born tabula rasa, and how do we learn language – can a computer do the same? We are typically limited in thinking about the machines on our desk, but we need to think about bigger systems such as Watson, what do they understand? Do they just understand what they are told to understand, or can the AI take over and self-learn? What about the film Robot & Frank, in which a human-computer relationship developed – until the computer was rebooted? How AI already become scary? The computer is still asking one question, but is learning more efficient ways of gathering that data. How do SatNavs use data to produce a coherent narrative? AIs typically question if something is good/bad, now starting to question ethical decisions or say “I don’t know”: they are moving beyond cognitive binary decisions.

Earlier that morning, a story had circulated that “teens who use screens more sleep less”, which Bex – drawing on her book – and the fact that she grew up screen free, but stayed up late reading books – whether all the variables had been considered, and whether it was the screen, or the staying up late that was the problem (acknowledging that the issue of Melatonin changing body clocks has been well researched) – see this opposing view article last year. Is there a difference between staying up to read a print book, in which case you will be tired, or if reading a screen, will the body-clock have been fooled into thinking that it is daytime, and be impacted in other ways? Have we changed our behaviours in many ways because technology is available, but also to make technology more workable? The world has become technologized so that we can get more out of the workers, and we think we can cope with this, but we have seen that songbirds are being negatively affected by a 24/7 lifestyle. Some bloggers have referred to the invention of the lightbulb (rather than the screen) as disrupting our sleep patterns, but we can see further back that activities continued with candles/firelight.

For all the reflection there is on technology, is part of the role of digital theology to try and get a birdseye view of the situation? There’s no sign of it slowing it down, what is the harm that we may do if we are not aware of the affordances and constraints of digital technology (in a similar way to the way that smoking was publicised as healthy)? Do we need to look more deeply, think about what we have been ‘forced’ to do, where we have choices, and how much information we need to make decisions (and where the information comes from to inform those decisions). Are our brains being rewired, and is that a problem is so? Where are the positives – for example, with mobile devices, typically people are reading significantly more as are not tied to a desk top machine.

With the book now three years since publication, does this well-written text already feel a little old fashioned? If we look at efferent/aesthetic readings, are there more modern ways of approaching this? Are questions in the digital realm moving so fast that we need to be focusing on on-going technical reports, rather than books?

Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning

Professor Katherine Hayles is IAS Fellow at St Mary’s College, Durham University (January – March 2015) 


CODEC BOOK CLUB: Defining Digital Humanities

Reblogging from CODEC blog, posted earlier today:

Defining-Digital-Humanities-TerrasBack in October the CODEC team discussed Melissa Terras’ inaugural professorial lecture on digital humanities, whilst this week we focused on the associated book Defining Digital Humanities: A Reader (Ashgate, 2013) edited by Terras, Nyhan, Vanhoutte. We focused upon the introduction (pp1-7), and a series of definitions of ‘digital humanities’, covering the years 2009 to 2012 (pp279-297).

Discussions started with a questioning of which of the definitions most resonated with members of the CODEC team, seeking to clarify that what CODEC is doing is actually “digital humanities”. Bearing in mind that the text indicates that “we make no attmpt to imply that one view is more correct than another, nor do we believe this to be the case” (p279), it is unsurprising that there were a range of views. Digital humanities allows us to pursue questions humanists have always pursued, but faster and on a larger scale; it allows us to focus on digital culture, including cyberculture and posthumanism; and other projects allow us to create new online materials for future use.

Stephen Ramsay, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, indicates that digital humanists both built and theorise the built, demonstrating optimistic futurism, and scepticism of the posthuman condition. Kim Lacey from Wayne State University focused on increased cross-pollination between and across academic fields, whilst new interactive tools allow us to rediscover ideas in a new way, whilst ‘Mia’ noted that we need to think critically about the impact of digitality on scholarly practice.

We questioned what it is about the subject that makes it hard to define, although funding has determined that themaking of tools has been prioritised, so it’s tactical convenience to follow those kind of projects. Are we truly burning down academic walls, or simply jumping on the latest fashionable bandwagon (as the number of centres defined as ‘digital humanities’ has grown hugely in recent years) – whether that be digital humanities or interdisciplinarity. The book seems to focus more on what technology can bring to the humanities, rather than the other way round. Is the computer simply ‘slave labour’, producing data that humans then analyse? What about the computer’s ability to interact – how does that change things?

Bearing in mind that ‘digital humanities’ emerged from the field ‘Humanities Computing’, the definitions given by a range of academics appears to follow an interesting line between 2009 and 2012. In 2009, the majority of definitions were focused upon ‘the computer’, by 2010, the focus had moved to ‘functionalism’, by 2011, to experimentation, collaboration and interdisciplinarity, whereas by 2012 the conversation appeared to have moved onto changing practice, and questioning the impact of digital, with more resistance to the idea of that ‘digital humanities’ was any more than a phase in the humanities. In many ways this follows the same route as “e-learning” conversations, which view the “e” as simply a transitional term, as expertise is on the learning and teaching.

We discussed whether ‘digital’ has rebooted the humanities, and whether there are stop/start point, or whether it is part of a continuum (which doesn’t take away the history of what has already happened). We agreed that we are definitely building upon what has been done before, and that the range of expertise in the room (theological, biblical, IT, history, media) offered co-laboratory opportunities and new ways of doing. Rather than rebooting, the digital provides a new ‘operating system’ on top of what has already happened. The majority of those engaging in this field have been trained in the humanities and then start tinkering with computers and code. Within CODEC we’re certainly looking for collaborations for the back-end technology, as we focus more on the front-end questions.

If we throw computer science and theology together, or put theology into the digital spaces, what happens? How do we bring the expertise that we already have into the digital age/spaces and change the conversations? How do we define ‘digital theology’? Theology involves talking about God, in historical, contemporary, experiential and sociological ways (to name but a few). Does all of this have to be interdisciplinary by nature? Not necessarily. It’s also important to remember that those things that appeared cutting edge a few years ago (such as online journals), are now part of everyday practice.

Interdisciplinarity offers opportunities to break out of disciplinary silos, potentially seeking to make research more meaningful to society. We examined how far development in the digital humanities is driven by the disciplines or funding organisations. Technological tools offer opportunities to make money, so is it all driven by politics or economics, rather than academic drivers? How far has the ‘impact agenda’ changed the questions we ask, and the research outcomes we seek? Within academic systems such as the REF, interdisciplinarity, although officially encouraged, can make it hard to place those who truly work across disciplines.

We have to ask whether we are actually asking something new with the research that we’re doing? Why do others see value in the work that we do? Opportunities may be driven (or constrained) by funding, but the desire has to be there amongst those doing the work, and amongst those we are working with to produce the most interesting results. When we look at ‘digital discipleship’, what is digital about it? Is it just the technology we’re using? What are the bigger questions about digital culture that changes the way we do things/think? With regards to the Bible, Erasmus led to the production of the Bible/texts, leading to the production of scholarly resources which influence modernist Bible techniques and scholarly Bible interpretation. The changes are pedagogical rather than sociological.

Are we in an age of post-postmodernism , is “the” digital age a new umbrella term? We have seen this across “the ages” of history, including the development of writing in 5th Century Athens, the printing press in the reformation/renaissance, or was it pre-dated by post-modernism in the 1960s/70s? Are we part of the first movement towards a ‘greater age’, or is this, as Janison would say, the last blast of capitalism? We drew on Toderov (the reader is in charge of interpreting the text), Derrida and Richard Worthy in questioning whether the ‘consumer’ can read a text how they choose to, rather than it having a fixed meaning.

If there is a ‘digital age’, can we define it? Is it possible to create a simple list? What are the characteristics of e.g. ‘digital theology’? What are the differences between a/the digital age? Is it a new “age”? Does it have to be global? Is it difference from ‘the information age’? Has it/does it have the potential to be distinct? Both volume and accessibility have increased with computer. Was transportation a building block of where we are now at, leading to the industrial age, cities, societies in which skills could be aglomorated? It’s a modernist notion to place time in ‘ages’.

Digitial Humanities: Part of its way of thinking is to interrogate what it is. Most self-define, but do we need to agree? Funding places those constraints, and we can expect challenges to our definitions. Are there better things to do than argue over this definition? It was agreed that it’s important to have this conversation, as it’s happening, although it can be hard to define such things whilst riding the wave itself, anticipating self-reflection later on. It’s also important to think about who you are in conversation with, seeking points of connection with the disciplines, seeking to challenge/work-with the assumptions pre-coded into each discipline (e.g. sociology focuses on texts, materiality and communities). CODEC places itself firmly within the boundaries of digital humanities, and continues to work to develop ‘digital theology’, drawing on the range of expertise in the team.

Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning

WTC MOOC Week 4: Jesus  (@WTCTheology)

This week we’ll explore the story of Jesus Christ as revealed in the four Gospels, beginning with the testimony of face-to-face encounters with him.

John 20:11-18, 21:15-17

Matt 5:1-12

John 8:1-11


Jesus favoured indirect communication – appealing to the imagination/provoke thought. Asking questions without giving answers., using a range of styles (metaphors, similes, analogies, stories that mean what they say).

Also indirect communication via actions, and not just words, including symbolism in meals, action, riding in on a donkey, washing his disciples feet.

A common feature of indirect communication is creating a pause for thought between what is said and space for a realisation of what is meant.

Jesus does draw on the Hebrew Bible when talking with religious leaders, but otherwise “doesn’t engage in learned exegesis of Scripture”… otherwise used tales that were familiar to the world his hearers knew well… especially drawing on characters other than Kings – more regular ‘figures of authority’ that would have been meaningful to ordinary people in a rural context.

Narrative Parables: The stories were short, containing only what was needed in them to make the point, engaging, drawing their hearers into them – therefore popular. Let the story make an impact as a story, before seeking its message. Most are stories about the kingdom, rather than broad moral lessons or truths about God and the world

Aphorisms – short, tend to be skim read by modern readers, but are intended to be paused and pondered – and possibly memorised. Some are deliberately riddles/puzzles. All designed for an oral society – few off the cuff, but carefully prepared, repeated, and designed to be memorable. (Rote learning was common in the ancient world). As the gospels say, Jesus must have spoken at more length, but this is not what is recorded in the Bible (although a sense of this is given in the Gospel of John). He took every opportunity to teach and preach.

Jesus’ relationship with God ‘the father’ was core – God was clearly the God of the Hebrew scriptures. Jewish teachers constantly retold the story to bring out its relevance in the contemporary situation. Jesus = the start of re-establishment of God’s rule. He avoids direct reference to God’s action by using passive verbs, and although discussing ‘the kingdom of God’, never refers to God as ‘King’… likely because at that time, human kings offered oppressive rule. More frequent references to God as father gives more of an impression of a combination of authority and loving care (including loving correction). The importance of the word ‘Abba’ – typically used within Aramaic families from childhood to adulthood – evoking family intimacy, which Jesus is doing in his conversations to God… and then used by many non-Aramaic early Christians (whereas Jews had typically used YHWH). Note the compassionate face of Jesus, etc. does not remove the judgement of God – in fact his presence was testimony for the need to make a decision.

In Jewish tradition = 2 ways in which instructions on how to live were given. Interpretation of the law of Moses, or wisdom counsel on how to live. Jesus tended to offer radical interpretations … in answering which of the 613 commandments were most important = love God, love your neighbour (so 2 commandments), Loving ones neighbour was not the same as loving God, but loving God meant that one would love ones neighbour. Love is not emotional, but obedient… from the heart. In a conflict of laws, these 2 would be expected to override all (as demonstrated in the story of the Good Samaritan).

With an emphasis on oaths, Jesus was not banning ‘swearing’, but indicating that disciples should have no need to be ‘under oath’ to tell the truth, but should be telling the truth at all times. Even more challenging – do not retaliate. Jesus looks at motivation not outcome (e.g. murderous/adulterous/covetous thoughts). Pharisees were more concerned with ritual purity … at the expenses of moral demands. The Sabbath was to be a gift, not a burden – Jesus’ answer to an ongoing debate as to what work could be done on a Sunday. Many of these debates were not new, but Jesus exercised far more freedom in interpretation than other… and rarely argues but announces authoritatively. The integrity of the heart = the source of all true obedience to the law.

Jesus’ talking about current social structures/relationship – highlights a society in which the world’s current status/rank has no place… Fellow disciples become family … from which fathers are not listed, as fatherhood is reserved for God… Nothing (including feet washing) should be beneath a disciple’s dignity… the disciples were reduced to the lowest status, the ‘slave’ – none is more important than the others. To become like a child was not about trust, but about social status – as children had none… common thinking is subverted to do away with self-importance. Inviting the poor/destitute for meals, etc. was more than ‘generous charity’ but a well-recognised duty – treating as social equals. The beatitudes – the poor recognise their total dependence on God, whereas the rich feel self-sufficient. Jesus requires a day-by-day trust to ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

What about Jesus’ position on Jewish political issues of the day? Again, indirectly. Protested at the markets in the Temple because the focus was on profit, which was hindering access to God’s presence, especially for the poor. The debates were religio-poltiical rather than fully political.

The story of the forgiveness of debt … the king demonstrated astonishing mercy, but the slave didn’t take the opportunity to change his world, but chose to remain where mercy is unknown – therefore the king retracted his mercy. The dark side is the seriousness with which Jesus warns of destruction for those who take the mercy and compassion of God but don’t own such extravagant generosity. The judgement therefore becomes self-imposed.



CRITIQUING Baukman – Eyewitnesses of gospel history – authoritative sources and guarantors of the traditions of Jesus.

‘The historical Jesus’ – relies on accessible material. If we don’t trust that material, how can we trust the gospels? Many have addressed these by seeking external verification to support (etc) the Gospel narratives… but can this substitute for the Gospels themselves as a way into the ‘reality of Jesus’.

The importance of testimony – to be trusted, not uncritically, but nor solely dependent upon independent verification. All history essentially relies upon testimony, and this a value and unique way of accessing historical reality. The Gospels were written within living memory – Mark early on, and the others were captured before they could be lost.

Papias – deliberately using the terminology of historiographical practice – the ‘living and surviving voice’, part of the ‘oral tradition’. He was more concerned with the voices of those who had directly connected with Jesus, rather than the collective memory of churches. Important to understand whose voices, and which names are used – what is the significance of those to ‘trust’ in the material. Evidence of commonly used names, but expected Biblical names were rare (e,g. Moses, etc.) as would have been seen as presumptuous to name ones child such. Names of the 12 disciples often given in a particular order – discrepancies across the Gospels possibly down to the way that distinctions between common names were made amongst the disciples.

Material relating to different writing devices by each gospel writer, and why some characters would need to have remained anonymous for their own safety. (especially within the early church). There are questions about what oral tradition look like, and how that helps us understand their veracity.

“Rather, given memorisation, possibly the use of writing, and the presence of eyewitness testimony, the (isolated) traditions underwent a particular kind of formal control  in their transmission.”

When these eyewitnesses started dying out ‘the Gospels will have stepped into the

role of the eyewitnesses … functioning as the guarantor of the traditions, as the eyewitnesses had in their lifetimes, and as controls on the tradition’.

Maurice Halbwach – collective memory…

In other words, ‘social memory or oral tradition has to be constantly negotiating the relationship of the present to the past. In this negotiation the past has a voice that has to be heard. It cannot be freely invented’.

Eyewitnesses would have been remembering inherently memorable events, reinforced and stablilised by frequent rehearsal soon after the event – therefore implicit reliability.

A particular focus on the Gospel of John, which appears to have been sidelined, highlighting the links between Prologue and Epilogue, showing connections.

Highlighting 2 types of discipleship – active service (Peter), and perceptive witness (John, the beloved disciple). Gospel’s interpretative nature appropriate for the subject matter. In a modern individualistic society, we need to understand more in communal or inter-subjective terms… Testimony invites trust, whereas modern historical methods come from a position of doubt… this is linked to how we can trust e.g. testimonies from the Holocaust – giving ‘truths’ in a way that other sources can’t. .. but access it as testimony.

Session 4.1: Jesus of the Gospels

‘The Word Became Flesh’ … 4 Gospels (see screenshot).


Lots of similarities, but different target audiences

  • Matthew – Jewish brethren, quotes Old Testament and how Jesus was the fulfillment of this, and the Jewishness of Jesus
  • Mark – shorter – action account, uses the word ‘immediately’ a lot. Stories revolving about Peter’s experiences. Focuses on Romans (see customs and words are explained/translated)
  • Luke – the Dr – travelled with Apostle Paul. Used many sources and researched carefully. Draws particularly on Mary (mother of Jesus) stories. Focuses on reaching the Greeks. Emphasis on healing ministry ofJesus.
  • John – 3 generations after other 3 gospels are written. Language shift – less focus on the Kingdom of God, and more about Jesus’ offer of eternal life. Jesus IS the gospel.

Session 4.2: Jesus: Face to Face

Jesus has many face-to-face, one-on-one meetings – it’s not all big mountaintop stories. They touch us because they are venues where we can also come face to face with Jesus.

JOHN 3 (NICODEMUS) – It doesn’t matter where you are born, where you come from – be born again – new life. Jesus is more than a ‘good teacher’, but the Son of God.

John 4 (Photini) – Meeting with the Woman at the Well –crossing lots of social boundaries. Evangelised, using her witness within Samaria until (probably) murdered.

John 20 – (Mary in the Garden) Mary Magdalene receives the revelation of Jesus in a garden (righting the wrongs of Eden).

John 21 (Peter on the beach) – ‘Do you Love Me?’ ‘Feed my sheep’. “I have a job for you to do” – qualifies him as a disciple and the one who would lead the story into the book of Acts.

Session 4:3 Jesus – Words of Life

‘The Sermon on the Mount’ – an introductory sermon for those who wanted to know what his core teaching was – his idea/revelation of the Torah. All of the law/prophecy – come into focus on Jesus.

The first half of each Beatitude = related to Jesus’ crucifixion, whilst the second half gives a glimpse of the resurrection. Bring into daily discipleship – what does it mean to take up your Cross daily and follow daily? What does it mean to die on the Cross but continue to live? Essentially in the Beatitudes (Matt 5-7) – not only ‘how to become a good Christian’ but how to become human. Gandhi said if we could but take up the Sermon on the Mount and live it .. many of the problems of the world would be solved.   The fine print of our Covenant with Christ – our sins are totally forgiven, and we are given the Holy Spirit as we continue on the earth.

The story of the Prodigal Son has been called the microcosm of the whole gospel. All who have wandered away are invited back – not to a retributative God, but to a welcoming God, with no need to jump through hoops for redemption. The story of the Good Samaritan is also key. Jesus picks up the broken – takes them to the Inn (church) – Jesus asks us to look after similar? If echoes today, maybe that’s a little what salt and light look like in the modern day.

Session 4:4: Jesus,: Works of Love & Power

Works of Love

John 8 – forgiving sin (woman caught in adultery) – challenging Jesus – will he obey the law of Moses or not? Law came through Moses, but grace and peace came through Jesus. (Jeremiah – writes in the dust). “Go and sin no more”, not an instruction or I’ll rescind, but because she’s been offered a fresh start (life of transformation)

Luke 8 – The demon removed from the man = a healing of his soul, not just a demon removal.

Works of Power

The miracles (signs) – including raising from the dead, healing, resurrection, calming the storm, etc.

The passion (the cross) – Matthew, Mark, Luke – seen as a humiliation/defeat until the resurrection, although John treats the Cross as the glorification of Christ at that stage.

The resurrection = at the heart of our gospel.

Session 4.5: Jesus & Beliefs

Who is Jesus? What did the church come to in the end? By the end, of Jesus’ ministry, he was seen as the Messiah, the Son of God. Fully man and fully God.

The early church – agreed on the Nicene Creed. Divine identity language – God brings everything together… God enfleshed in human form.

#CORPUSMOOC: Week 8: A Swearing Extravaganza

This week looking at ‘swearing’ as it is used within language .. so there’s a disclaimer, some of the comments:

The use of ‘bad language’ seems to me to be very cultural specific. For example, young people seems to use it more often than old people. And I see variation of what’s considered as ‘bad language’ between registers and dialects. For example, the same person would never use bad language at work but he probably uses it when he is with friends; and what’s considered bad in some areas would not have this consideration in others.

Of course, you have to define what is meant by ‘bad language'; obscenity is very culturally specific (Northern Europeans: body parts, coition and excrement, Southern Europeans religion, mothers, aspersions re sexuality – the Victorians found the phrase ‘what a cunning hat’ rather racy). The point is well put, though.

Oh dear, the warm up activity is to listen out for the use of bad language in conversation around us … probably more than you’d expect even in my own context! Interesting conversations online about whether language teachers should teach this, as students will come across it (don’t we all remember how funny it was once we learnt ‘merde’ in French classes!)

amazing what you can get used to after a while and how much these words lose their strength through over use.

Part 1: Looking at Bad Language

Why say ‘bad language’ and not ‘swearing’? Definitions of what is ‘swearing’ = complex!


Words developed for the Lancaster Corpus of abusive words – including animal, intelligence, sexuality focused insults. Then had to develop an annotation system for the material – including class, gender, age, etc. Can provide some quite useful distinctions that can be researched. Metalinguistic word – am not using the word, but I’m talking about it/describing it, or quoting someone else saying something.

Who knew there were so many different ways to use ‘fuck’ – fascinating…


Final category = a ‘dustbin category’ for those that didn’t fit any of these categories, and didn’t really need further work.

Commentator suggests that video http://youtu.be/BsRUQCN2lak helps gives further insights into the use of swearing in language – jocular, and ‘fillers’ have been mentioned by other commentators.

Another kind of ‘MOOC’ – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mook&defid=6165831 – such dictionaries allows us to see language develop.

Part 2: Swearing and Gender

We can use such corpora to see how such language is actually used – but we’ll likely approach such questions with a number of assumptions – e.g. that men swear more than women. In early 1990s, there was no statistical difference in usage, but in looking at the individual words themselves, these are different… words used by men tended to be stronger. 


There are levels of ‘strength’ seen, but there are possibilities that these might be used differently … e.g. ‘religious people’ more offended by God/Jesus than the general population [Note to second year housemates, yes…]

Commentators mentioning encouraging people to rethink phrases that have become everyday

  • Someone being ‘a bit gay’
  • Someone having ‘a blonde moment’
  • Someone ‘running like a girl’

Is there ‘surgical cleaning’ where such words become sanitised? Corpus tools, of course, are good at identifying the change in language of words e.g. ‘gay’.

Different people will probably see some of the words as more offensive than others… e.g. people say ‘God’ without thinking – probably more offensive to ‘religious people’ than many realize.

Part 3: Swearing and Interaction

How do the genders interact when it comes to the use of ‘bad language’ words? Is there a difference between or across? Intra-gender use of swearing is the norm (e.g. men direct swearing at other men more than at females and vice-versa), but men do this much more than women (have they been cultured to swear less in front of women?

What kind of words are targeted? E.g. ‘cow’ exclusively at women…


Wow… so much complex!

Part 4: Strength of Swearing

Different categories of words (e.g. general annoyance) = much milder words, but ‘destinational category’ (reached end of tether = “go away”) = much stronger!

Discussions mentioning new British National Corpus coming this year, where it will be interested to see how words are used/re-used and reclaimed – e.g. African-Americans claiming ‘n****r’, gay people claiming ‘queer’ and women claiming ‘bitch’ as positive interaction words. Also lots of discussion as to regional/cultural differences and how the right corpus might help explore those.

Part 5: Swearing and Age

Assumption is that younger people tend to swear more, and data seems to bear that out:


Is it down to age? It’s not necessarily their age that is the issue. The cultural environment may have meant that swearing was less accepted, so don’t swear less as get older! Are they possibly using ‘swear words’ that are so mild that they’ve not been measured as swear words (e.g. golly, blimey), although this doesn’t exist, either. What about the strength of swear words/categories? Mirrors the distribution from the graph above. Frequency/strength distribution are similar.

Commentator notes: ‘When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.’ (Mark Twain). Also questioning whether the extra drop-off is down to being in the presence of children/grandchildren, when people seek to reign themselves in.

Part 6: Swearing and Class

How do we draw out the nuances here? Do lower classes select stronger words, and higher class = weaker ones?

AB: 1.81, C1 1.76, C2 2.16, DE 2.47 (General pattern, but AB = stronger than C1)…

What about the type of bad language use? AB/C1 and C2/DE = inverted.

Lots of discussion about whether upper classes = rules don’t apply, and middle classes more cautious…

Part 7: Combining Factors

What happens when try and combine the data – e.g. male AB aged 25-34 = use most? BNC was balanced to get roughly similar amounts of data on single data. May be no examples combining particular factors… that particular group = 2,259 words uttered in the spoken BNC.

How many types of speakers are in the BNC? Not many, but we can combine particular types of data to give insights.

Part 8: Combining Factors – 2 Case Studies

Age/Gender combination:


Class/Gender combination:


Class/Gender/Age combination:


Do you want to argue – are women pre-disposed to use less swearwords? Surely socially constructed, it’s an artifact of the society within which these 2 genders are operating, nothing to do with genetics. Debate? Where did the distinctions come from? What were the social processes that constructed this?

Commentator: People are willing to say things in other languages they’re not prepared to say in their own – http://io9.com/why-its-easier-to-swear-at-people-in-another-language-1536262864.

Final Words from Tony

The start of a journey into language .. with an overview of the kind of things you should have learned, and in a position to build your own corpora [though I didn’t use the practical elements!]… and don’t think that this course has given you everything…

We often want to study language in their social contexts, rather than in isolation. Contemporary social issues or historical issues typically the most interesting.

WTC Mooc: Week 3: Living the Christian Story – Exodus (@WTCTheology)


Core Reading

Exodus 1:1-15 (or chapters 1-15, but there’s only 10!) through to the story of the Plagues … but overall a story of oppression leading to recreation?


Israel is becoming ‘many’ as ordained at creation… but there are several obstacles to be overcome first. Seen alone, misses the ‘new humanity’ destined to restore creation blessing to the world. With Moses, see how it harks back to e.g. Noah, and forward to Israelite experiences. Moses says ‘I am’, which has led to a lot of discussions as to whether he was divine – or God’s representative. Either way it’s important to understand that God was present.

Moving from a time of chromos to kairos (exile is almost over):

Such is the case with chronos and kairos. Both are Greek words which mean time, but they imply different things.

Chronos refers to minutes and seconds. It refers to time as a measurable resource.

Kairos is the word used for time in Ephesians 5:16 (which I examined in more detail here). Kairos means an appointed time, an opportune moment, or a due season.


Constant battle between Israel/Egypt, pre-ordination of what will happen when Jesus comes, and defining the Israelite nation – the importance of the ‘firstborn’ sons, the gradual admittance of the ‘superior power of Yahweh’. The parting of the waves of the ‘Reed Sea’ answers the question of who is in control. The goal of the journey to re-establish the Abrahamic covenant, having passed through the water, now to pass through the human gauntlet, to re-establish ‘Edenic sanctuary’, where God can dwell again with his people. The importance of Mount Sinai to the Torah… a new covenant with God – where obedience leads to blessing/fullness of life, disobedience to curse and death – set apart as a ‘holy nation’, imaging God to the nations. Moses as the mediator between God/the people as God is too powerful, a covenant marked by blood/a sacrifice. An important part of this covenant is to work and rest. The development of the Tabernacle = similarities with Eden, but even before the covenant is made, the Israelites have broken it with false idols. The freedom emphasised by the divine is ‘grace and mercy’. In the 10 commandments, the judgements are given first, but the ‘rear view’ of God emphasises mercy and forgiveness. The golden calf doesn’t represent God, but human beings in converse with him.


Pharaoh felt threatened by immigrants (such as Jacob’s family) – so became ruthless in the tasks they imposed upon them – but despite this – the numbers increased. Considers how this is in parallel with the Latin American experiences (of men currently in jail) – especially when they are given ‘education’ but not opportunities to take jobs, so go back to what they know – a life of crime – in order to live. The ‘baby boys’ were killed before they could become a problem. The Egyptians needed the immigrants because they did the work that the Egyptians didn’t want to do, but the general thinking was for deportation or down-trodden-ness. The midwives were expected to kill the boys, but refused, so were blessed by God. By worldly standards, Pharaoh was at the top, but God was on the side of the oppressed/weak (not the oppressors) and they survived.

Often when people read the Bible, they read it through oppressive interpretations, which can be subverted by careful reading of the text itself. Guided readings can question assumptions and invite unexpected identifications. When Moses impulsively kills a harsh taskmaster, he has to flee – originally a ‘saviour’ he is now absent from the scene, and failing to intervene – how many see God also… but a deeper reading can see a bigger picture coming to fruition.

When working with Latino prisoners, the author – a Caucasian pastor – representative of the prison system, and of God … many in the prison see God as hyper-sovereign – distant judge who has pre-ordained everything, so lives cannot be re-mapped… all negative aspects of their lives are ‘God’s will’. Their theology assumes that God is just/good and therefore that they must be bad/deserving of all the calamities that have befallen them. No redemption is expected. .. and people attend the sessions for reasons such as social interaction, especially once they find that ‘accepting Christ’ does not instantly solve all their problems. They may think that attending will give a lighter sentence. Belief is, however – people are hungry for an authentic encounter whatever the original reason.

The facilitator has a careful role, which subverts those barriers, replacing the old, paralysing theology. .. with a need to distance himself from ‘taskmasters’, and make the prisoners realise that he’s on their side. God’s will happens through covert disobedience, non-compliance, etc… God listened to the groans of slaves, but they remained slaves … author discusses his experience of working with those seeking to find liberation from e.g. heroin addiction – not in terms of the ‘heroic victor’, but weakness/ignorance on how to heal. In Mexico – often become violent – taking frustration out on someone – as Moses did – direct experience of poverty/oppression = violent. No long-term respect however… required for that = respect and humility. God shows up where Moses is (wherever that wilderness is). Moses when called to go back, said that he wasn’t worthy (he was human). “There’s another really important guy in Israel’s history who didn’t feel cut out for this. Look, God used him. God can use me too.” [Imposter syndrome?]

Session 3:1 Exodus: Setting up the Conflict (Matt Lynch)

Theology and Social Action…. Exodus – reflected in the way they rebuilt their society – institutionally built into their laws, etc. Moving from being a family, to becoming a nation. There was fear-based oppression … being fruitful and multiplying = in the wrong place/time = threatening to Egyptians. Pharaoh does not know God, and does not let the people rest. God cares and hears the cry of the afflicted. God hears it and responds.

Session 3:2: Exodus – The Plagues

God has power of creation, has concern for poor and the afflicted. Conflict between Pharaoh/God. God displays his power over Pharaoh and over creation with the boils. God “you can’t act this way towards my people and get off the hook.” Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? The plagues are not to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but to show his power to Pharaoh… who has fraudulent power… shows future generations his power?

Session 3:3 Exodus – Concern for the Vulnerable (Bob Ekblad)

What actions lead to liberation (Exodus 1)? Do we see the presence of God in this text? Confusing – God blesses people who lie in order to protect the innocent? [Makes me think of Corrie Ten Boom – ‘they are under the table’]. What does God do? He’s on the side of the underdog? How does God liberate? Who are the main characters from most powerful to weakest? Who is God with?


  • Shiprah and Puah (midwives) à non-compliance and deception
  • Moses’ Mother à Hides the baby not obey the law
  • Moses’ Sister à Spies for Moses (proactive)
  • Pharaoh’s Daughter à Seeing/having compassion

Session 3.4: Exodus: Liberation Today

Understanding contemporary law enforcement. A challenge to those who believe that deception is a sin – most characters are undertaking this in this story. What does the use of these weak characters tell us about God? How does God save now? It tends to indicate non-compliance. Pharaoh’s daughter uses her privilege to rescue. What would that look like today? Funding people to look after other people? Should we be giving work to denied asylum seekers? Educating them? What are the limits of compliance for us?

Session 3.5: Exodus: Seeing the Vulnerable

The importance of “seeing” human beings (rather than ‘the mass’). [Seeing individuals/telling people’s stories?]. Moses (and most on the margins) assume that God is on the side of law enforcement and the status quo, but Moses’ violence response doesn’t disqualify him from God’s mission to be an agent of liberation. God is looking for similar characters in contemporary culture.