#CfP Abstract Submission: Encouraging Faith Voices in Digital Spaces

Media, Religion, Culture Conference 2012
Format: Presentation, leading to discussion.

I was alerted to this conference at the weekend, and had about 24 hours to pull together a conference proposal. We’ll see if this ticks any of the right boxes… 

We live in a ‘digital age’, in a world that is increasingly defined and shaped by the digital. When we talk about ‘unplugging’, we are giving the impression that the effects of digital culture on our life are optional. This paper asserts that the digital is a ‘space’ or ‘culture’, and that there is no such thing as ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ worlds: only online and offline space/cultures. It uses the Christian context as an example of how cultural change is being encouraged through engagement in the digital spaces.

For many in the Christian church, the rise of the digital age, in particular social media, has been seen as something to be feared, if not ignored as an irrelevance. David Wilkinson (CODEC) emphasises that God is a communicating God, a God who is extravagant in communication, not a silent God who has to be tempted into communicating with people. Importantly, however, God looks to communicate in the right context, something that Christians often get wrong, and preach into the wrong context.

Sharon Watkins, head of a Christian order, said “God never told the world to go to church; but God did tell the church to go to the world.” Accommodation theory calls for us to accommodate to the world in which we live, to be part of the conversations, rather than trying to protect ourselves in the bubble of our own faith.Technology is not the problem, not the answer, but it is the reality for most in our world, and therefore those of faith need to engage with it.

The Centre for Christian Communication in a Digital Age (CODEC) undertook a Biblical Literacy Survey in 2009, which demonstrated that although 75% of people have access to a Bible, only 18% read their Bible daily. The Big Bible Project emerged through a desire to get people reading the Bible, making use of the widest range of social media tools, already used by millions every day. What questions do people have, and how do we make our faith, and our religious texts, more accessible through online tools?

Religions need to stop blaming the media for poor representations of their faith, and get involved. We all have something to contribute to the digital space: a digitally enabled laity is powerful. In a world where hierarchies are collapsing, we can draw on a range of voices, rather than adding this to the ‘to-do list’ for the leadership team. Elizabeth Dresher identified three characteristics, creative improvisation, participation & distributed authority that have made broadcast media unsuitable for many mainstream Christian churches, that are assets in a social media world, offering space for questioning.

The Big Bible Project has engaged over sixty ‘digital disciples’, those who seek to live out their Christian faith in the digital spaces, in conversation. We would like to open some of the topics of debate that they have raised with conference delegates, including questions of authenticity, appropriate behaviours, mobile device etiquette, the power of images and words, and whether these are similar concerns across other faiths. What does it mean for faith voices in the digital space?

Dr Bex Lewis, Blended Learning Project Manager, The Big Bible Project, CODEC, University of Durham. [email protected]

Theological Refraction of the Internet 16th Oct 2010#refract

Read more about the Christian New Media Conference on October 16th in central London.  We’re going to be looking at how the internet affects us as human beings – what are the theological implications of the internet?  How can the church and the academy get involved? 

The event (#refract) is part of the Christian New Media Conference which will include workshops on the how church leaders, members and techies (interesting list that!) might engage with social media.  Workshops include looking at New Media; website and the law; creating podcasts; making viral videos; fundraising online; use of social media in the churches.  Read more.

Twitter Names

A Reflection on the First #MediaLit Course

“Have you ever wondered how the media works, or watched a TV programme and asked yourself what values underpin it? Ever pondered the ethics of media production and consumption?  Is there a theology of communication? How might the church engage with and support those who work in the media? Ever thought about how the national church engages with the media? How do church press offices work? Could your local church engage more effectively with the media? What might the digital future look like? How might social networking develop? Today Twitter and FaceBook,  tomorrow…?

MediaLit gave the opportunity to explore all these issues and more. Based in the wonderful setting of St John’s College, Durham,  MediaLit was a week long, intensive course – both hands on and theoretical – which brought together media practitioners, journalists, the Churches Media Council, those exploring how to use social media in relation to Christian faith, trainee ministers, vicars and other interested parties.”

Read the full reflection by Kate Bruce and indicate your interest in future MediaLit courses. Find Kate on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/johnschaplain

Bex’s Bio for @bigbible

In my third day working for CODEC, I ensured that my bio was available on the CODEC site, so here’s my new role for St John’s College, University of Durham:

  • Bex Lewis  – Email ; Twitter ; Blog
  • Blended Learning Project Manager, ‘The Big Read 2011’

Bex has a background in history, completing her PhD in ‘British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’in 2004 at the University of Winchester, where she’d done her first degree in History with Education Studies. Bex built her first website in 1997, has built many more, and has undertaken accessibility and usability projects. She, however, is more interested in people/ communication/ popular culture than programming, and therefore was delighted when social media took off, and she is the Director of ‘Digital Fingerprint’, a social media consultancy.

As well as a ‘digital resident’, Bex is a polymath – she is the social media consultant for ‘Super Fun Days Out’, and has promoted interdisciplinary research, undertaken the LICC Toolbox course, and written for Damaris Culturewatch. After 7 months travelling around the world (Asia, Australasia, South America), she worked a summer season as a Tour Leader with Oak Hall Expeditions in 2008. She continues to work at the University of Winchester, as a ‘Blended Learning Fellow’ (finding tools for teaching using an appropriate mix of technology and face-to-face) with Associate Lectureships in Media Studies (particularly digital literacy) and History, alongside funded projects in student-skills and change management.

Bex is working for CODEC for 50% of her time throughout the 2010/11 academic year to develop ‘The Big Read’ on from its successful launch in the North-East over Lent 2010. The project will look to use the best mix of tools from the online and the offline worlds to encourage more engagement with the Bible, and draws upon Tom Wright’s forthcoming book ‘Matthew for Lent’. The project is supported by The Methodist Church, Premier Radio and SPCK, and Bex can generally be found at the Premier Radio offices in Pimlico Tuesday/Wednesday.

Join the project on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bigbible.

Guest Post on @thechurchmouse #medialit

“A few days ago Pete Phillips from CODEC guest blogged on the Church and Media Network Conference, and mentioned an upcoming course organised by CODEC and the Church and Media Network, called as MediaLit.  The course describes itself as “an opportunity for first class training and resources in media for ministry for those engaged in formal pre-ordination training, those already engaged in local or national ministry and anyone concerned to connect Christian faith with communication in a digital age. ”

MediaLit has now taken place, and Mouse wanted to bring it to your attention.  Below is a guest post from Dr Bex Lewis on what it was all about.  Bex has a PhD in Second World War posters (http://ww2poster.co.uk), teaches History & Media Studies, whilst working on Blended Learning projects for the Universities of Winchester & Durham.”

Read the full post here.