As “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” blares out of my TV, I’m reminded that I started a blog post post-CNMAC13, as a number of us discussed whether there is any value in awards. There’s usually many comments as the celebrities go into the jungle that we don’t know who they are – ‘celebrity’ is a fickle beast … they become famous (again) for being ‘a celebrity’… we’re very fickle, us Brits though, as soon as we’ve put someone on a pedestal as a ‘celebrity’, we want to knock them down. What I’m interested in seeing is what people do with any form of ‘celebrity’! Now follows a random selection of thoughts!
Thinking it through
I’ve been thinking about this for the four years that CODEC has been involved in the Christian New Media Awards and Conference (with this year the first time that I was actually involved as a judge). As Nick Baines says on his blog – these thoughts are first words (though other’s have already blogged, including fellow judge Sara Batts, and Tanya Marrow who was shortlisted), not last words, and as someone who’s keen to listen and understand where other people are coming from, and an over-thinker, my head often hurts thinking about it. However, as I’m involved in organising the event, I hope I can listen to a lot of that – take it on board – and help make changes.
Simply the Best?
This year we worked hard to get rid of the word “best” from the awards categories. As Christians I think we should all be seeking to do our best for God (and as representatives of God), but in no way do I see the awards as picking “the best”, but rather as exemplars of good practice that we be inspired by, as well as giving encouragement to those who win (although I know that there are those who feel discouraged if they don’t win, so again, have been working on the inclusiveness of categories). BTW: I think I used the word mediocre in a tweet on the evening, meaning we should be aiming for excellence rather than mediocrity (rather than those who don’t win being mediocre!) – having recently also judged the #digifaith competition – that was an ’embarrassment of riches’ – but I had to pick a winner (who I got to meet at #CNMAC13!)
Making a Judgement
I know there are those who are not keen on the idea of judging (I’ve definitely engaged in conversations with @headphonaught and @pamjweb about this), feeling that we each have our individual ministries and the only judge is God. I certainly agree that our ultimate judge is God, but as an academic, every time I put in a funding bid, a journal article, or stand up to speak, I know that I’m being judged, and a well-timed piece of encouragement can make all the difference. I was encouraged at the way that people can respond to their shortlisting/awards – my favourite being Dave Criddle – love the way he highlighted the other people in his category with his own reasons – having taken the time to look at their sites. This is also why I love Tanya Marlow’s list of her favourite blogs, although as Natalie found out, that also is fraught with challenges. We all know that slight dip of disappointment when our name doesn’t appear.
Something I absolutely love is that having talked to Andrew Graystone about awards, and saying how excited I was that we’d be shortlisted for The Jerusalem Awards, as we are unable to enter CNMAC – he sent me a personalised award, which I have framed and encourages me daily! This, however, relies upon us encouraging our friends, and I do like the fact that the awards encourage people to nominate others, and most of the those shortlisted I’d not heard of (and I spend a lot of time in this online space) – rather than the ‘same old suspects’!
After Natalie then kicked off a debate (after some impressive research) about the lack of women speakers at various Christian conferences. I thought we’d done quite well, but the stats didn’t look as good as I’d expected for #CNMAC13 (though we did have 4 women on main stage), and Kevin has already given a helpful response. Every year for CNMAC we have a lot of feedback to look through (checking out Claire Maxim’s here), and I’m always listening out for speakers throughout the year – my particular interest is in enabling those who are not ‘regulars’ on the ‘speaking circuit’ to speak – and I think we did do pretty well on that. I’m still keen on an idea we’ve talked about a few times – of opening at least one of the strange up for speaker submissions (as we don’t have to find a new venue this year, we might have the capacity for that!) – but we always have to balance that with the names that draw people in (note: every time we’ve put Tom Wright on BIGBible, traffic shoots up)… something that I’m having to think about as I look for ‘names’ to endorse my book (which I’ve written as no one else had written it!).
The message that I took away from #CNMAC13 was that all this is for nothing if we don’t seek to put it into practice. As I often quote David Wilkinson “God is a communicating God”: he gave us skills, let’s use them to the best of our ability so that we can be heard in a world that is frantic! I wrote lots of other stuff, but I think this is long enough – but I wanted to finish with a blog post from Caleb Storkey, in thinking of ‘the other’ as we post (we often hear the phrase ‘engage with grace’ – which for me doesn’t mean “shut up”, but think of the others in the debate before pressing ‘send’).
Confirmed For 2014
1st November, The Brewery, London: #CNMAC14
Look out for more information on the #CNMAC website.
Look forward to seeing some of you there, and do let us know if you have particular ideas!
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.