Academic Digital

[ACADEMIC] Publication in @SurvSoc_Journal : Social Media, Peer Surveillance, Spiritual Formation, and Mission: Practising Christian Faith in a Surveilled Public Space

In March 2017 I gave a paper at the AHRC Surveillance and Religion Workshop in Edinburgh. I decided to turn it into a paper and submit to a special edition of Surveillance and Society, a top quartile journal for Urban Studies (of particular interest as an Associate Member of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Met Uni). With a generous extension on the submission date, I managed to submit the paper the day before I started chemotherapy (1 Dec 2017), with a little help from a few friends (see below), and it was accepted (with revisions, of course). I completed the revisions between chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and have had a few copyedits to do in recent weeks, but the special issue on Surveillance and Religion is now out.

Abstract: Social media has become a part of everyday life, including the faith lives of many. It is a space that assumes an observing gaze. Engaging with Foucauldian notions of surveillance, self-regulation, and normalisation, this paper considers what it is about social and digital culture that shapes expectations of what users can or want to do in online spaces. Drawing upon a wide range of surveillance research, it reflects upon what “surveillance” looks like within social media, especially when users understand themselves to be observed in the space. Recognising moral panics around technological development, the paper considers the development of social norms and questions how self-regulation by users presents itself within a global population. Focusing upon the spiritual formation of Christian users (disciples) in an online environment as a case study of a community of practice, the paper draws particularly upon the author’s experiences online since 1997 and material from The Big Bible Project (CODEC 2010–2015). The research demonstrates how the lived experience of the individual establishes the interconnectedness of the online and offline environments. The surveillant affordances and context collapse are liberating for some users but restricting for others in both their faith formation and the subsequent imperative to mission.

Vol 16 No 4 (2018): Surveillance and ReligionDownload PDF

Published Dec 15, 2018


To Reference: Lewis, Bex. 2018. Social Media, Peer Surveillance, Spiritual Formation, and Mission: Practising Christian Faith in a Surveilled Public Space. Surveillance & Society 16(4): 517 – 532.


Thanks to delegates at the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Religions Consuming Surveillance Workshop, Edinburgh, March 2017, for feedback on initial ideas, many of which were drawn from work undertaken for CODEC at the University of Durham (especially The Big Bible Project); colleagues at Manchester Metropolitan University for conversations and space to write, especially Cathy Urquhart and Dominic Medway for feedback upon drafts ; and to the initial journal reviewers, who have made this a much stronger piece. I also thank those who gave me permission to quote conversations from social media and the Women in Academia Support Network on
Facebook for encouragement, especially Dr Nadia von Benzon for early editorial input and feedback. I also appreciate my medical team at Stepping Hill Hospital and The Christie for enabling me to continue this whilst undergoing cancer treatment.

Other articles on my blog about ‘Surveillance

Academic Digital

PUBLICATION: Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. (2013)

RLT_Cover_120Lewis, B. and Rush, D. 2013. Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education.

Research in Learning Technology 2013, 21: 18598 –

This article presents the results of a case study of the use of a microblogging tool by a university academic to increase their knowledge and experience of social media for educational purposes. The academic had the role of digital steward in a university and attempted to use microblogging (Twitter) to increase professional contacts within the framework of a community of practice. Several types of data were collected and analysed. These included the structure of the network arising from the links formed with others by microblogging, the similarity of stated interests between the academic and others in the network, and the contents of postings such as their external references. It was found that a personal network had been established, with some of the characteristics of a community of practice. The activity demonstrated the utility of social media in supporting the professional development of academic staff using technology.

The article is downloadable in a variety of formats, and available under a Creative Commons licence. Thanks to David for extra editing as I moved house, etc…


Paul Rennie: Social Vision

Read full article: Paul Rennie: Social Vision: RoSPA’s WWII Safety Posters Challenge Orthodox Views on British Modernism (PDF)