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