30ish minutes + 15-20 minutes for discussion …The ‘digital age’ brings the opportunity for a wider range of voices to contribute to conversations: many online will engage with “church” through their friends rather than formal Christian organisations. In 2010The BIGBible Project” emerged to encourage those at all levels of the Christian sector to engage with digital culture, and to consider what this means for Christian communication practices, in a culture in which messages are both ephemerally ‘in the now’, and perpetually available.BIGBibleemphasises that “disciples” live at all times for God, and therefore all Christians need to take seriously their presence both online and offline. The core definition of a disciple is given in John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (NRSV). How might this affect Christian behaviour online? This paper will draw from over 2,000 contributions made to the BIGBible site.The paper will also consider how churches are moving from the broadcast, pew-focused and geographically localised ministry that has held sway for the last few centuries, and embracing a more social ministry, where to ‘love your neighbour’ may include those from another county (or even country), but also connects locally though hyper-local practice.Required: PowerPoint projectionLikely Theme: Media, Public Life and Public TheologyParticularly inspired by: How established and emerging forms of media and mass communication shape the ways in which religious organizations and movements communicate with the wider public sphere
A lot of what we’re talking about is the kind of thing we discuss on The BIGBible Project – which I’ll come back to…
Just want to introduce a bit of my background, PhD/history, the story for THAT poster (far more a message of 21st C than of 1939, as it wasn’t actually used then)… and then before moving to Durham last year = a mix of media studies/learning & teaching development… aka not a theologian! Fascinated by messages designed for the masses – what did govt think people wanted, how did artists interpret that, and what clues can we find in the papers/surveys as to what people actually thought of them… // probably not the most academic of conference papers, but I hope provides some food for thought…
Some don’t really understand how I come to be working with digital media, but for me, it’s all about understanding the context that people are engaging in, and how we might ‘meet people where they are’. When people travel geographically to be missionaries, they familiarize themselves with the culture that they are to be engaged with so that they can live in those spaces and communicate with others living there…
For many that I work with, this is what several think the internet is about … just a big ‘timesuck’, but thankfully the attitude is changing amongst those I’m meeting – question changing from ‘why should we waste our time’, to ‘we know we need to get with it, but we don’t know how…’
The digital environment (and we can have a debate about whether it’s a space/environment/culture later if you like, probably without a satisfactory outcome) is one in which messages are both ephemerally ‘in the now’ and ‘perpetually available’…. Which is not as new as we might like to think … as I wrote this about posters in my thesis …
… back in the 21st C - positively tweets can bring many people together – if we all gather around the same hashtag - so many tweets (and other social media) are written in the expectation that they will be forgotten within 20 minutes, people tend not to think about their long-term potential…
… aside from maybe brands and celebrities who find that despite deleting tweets, messages come back to haunt them very quickly – again and again and again… this from early 2011 … popped up very quickly in a search for ‘notable deleted tweets’ re inappropriate advertising re true disaster going on in Egypt // never know when something (like KCCO) may appear again…
May 2012 – this one appeared very quickly – vicar forgot that he was friends with his parishioners … who saw his complaints about having to give sermons, etc.. With faith as a vocation – do people really want someone in the position who doesn’t really want to do it .. Where is the boundary between public/private? Was discussing yesterday with Katie re whether should have 2 separate accounts for public/private … but aside from being against Facebook T&C … what does that say about holistic ways of living, etc.. And there’s no guarantee that this content won’t “bleed” out from the ‘private’ space you think you have it in… There’s a lot of is still a sense that engaging is a risky activity…
… hence this is the best-selling course that I do for CofE .. #misread #sacred!
The ‘digital age’ has brought with it a concept that it has increased a number of risks, but often when we look behind the headlines, we’ll see that many risks have been accompanied by new ways to solve it (e.g. with kids, if bullied – it carries on outside the school gates, but e.g. text messages can be recorded as ‘proof’). It’s not all bad, and it’s doesn’t solve every problem!
Led me to write this, which am trying to get final edits done this week…! Digital native = deconstruct, and knowledge you have in other contexts is still valid…
The nature of the technology has changed in some significant ways, so trying to help people understand that – so that they become more capable of using it well – and encouraging all of our community to use it well: 1) Material is persistent by default – difficult to remove 2) Material is easy to change, replicate & share – making it difficult to distinguish between originals/replicas3) An isolated prank can go viral … may not be what the original person chose – but what the community chooses to amplify4) Anyone can be found/identified
So, I tend to encourage those I work with to think about who may see their content…
One of the theological arguments that is persuading those within the church to change is that they see that we are created by a God who rejoices in our 2-way communication with him… we are called also to be extravagant communicators…
… and recognition is growing is just how much activity happens online. An extract from an article I wrote… “Social media, if we concentrate on the word ‘social’, rather than ‘media’, is at its heart about relationships and communication. If we focus upon building relationships within and without the church, then we can think about how we can empower our congregations to be messengers for God’s word in the world.”
The same article, but the beginning of it… the church is just not on many people’s radar .. On a Sunday the Cathedrals of the shopping mall and the football pitch draw people in and provide the social spaces that people used to get from the church… so is there something else that Christians are seeking to offer… (But also need care that not using that space just to promote what you doing … if the church community gets onboard can see true community)
Building relationships takes time, but church has never been about “bums on seats”, so much as about encouraging those who attend to live full lives of discipleship. Many of those who enjoy the digital spaces are skeptical about being ‘preached to’. We live in a world of “pull” rather than “push” media (show me why I will be interested, rather than tell me I should be interested), but as Elizabeth Drescher says:We are not selling something to the world that will make more people like us, believe in our story, join our churches. We are trying to be something in the world that invites connection and compassion, encourages comfort and healing for those in need, and challenges those in power to use that power in the service of justice and love (Drescher, 127).
John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”… telling question here…
What are we sharing online, why are we sharing online, how does our faith influence ourbehaviour online? How do we cope with those we are friends with online … what about caring for the more vulnerable? How do we encourage those who overshare (without judgement)? So many questions – few with clear answers…
So, to explain, that I run “The BIGBible Project’, which is populated by ‘digital disciples’ - voices (from the pew, the pulpit & the academy) who think about ‘what does it mean to be a disciple in the digital age?’ – whilst seeking to increase both Biblical and Digital Literacy … something that we created in 2010 – originally around a Lent course – (which continues) … the intended audience is clearly Christians, but what we hope is that it will encourage people to think about their own engagement online and hence change thinking/behaviours?
Tag: “Biblically Literate Living Online”
As I collect blog posts, interviews, conversations, conference papers, etc around this subject, I am wondering – is it about being a disciple, or is it simply about being human? Mark Greene – life’s a peach – not an orange? The removal of the sacred-secular divide .. And that’s what we’re seeking online ..
If you haven’t seen this – it’s still on 4OD (accessible in the UK – well worth an hour of your time) … her boyfriend dies, she interacts with software, gets offered an upgrade to a humanoid …
Not same as human experience? …The series specifically designed to be believably possible, but just a little too far into the future – how close?
Developed in collaboration with researchers form Queen Mary University, the LivesOn system involves the user creating a separate LivesOn Twitter account, which then learns their Twitter preferences, including likes, tastes and even syntax. LivesOn can then impersonate the person's Twitter behaviour after they have died. An executor can be selected for the "LivesOn will", who ultimately decides whether the account should stay "live". Read more: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tech/news/a460826/black-mirror-for-real-continue-tweeting-even-after-youre-dead.html#ixzz2VBzkVXeE
Explain ‘The Jesus Arms’ at Greenbelt… (2mins)Want to pick up a few thoughts from this audio…
Far too many times when people talk about social media, they focus on the word ‘media’ (or technology), rather than the word ‘social’ which is surely what we should be focusing on … we are looking to build relationships, which require good communication (we often joke (seriously) that rarely do you want to get “the IT Guy” doing your social media … you need someone who is good at comms)….A hugely important part of communication is the need to LISTEN, and not just broadcast…
On the other hand, we have to question whether it’s all about the ‘engagement stats’ that are so powerful on sites such as ‘Jesus Daily’, or whether there’s a need for deeper conversation // personally – I cringe! “Amen” – if I don’t click ‘like’ does that mean I love Jesus less? Is the person who calls this bullying correct? Quantity over quality?
Authenticity/Psudonyms/Consistency, being ‘real’, unique skin… incredibly important, but can you be authentic?
GB13 talk… Luke and his idea that it’s all about performance (well, yes, but don’t we in every context?) … lots more of this particular talk was about viewing ourselves as code … then we seek to upgrade ourselves – where are the boundaries? Hearing aids, spex, plastic surgery…?
Wordnik founder suggested what she had done with the dictionary was refuse to be limited by old technology which had defined how would be structured… thin paper/need to make it manageable meant dictionary definitions are short – but internet means can show words in context – pulling live from the Internet, and definitions from several different sources // come back to that…
7 min vid, see 1st min… for many ministers = an “easy” way in .. Blogs are the most similar thing to sermons … although – do people really want to sit and listen to a full sermon? Does a sermon assume a particular local ‘knowledge’?
Can we assume a second audience? That our message is being disseminated via Twitter, etc? Do we need to provide a short overview – heard of a church where do a 3-5 minute overview – then people can decide if they want to listen to more… The churches natural style fits the pattern of the social media world - that of participation and creativity rather than a broadcast hierarchical structure, so look to see what digital technologies allow us to do differently, and capitalise upon that. We are no longer limited to our geographical or ‘Sunday’ lives, which allow churches to practice whole-life community, actively engaging with what is going on in the world, to listen and to respond with what is going on in our local, national and international communities in ways that are meaningful to those who are listening to us. Start to think about what your church wants to do in its communit(ies), and then start to think which tools will work for that.
Communicate my friends – people love a travel photo… what other messages can we share? This is built upon RELATIONSHIPS rather than a marketing/press message from the charity…
Chris Juby – reducing every chapter to 140 characters … did this personally, but decided to send out a local press release – got picked up by national & international press – got lots of people engaged with the Bible – even if they were only interested in language/the novelty of what he was done… it’s still a touchpoint (online = lots of touchpoints)…
… and we’re been playing with what each Bible chapter looks like as a wordle – where the bigger the word, the more times it’s mentioned in a chapter…
.. And this ties into an increasingly ‘visual turn’ online – particularly with the advent of Pinterest which gained popularity at the beginning of 2012 – with people sharing inspiring pictures (and the picture links to the website behind it).
Don’t’ forget in all of this that old power structures still work – you’re more likely to believe a story on the Guardian website, than on Fred Blog’s site, right? (and that’s how Google algorithm works – on a peer review style process – if you’re linked from powerful sites…). Over passed few years have been published, did a project for the National Archives, and in particular – was quoted in the New York Times (and LA Times) = each time see a significant (and ongoing) boost to traffic to the website (so long as I keep the content regular…)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-takes-twitter-by-storm-in-the-first-papal-selfie-8792660.html twitter.com/abcjustinThese are two of the most powerful men in Christian circles … both actively engaging online – see here Justin Welbyapologises for not engaging with everyone … makes sense!
Important in our thinking on this is the notion that we are talking about ‘online/offline’, not ‘virtual’real’ … relationships online have a different nature, but they are as valid and real as offline relationships, and for many the edges are entirely blurred as conversations online in between face-to-face meets change the nature of offline conversations (sometimes allowing for deeper conversations in either space)…
… and at all times we want to remember that we are talking about ‘human beings at machines’ nor replaced by ‘human beings as machines’.
Remember that whilst you are online, you are within your physical environment – you are not some kind of disembodied being, and even whilst offline, what you’ve done online is likely affecting what you are doing.. Especially as our technology becomes increasingly portable…
Term that Vicky Beeching came up with (doing a PhD on transhumanism/ethics in technology // regular on TV) – terminology of Broken Binary, which I like … makes sense – we make online/offline two different things, but the thinking is already broken…
Vicky gave a talk the other week at #GB13, calling for church to become more Web 2.0, than Web 1.0 … and as a learning developer/someone who actively tries to get the church thinking differently, I would often make similar comparisons (though looking now towards immersive Web 3.0 – but the term is not so well known)…For the last 200+ years we have grown used to this model of ministry (in preaching, and in much of our other communications) (and I’d question if the arrows are even coming back the other way…)
… but the digital environment allows much more of this. Some people talk about a flattening of hierarchy, but although the digital allows more people to have their say, I would still say it is the ‘known’ and the ‘celebrity’ that get read more! Technologies have changed what is possible, and for many churches over the last few hundred years we have adopted a model of passive, presentation-piece services, heightened even more by a broadcast mode of media that we all got used to with the TV and the radio. Social media, however, offers much more space for questioning, and for congregations to actively engage with sermons through tweeting along, checking something on their online Bibles or Google, sharing photos of church activities, or being encouraged to continue discussions throughout the week through a Facebook group.[All technologies offer AFFORDANCES, CONSTRAINTS and change SOCIAL PRACTICES]
… thought this response afterwards was v helpful.. Go from around 1.12 in … (1 min)
Biggest topic = always. Conversation with the Sainsbury’s… didn’t want to do it themselves, but would now support others who would…
For many in contemporary culture, church is not a space they are familiar with, they don’t hear particularly good things about it in the press, and when we disappear inside church and turn our phones off they see little more than a black hole from many people who actively share so many other aspects of their lives on social media. Over the past couple of years, people have grown used to the sight of me with a mobile in my hand during most sermons, though not all, checking in on Foursquare, sharing an image on Instagram, reading the Bible with the free Bible app @YouVersion, tweeting elements of the sermon, checking aspects of the sermon on Google, and sharing a few thoughts on Facebook, as a result of which, friends have come to ask me about church and whether they can come with me sometime. For churches where there’s no experience of having an active digital user in the church, this can be confusing and distracting, so its worth taking the time as a church to encourage people to use their digital devices, whilst ensuring that others understand the positive benefits.
We changed our tagline to “Biblically Literate Living Online” … Conversation recently online – this was challenged as a ‘straw man’, but others felt that this made sense to them = an opportunity to share. Too negative?
Humour (about relationships, again take back to WW2 posters – people could laugh at themselves – ‘canalises a pre-existing stream’ = makes sense within the culture itself… ) – my friend set this up a year ago, and so highly regular/shareable (pics) over 3000 likes on FB…
Trending = when one of the top 10 topics in the UK – for several hours – then blogged about what happened so others can understand, echo/copy/join in the fun?
In all of this we are thinking “who is our neighbour” – within the church community we seem to particularly “value” f2f contact (a lot is down to the incarnation of Jesus), but this notion needs a lot more thought – we now have global neighbours!
So much of what we talk about is about collaboration & community … and re Big Bible Fr David Cloake had this to say about participating as a #digidisciple “I am …”
Recently got many more comments than we usually get because David so vulnerable and open about his depression…
Keen for the site to be properly legitimate… and encourage those who engage with us online to think about their own use of images etc – we don’t preach about it, but try and show by doing! [Push/pull culture]
Keeps me busy – in variety of spaces online – need to re-assess the value of each … audio, video, images, book lists, events…
Our next challenge – coming up weekend after next .. Sheridan/DJ undertaking a #digipilgrimage and inviting others to follow their ‘adventures’ as #digipilgrim(s) … they get the blisters, you get the spiritual insights – giving plenty of info to start in the creation of a digital trail!
We are also into our fourth year of a large conference at which 400+ people discuss ‘new media’/Christian faith – working with Premier Christian Media on this .. Huge range of comments … and opportunity for those of us who are interested in ‘beyond the practical basics’ to think about what it means to be engaged in the digital spaces..
So – what do you think? What does it make you think about engaging online, how we share our faith, how we make Jesus real to people?
Engaging in Discipleship in a Digital Age
Engaging in Discipleship in a Digital Age
Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, CODEC, Durham University
This work is licensed under a Creative
Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The Digital Age/Digital Culture, and the place of the
Church within it.
The Voices of the #DigiDisciple(s)
Powered by Humanity or Technology?
The Online/Offline Problematic
Humour, Vulnerability and Sharing
Just a big timesuck?
Image Credit: Facebook Meme
Twitter:The New Poster?
[E]very historical event and social movement
sooner or later finds some kind of reflection on the
hoardings, and even a trivial and ephemeral poster
advertising a play, film or chocolate drink can tell us
more about society than volumes of historical
Hensher, P., ‘The Poster as a Pin-up’, Mail on Sunday
April 19 1998, p.40.
Twitter brings you closer to the
things you are passionate about
- and for millions of people
across the globe that is faith.
Who might read it?
Your worst enemy
Rev Prof DavidWilkinson
God is a communicating God:
“In the beginning was the
word, and the word was
God is extravagant in
communication – he is not a
silent God who has to be
tempted into communicating
Image Credit: Durham University
The Church Front Door?
For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’.
People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even
think about it. Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be salt and
light in the world, and for thousands in the ‘digital
age’, that world includes social networks such
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. With literally
billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces
presented by churches need to be
appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an
afterthought: they are now effectively the ‘front door’ to
your church for digital users, and you ignore those
spaces at your peril.
Image Credit: Sxc.hu
We are not selling something to the world
that will make more people like us, believe in
our story, join our churches. We are trying to
be something in the world that invites
connection and compassion, encourages
comfort and healing for those in need, and
challenges those in power to use that power
in the service of justice and love
Why are we sharing?
Christianity Magazine, May 2012
“… Out of a commitment to an ideal of
Christian relatedness that sees us all as
God’s children, each worthy of attention and
Where is the balance between conserving our
sanity/deeper relationships, and ensuring that
all feel valued?
What about friendship clearouts?
A Disciple is one who, by following Jesus, grows in
their faith in Christ and in so doing models and
teaches Christians the precepts of the
Bible, prayer, doctrine, relationship, Christian
living, service, and worship, to name the main ones.
A ‘digital disciple’, or, as we are calling it, a
#digidisciple is someone who seeks to live out their
Biblically-informed Christian faith in the digital
space, whether they are dipping a toe in, or are
fully immersed in the digital worlds.
Image Credit: Seed Resources
Black Mirror (2013)
Image Credit: Digital Spy
There were elements of Isaac Asimov’s work
and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in this
tale in relation to the resurrected version of Ash
(Domhnall Gleeson) – with the lines between
humanity and technology blurring. But the
conclusion was that no matter how much
technology connects us, it can never replace
human interaction and the human experience.
The Hyper-Local: who is ‘the audience’?
How might our approach to
preaching change if we
understand that we have two
audiences – the faithful who sit
close to us and a broader
public, listening-in from a
Image Credit: Stockfresh
Human Beings at Machines, not “are machines” …
Image Credit: iStockPhoto
Antony Mayfield, digital strategist, offers a really interesting
concept – that we often think of the web as a ‘digital
Narnia’, a place we don’t all need to engage with, but that
we’d be better off thinking of the digital environment more in
terms of Harry Potter:
There are places that are apart from the world, but mostly it
exists all around us, simply out of sight to the uninitiated.
That leaves a lot of people feeling like Muggles, then.
Worse, Muggles who get glimpses of what the digerati are
up to. What to do? Ignore them? Rally against them? Or pick
up a wand and see what happens? The web is increasingly
become a layer over our physical world – augmenting our
ability to make the most of it.
Mayfield, A. Me and My Web Shadow A&C Black, 2010, pxix
These delineations are increasingly blurry and will
become so much so that the ‘on/off’ dualism we
use now will be laughable in a few years time. Our
technology will become a bigger and bigger part of
us, in terms of dependency – and potentially
physiology – that to speak of this ‘on/offline’ as a
clear divide will not make sense. So I get twitchy
when people make a very clear delineation
between them as if they were two separate
spheres. Where does one start and the other one
Tweeting in Church?
The Church as a Black Hole?
Church: “The Sacred Space”: disrespectful to tweet
when someone is giving a sermon?
What if I tweet all other aspects of my life, but as I head
into church it’s a black hole?
What can I access
Check in on Foursquare
Pictures on Instagram
Reading the Bible on @Youversion
Tweeting elements of the sermon
Checking facts on Google
Sharing significant thoughts
Image Credit: Stockfresh
I do not want to live a split, compartmentalised life. Sometimes, though, I look at the
Church (which I love dearly) and I see and dabble in the pull to
compartmentalisation. On the one hand there is the world of mincing niceness, all
scrubbed up Sunday best image with its faux piety. Those sermons which drone on
and the answer is always Jesus or ‘what the Bible says’ no matter what the question.
(By the way I am a big fan of real preaching… more of that some other time). Then
there is the rest of life – a
wonderful, muddled, muddy, joyous, awful, funny, confusing, hideous, delightful
ride. This is the world of new born babies, beautiful sunrises, cancer, idiots who
should be banned from driving, internet Trolls, deep passionate love, chemical
weapons, unspeakable sadness, depression and stand-up comedy – to give a
lightning sketch! I want to live a biblically literate life in that world – the world I
know. I want a faith that doesn’t ask me to pretend to be someone I am not, or to
suppress the difficult edgy questions in order to keep ‘Churchville’ pink, saccharine
Who is my neighbour?
What does it mean to ‘love your neighbour’ in a world in
which a ‘friend’ might as easily be the kid from down the
street you grew up with as a woman in Botswana whom
you’ve never seen in person and only know in the
context of Facebook status updates, photos, and notes?
What is the nature of community at prayer in a compline
service tweeted each evening by the cybermonks of a
Virtual Abbey? What is the ecclesiological and liturgical
significant of worship in various churches across the
theological spectrum on the quasi-3D, virtual reality site
‘Second Life’? How can we negotiate spiritual
interaction in these contexts without losing sight of
basic elements of Christian faith expressed in
traditional embodied and geographically located
practices of prayer, worship, and compassion
Tweet if You Heart Jesus, p.xiv
A Sense of Community
Whilst I cannot conclude my thinking in a wholly positive
way, I acknowledge that great use of all of this to my
own personal discipleship. I am a broader Christian, a
better informed Christian, a more readily supported
and sustained Christian and for that I love this digital
life. If that makes me a better Christian, then perhaps
its purpose is served if a purpose exists and indeed if a
purpose is needed. However, I shall continue to pray
that someone, somewhere, can say with absolute clarity
that because of this digital community, they came to
The social media is a great place. Until you are
where I am, and where others are – in a world
characterised by depression. Social media largely
demands interactions by lone individuals who
coincide in a central, digitally enabled place. That
place is distinct and detached from anyone
partaking of it, but it becomes the realty, the
venue, the place. Standing at the centre and looking
out, social media is a collective of people, alone.
Image Credit: SXC.Hu
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