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The status of the religious cyborg v2


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Version 2 of previous presentation, made for CMRC 2010

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The status of the religious cyborg v2

  1. 1. The status of the religious cyborg Case study of Australian Christian bloggers Paul Emerson Teusner RMIT University :: Porticus Fellowship CMRC 2010
  2. 2. In this presentation... <ul><li>Philosophical and sociological perspectives on the religious cyborg </li></ul><ul><li>Cyborg as metaphor in the tradition of researching online religion </li></ul><ul><li>Real-life Cyborgs: Australian emerging church bloggers </li></ul>
  3. 3. Popular culture Human <ul><li>Weakness </li></ul><ul><li>Wisdom </li></ul><ul><li>Individuality </li></ul><ul><li>Seek liberation from physical constraints </li></ul>Machine <ul><li>Strength </li></ul><ul><li>Intelligence </li></ul><ul><li>Amorality </li></ul><ul><li>Seek freedom to participate </li></ul>
  4. 4. Spiritual cyborg <ul><li>Davis 1998, Gunkel 2007 </li></ul><ul><li>What is technologised about our humanity? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Considers definitions of humanity, involving the human search for the divine or the other </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Considers how technology is humanised </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Negotiation of real and virtual in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sensory experience of the world, and values of embodied and disembodied experiences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social interaction as religious, political, economic, sexual, gendered persons etc </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Historical cyborg Human <ul><li>Psychological mysticism: “man-machine” </li></ul><ul><li>Biological reductionism </li></ul>Machine <ul><li>20 th century seekers, LSD, electric guitar </li></ul><ul><li>Tamagotchi </li></ul><ul><li>Rhetoric of Web 2.0 </li></ul>
  6. 6. Cyborg as metaphor <ul><li>Cyborg as system user </li></ul><ul><li>Cyborg as social status </li></ul><ul><li>Cyborg as impression </li></ul>
  7. 7. System user <ul><li>What does online religion look like? </li></ul><ul><li>What can people do online and why would they do it? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of people go online for religion and why? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Social status Like vassal lord, citizen, and proletariat before it, the cyborg paints humanness in a historical context. It discloses how the organization of contemporary social and political life is working in consort with the reigning means of production to influence the range of humanness possible in our era.
  9. 9. Social status <ul><li>Behavioural studies </li></ul><ul><li>Rituals </li></ul><ul><li>Structures of authority </li></ul><ul><li>Second life </li></ul><ul><li>Relationships between participation in online and offline communities </li></ul>
  10. 10. Internet impression <ul><li>World looks at Internet and sees me </li></ul><ul><li>“ every time we use eBay or write a Gmail, we make a trade-off between body, technology and nature by allowing our data to become part of that organization’s knowledge base.” </li></ul>
  11. 11. Internet impression <ul><li>What is religious about the Internet that I create, gather, rear, mould and cultivate? </li></ul><ul><li>Where is religion in the myriad of social contexts organized through and in connection to new media? </li></ul><ul><li>What is it about the Internet that makes it a context for negotiations of the place and value of religion in the wider society and culture? </li></ul>
  12. 12. Cyberchristian <ul><li>“ Going online” no longer a discrete step </li></ul><ul><li>Internet is an extension of the mind, a social memory store, as well as a meeting place </li></ul><ul><li>Web 2.0, riding on the social and cultural waves that brought it about, carries promises of freedom, escape, honesty and equality </li></ul><ul><li>Creates tension for how we consider the “Christian life” which has historically been described in pastoral symbols and stories </li></ul>
  13. 13. Example But he was asking me about whether or not I write for the people who read, or for my own good. Often for me I think it's about trying to help me sift through stuff that's going on in my head, but sometimes it is purely because something interests/excites/angers me and so I want to let others know. Was also interesting thinking about the stage I went through with my blogging where I really cared how many people read my blog, and would fully just make up posts so that my readership wouldn't go down. Nowadays I couldn't really be bothered. [...] nowadays I don't blog to get readers. If people read my stuff, then sweet, if not, then I'm ok with it.
  14. 14. Cyberchristian How can we consider incarnational ministry and mission in a place where we do not take our bodies?
  15. 15. Virtual community and authentic identity <ul><li>Roger Silverstone’s understanding of online media and morality – proper distance </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers actively seek to reduce proper distance in a variety of ways </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers understand online community as an intermediary step along the way to a fuller community </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges notions of duality/multiplicity in previous considerations of online identity </li></ul>
  16. 16. Example Through the blogs you know a lot about a person through a really narrow field, but it's not until you meet them face-to-face that the relationship actually deepens. So I think people who have actually met having blogs, it's a different community then. [Blogging] provides new opportunities but at the end of the day it's still not the same level of community.
  17. 17. Example I think for my personality something of that risk appeals to me. Pushing the envelope a little bit and having people respond in ways that are not always in agreeance with what I'm saying. I like that. Not always, at the same time I tend to avoid conflict so I ... But I do like that edgy, pushing-the-envelope and stretching people and being stretched myself. When people disagree with me I think that's good for me, as long as they keep it nice.
  18. 18. Virtual community and authentic identity <ul><li>Language used to describe cyberspace influences how bloggers conduct themselves online </li></ul><ul><li>Internet not a mission field </li></ul><ul><li>Self-professed outsiders, looking for companions </li></ul>
  19. 19. Nationalisation, globalisation and being “glocal” <ul><li>Authoritative bloggers endeavour to create and “Australian” identity </li></ul><ul><li>Others feel like “displaced British or American bloggers” </li></ul><ul><li>Resistance to American push to create a global network </li></ul><ul><li>“ Glocalisation” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>as a resistance to both perceived forces </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>as a response to Cyberchristian dilemma </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Example [Emerging church] is a conversation that I think is only useful if it's grounded at some point. I think there's way too much abstract theology in a whole lot of these blogs. That's nice, but it needs to be grounded at some point. My site is focussed on my particular reality. I want to recruit [readers] to their own context. I don't have goals for the blog to grow or be huge. Having a counter on my blog is of use to me as I like to know not how many but where from. My blog is a conversation to try and help people reflect on the Gospel in their own world.
  21. 21. Religious cyborg - conclusions <ul><li>Nobody goes online anymore </li></ul><ul><li>Internet provides more than identity play </li></ul><ul><li>Connection as important as communication </li></ul><ul><li>Offline vs online is not the same as real vs virtual </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Online space has its own constraints to deal with </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both are virtual expressions of aspirations for authentic individual and communal living </li></ul></ul>