Computers and Writing 2012

My other life is butting in.

So you know I’m a grad student in rhetoric and composition, right? And that that sometimes means presenting at conferences? Well I’m skipping 4Cs, but I’m on for Computers and Writing in May—NC, here I come. I’m presenting on religion and digitality with a couple of men I’ve never met, and we have the next month(ish) to collaborate on a title and 50-word abstract for our panel (Google Docs for the win!).

Only, I had lots of editing/focusing/tweaking to do on my individual abstract (as a reviewer noted, it needed to be “ruthlessly scope[d] down,” work I’ve been putting off for weeks, and I spent a good chunk of my weekend figuring that out instead of thinking about episcotheque. (I also spent a good chunk of my weekend eating Thin Mints and reading McSweeney’s archives and not vacuuming or ironing or writing a paper on Lyotard, but never mind that.)

Serendipitously, my newly-minted duly-narrowed abstract is super episcotheque-y. So because I value input and collaboration, because I’m going to have to write this conference paper eventually, and because I can still change stuff at this point, I give you my new abstract, and invite any thoughts/suggestions:

*            *            *

Through a Screen Darkly: Religion in the Digital Age

In many Christian churches, the sacred aspects of space, body, and self are defined apart from—even protected from—technology, despite how this apparent incompatibility contrasts with religious and rhetorical history: churches have a record of adopting and adapting new technologies. As computing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, this chasm between spirituality and technology grows increasingly convoluted. I will take as an example the Episcopal Church (TEC), a mainline Protestant denomination with notably physical worship experiences as well as a commitment to exploring digital media.

Some aspects of church life have translated more easily to the digital than others. For instance, many dioceses, churches, clergy, and parishioners are active on various social media, while fewer churches incorporate digital components (such as projectors) into worship. Even rarer are digitally mediated sacraments—unauthorized and unrecognized by TEC and other denominations. I am interested how and where these lines are drawn­­—into which sacred spaces is technology allowed, and from which is it excluded, and why? In this paper, I will explore what happens when the physical and the digital collide in sacred space, using TEC to point to a broader story of the often uneasy relationship between unfolding technologies and religious practice, mindful that by examining this relationship, we may better understand the cultural world that shapes students, teachers, and scholars alike.

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6 thoughts on “Computers and Writing 2012

  1. This looks really interesting. At a time when the Internet is sometimes criticized for contributing to the erosion of physical communities, it’s important to explore how digital media can actually help build physical communities, particularly in mainline churches.

    As a side note, I’d like to also write an open letter to any church that doesn’t have its own website. What are you thinking? Using the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee (which is where I live) as an example, 6/55 churches, over 10% don’t have a Web presence, or at least it is not linked from the diocesan website.

    Of course, that’s not to pick on TEC. In the South Central Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA (which is where my home church is), approximately 38/145 don’t have a website either, which is even worse. Granted, a lot of those are tiny congregations in the middle of farming areas, and a lot of places in rural Wisconsin still can’t get broadband internet except in government buildings, but still. Even a picture of the church and a list of service times would be better than nothing.

    Obviously the pastors of churches without a web presence probably don’t read this blog, but if anyone reading this has any influence on those churches, or the digital media presence of a diocese/synod in general, then I hope I will have done some good.

    • Thanks, Alex. Web presence is definitely important––it’s no longer about IF churches should use digital media (websites, social media), but HOW. I’m a living example––I church-shopped online before choosing and attending my current parish.

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