2023 Conference Sessions: Day 3

Sessions: Day 3

Friday, 3rd of June

Socialising in the conference VR-space (Frame) 

06.00 AM (CDT – USA) / 12.00 PM (BST – London) / 9.00 PM (AEST – Australia)

Introduction and Prayer (in the conference VR-space (Frame))

06.30 AM (CDT – USA) / 12.30 PM (BST – London) / 9.30 PM (AEST – Australia)

  • Thomas Schlag

Panel: Faith-Based Prophetic Practice

6.45 AM (CDT – USA) / 12.45 PM (BST – London) / 9.45 PM (AEST – Australia)

  • Chair: Pete Phillips
  • Panelists: Anthony Le Duc, Aline Amaro da Silva & Katleho Mokoena

Dr. Anthony Le Duc

Anthony Le Duc, SVD is currently the Director of the Asian Research Center for Religion and Social Communication (St. John’s University, Thailand). He is also teaching at Lux Mundi National Seminary of Thailand. His primary research interests pertain to the intersection between religion and contemporary issues such as ecology, migration, and technological development. 

Dr. Aline Amaro da Silva

Journalist, Master and PhD in Catholic Theology at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), Porto Alegre, Brazil. Adjunct Professor at the Philosophy and Theology Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais (PUC Minas), researcher at the Center for Studies in Communication and Theology (NECT)

Katleho Mokoena

Katleho Mokoena is a PhD candidate at the University of Pretoria, his thesis topic is on Ubuntu ethics and emerging technologies. His research interests are exploring the intersection of theology, philosophy, technology, and culture.

Paper Session 7

8.15 AM (CDT – USA) / 2.15 PM (BST – London) / 11.15 PM (AEST – Australia)

Preaching prophetically in “the digital limit situation”

Frida Mannerfelt (University College Stockholm)

The results from five empirical studies of digitally mediated preaching events suggest that preaching in digital culture and spaces might be understood as “co-preaching” (as presented in my thesis Co-preaching: the Practice of Preaching in Digital Culture and Spaces (2023)). The practice of preaching comes across as a deeply relational practice, characterized by interdependence between human actors and material arrangements, among which digital technology is one. The consequences of this interdependence are experiences of being “at the limits”, in a situation of vulnerability and delimitations that hold the possibility of creativity and grace.

How can preachers preach prophetically in such a “digital limit situation”? Drawing on, among others, Amanda Lagerkvist’s Existential Media (2022), this paper will outline a “theology of co-preaching” that aims to answer that question.

Liturgical Psychophysiology – Digital Measuring of Participants’ Sunday Service Experiences

Titti Kallio & Terhi Paananen (Church Council of Finland)

Experiences of Sunday service participants have been studied with questionnaires and interviews. In general, the results show positive opinions, attitudes, and feelings. However, the questionnaires and surveys are affected by verbal reporting restrictions, human memory, and subsequent interpretations. The digital world produces new research methods rapidly. In Finland we wanted to see how the participants’ positive experiences look like when psychophysiological responses are measured digitally. We delivered 12 Moodmetric™ smart rings to be worn by participants in three different Sunday services. The rings measured electrical conductance of skin from the ring wearer’s finger. This electrodermal activity, or EDA is used to measure a person’s alertness and activity of the sympathetic nervous system.
We handed out the rings to the volunteers at the church door when participants entered the church. The data was stored in the ring and then transferred to an application in a smart phone, and from the application to the cloud (computer system storage) for further analysis. The study was 100% anonymous.

Our results show that in the beginning of a service the participants have a higher activity level. After the beginning of the mass the participants are relaxed, and some are almost in a meditative mode. The lower activity level could also indicate boredom, but the earlier data from questionnaires and interviews show that the service is mainly experienced in a positive way. When the earlier data is combined with psychophysiological measurements, we can say that the common experience is “positive relaxation” during the worship. The main finding is that the objective psychophysiological data shows similar results with every participant. To our knowledge, no measurements of activity of sympathetic nervous system have been made during a worship before. Now this measuring has become easy since the development of activity bracelets, and smart rings, which do not need wires or heavy equipment. The method can be further used for comparing worship experiences in different ecclesiastic traditions or for comparing live and online settings. Also, the method can provide data as to how different parts of the service are experienced.

Paper Session 8

9.30 AM (CDT – USA) / 3.30 PM (BST – London) / 12.30 AM (AEST – Australia)

May two or three online be considered ‘gathered’?

Ian Emery (Spurgeons College, London)

As a proponent of digital church, I endorse the predominant objection of digital detractors: that the church must be axiomatically gathered. However, far from abandoning the gathered church, I suggest that it has instead simply found an alternative cultural expression of its necessary gathering.

Rather than asking whether the online gathering of Christians may be considered church, my paper addresses the prior question of whether two or three online may be considered ‘gathered’ and, if so, how this may impact our ecclesiology. I consider how digital technologies have brought about a change in language use, exposing a new understanding of what it means to gather which does not require physical proximity before arguing that ageographical asynchronous gathering predates the digital age. I then explore the subtle consequences of integrating this discovery into our understanding of the Church and offer digital and analogue examples to disclose how the gathering of the church transcends co-location in both space and time, meaning that it can be enacted at will – uniting all Christians in ministry through the priesthood of all believers.

Thus, I ask digitality to throw new light upon our ecclesiology: prophetically revealing what has always been, yet hitherto was hidden.

Remixed Rituals & Self-Styled Canon: Scenes of prophetic leadership in a hybrid faith-adjacent mentoring network

Kyle Oliver (Learning Forte / Teachers College, Columbia University / Church Divinity School of the Pacific)

Tapestry is a team-based foster youth mentoring community staffed mainly by young adult tech worker volunteers in a U.S. West Coast city. The protestant ministers who founded Tapestry intended to do so as an act of church planting, with support for foster youth serving as the congregation’s primary mission activity. They eventually abandoned these institutionally framed ambitions, due to participant disinterest in the religious trappings of congregational life and surrounding churches’ disinterest in shaping this ministry according to the needs and priorities of its teenage participants. The founders came to understand Tapestry according to a decentralized model of faith-adjacent community where each mentor team has the autonomy to create their own rituals and establish their own canon of sacred stories.

This presentation will be built around relevant scenes from Becoming Tapestry, an ethnographic audio documentary examining the Tapestry community before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. I argue that the tech worker lifestyle and a matrix of digitally mediated social practices have made possible an embodied vision of sacred community in which the priorities of human relationality and healing trump the institutional priorities of the religious, governmental, and nonprofit institutions with which Tapestry is nevertheless entangled.

Paper Session 9

10.45 AM (CDT – USA) / 4.45 PM (BST – London) / 01.45 AM (AEST – Australia)

Displacing Worship: Digital Factionalism and the Rural Liturgical Community

Benjamin Durheim (College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University)

Participation in the “digital age” has depended upon access to its infrastructure. As high-speed access to online political, social, and religious worlds has developed in rural and small-town areas of the United States, that access has steadily eroded a core social concept that mediates social identity in those contexts: the moral community. The moral community is essentially a concept governing feelings of being “at home,” driven by networks of obligation and responsibility to those who share space in the moral community (neighbors). One central characteristic of this social concept however, is that the home is defined by locality, not by factional membership. However, as access to online community proliferates, so also does the sense of being able to choose one’s communal membership, defined by feelings of factional similarity rather than feelings of obligation or responsibility to a community. This prioritization of digitally-mediated factionalism over embodied manifestation of communal responsibility presents significant challenges theologically. This paper argues that what is at stake in addressing these challenges is a social wisdom of moral community that shatters when digital mediation of social reality is not tempered by concomitant participation in embodied, local social reality.

Hideo Kojima: Prophesying Connection in a Digital Age

David Dockery

The well-known game designer Hideo Kojima has developed a reputation for prophecy. Most recently, Kojima has leveraged his prophetic power to critique the isolationist, nationalist trends of the mid-to-late 2010s through Death Stranding. Death Stranding (2019) is a game set in a post-apocalyptic America where anti-matter ghosts are “stranded” in the living world. The resulting apocalypse reduced humanity to a few isolated pockets connected only by a “Chiral Network”— a version of the Internet that stretches through the afterlife. The player must guide the protagonist, a deliveryman named Sam Bridges, on his quest to reconnect this disconnected America through rebuilding the Chiral Network. A game centered on connection, it serves as a prophetic rebuke to an isolationist world.

This presentation examines Kojima’s Death Stranding as an artifact of prophetic game design. By it, Kojima prophesies a vision of the digital as a connecting force. Both narratively and in terms of gameplay, he depicts digitality as a solution to a world divided by nationalist and isolationist forces. Death Stranding, therefore, provides insight into the phenomenon of game design as prophetic rhetoric, and the game designer as digital prophet.

Final discussion – next steps of the GoNeDigiTal network

12.00 AM (CDT – USA) / 6.00 PM (BST – London) / 03.00 AM (AEST – Australia)

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