I spent the morning at Auckland University for a half day conference on Digital Faith. It was a good mix of discussion and interaction on practical and theoretical issues related to doing religion online (and an added plus were the fabulous scones during the tea break!) Another highlight was getting to meet the first presenter, Mark Brown of the NZ Bible Society, f2f after interacting with him for over 2 years online.
Mark spoke on the topic of Monitor Mediated Ministry: Being the Church in the Digital Space which explored his own experience in using Second Life and Facebook to do church. He argued that often offline church focuses on an invitational of trying to get people into the pews while in the online context there is a shift to an incarnational strategy that focuses on bringing faith into to where people are at...in this case the internet.
Tim Bulkley spoke on Digital Audio and Reading the Bible Online and explored how digital and communication technology changes our engagement with text and information. He argued that digital culture changes our relationship with the Bible when it is presented in hypertext or especially new visual or oral mediums. He described his work with the PodBible project and his work developing Vernacular resources for church leaders so that new media technologies empower new methods of translation and engagement.
Yours truly spoke about the offline implications of online religious community as the rise of online community reflects changes in larger society's conception and practice of community. I also addressed how the internet challenges traditional institutions conceptions and practices of church as it offers alternative means of spiritual engagement and connection
Stephen Garner concluded the day talking about Who do you day I am? Digital authenticity, ethics and community. He spoke about the long tradition in Christianity of tension between spiritual and physical spaces and conceptions, and how the internet can highlight these supposed Gnostic tendency as it frees users from the constraints of the body. The result is a blurred space where question of what it means to be authentic online are debated. He raised some important ethical points summed up by a quoted from Ron Cole Turner: "Technology for all its good is constantly on the edge of sin, exploitation and greed, it is after human technology beset by our weakness".
So overall it was a great way to spend a morning in Auckland!