#DigiWriMo : We Will

Fifteen years ago, Kim and I made vows to love, comfort, honor, and keep one another, in sickness and in health. A year later, we vowed to see that our daughter Fiona would be brought up in Christian faith and life. These are important vows, sacred vows, but they are not the only important sacred vows that were made on those days.

After Kim and I made those vows, the whole congregation was asked, “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?”

They answered, “We will”.

Likewise, when Fiona was baptized, the whole congregation was asked, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”

Again, the answer was, “We will”.

Over the past fifteen years, we’ve had more than our share of sickness. I write this as Kim continues to recover from sinus surgery. Over the past fifteen years, there have been plenty of times when those who attended our wedding had the opportunity to act on their vows and support us in our marriage and in our raising of Fiona. To those who have kept their vow to help us keep our vows, “thank you”.

Kim and I have likewise made similar vows to others and done what we can to support them. Yet, to me, it is about more than just the vows that we make, in person, at a baptism or wedding. We are part of the very body of Christ. By making those vows, we join with the vows made at all weddings and baptisms and we have spent time honoring those vows by upholding friends torn by grief or addiction, even though we were at their weddings or baptisms, not in person, but as part of the body of Christ.

I am writing this as part of a broader context. Besides being members of the body of Christ, I am also a member of an online community of writers, the participants in #DigiWriMo. Yesterday I started a discussion with Kyle Matthew Oliver about Digital Cathedrals. How is the sacred manifest online? How does it relate to what we are doing in #DigiWrimo? Kevin Hodgson jumped in with a great tweet:

“That idea of the journey to discover who we are through writing is key. We help each other along the way.”

For many, the language of liturgy, church, and religion may be a barrier, so I’ll take Kevin’s tweet, and rework it to the Liturgy of #DigiWriMo, something I hope will be accessible to people no matter what their faith structure.

“Will all of you participating in #DigiWriMo do all in your power to help other participants discover who they are through their digital writing?”

“We Will.”

#DigiWriMo An Altar in Cyberspace

On the first two days of #DigiWriMo, I managed to put together four different, fairly long blog posts. I haven’t stated goals, like 50,000 words for the month, a blog post a day, or anything like that. Instead, I’ve set off without any specific goals, other than to write and interact.

Today, I read through various posts and none of them particularly gave me grist for the mill. Probably the closest was Kyle Matthew Oliver’s blog post, #DIGIWRIMO POST: ONE WORLD, ONE LIFE IN THE DIGITAL CATHEDRAL. It was exciting to see another #DigiWriMo participant interested in topics like this, but I didn’t find anything that I felt compelled to react to.

My one random reaction was to mash up the title of two books, The Digital Cathedral, which Kyle refers to and The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The Digital Cathedral, The Digital Bazaar, and … What about the digital hermitage? The Digital Camino? Perhaps all of this returns to the discussions of cartography.

This weekend, I am going on a church retreat, and we’ll be reading a chapter from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World. Should I be thinking about An Altar in Cyberspace? I checked the book out of the library. It seems like I keep running across people suggesting I should read some of Barbara Brown Taylor’s books, so I’ll read a little now. Then, I really should try to get to the online book study group that I’ve barely been keeping up with.

Postscript: After writing this, I went to check Facebook and found a sponsored post from Amazon highlight The Posthuman and An Altar in The World. Clearly, Amazon is paying attention. Can we learn anything from this for a digital church strategy?

#DigiWriMo : Posthuman Christianity

I found Sherri Spelic’s #DigiWriMo post about Author, Audience and Parts of Speech an interesting place to start my thoughts for this evening’s #DigiWriMo post. Part of the reason I’m doing #DigiWriMo this year, instead of #NaNoWriMo, which I’ve done other years, is out of the hope of finding a more engaged audience.

Yet when I think about my audience, I am perplexed. It feels like I live in several very disjoint worlds. An audience that lives at the intersection of these worlds is probably very small indeed. Yet I’m looking for ways to build audience, to build community, and bring these worlds a little closer together.

The tagline for an article in Upworthy about teens teaching seniors about technology starts, “In our fast-paced digital world, the generation gap has never been wider.”

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center is publishing articles on Political Polarization in the American Public.

We’re seeing similar divergences in religion and in the culture wars. It is something I run across in my daily life. Perhaps, after Bowling Alone, we are now becoming more and more disconnected from people not like us.

Last spring, I went to a conference at Yale Divinity School on poetry in worship. I told my co-workers I was taking a few days off for personal time, but didn’t tell them what I was doing. On the signup form for the conference, I had choices for various positions of church leadership, and “other:. I went to the conference embracing my ‘otherness’.

I came away from the conference feeling called to explore the possibility of becoming an ordained Episcopalian priest. I was very circumspect about who I discussed that with initially.

Now, here I am, participating in discussions about digital writing and pedagogy, something most of my friends from various circles are unlikely to discuss. Certainly, it is a not topic for the homeless people I talk with on the street or the elderly folks I visit at the nursing home. I can bring it up at times at work, but mostly I get glazed over stares. At the same time, since it is an avocational interest of mine, I can only speak on a fairly superficial level about Deleuze, Foucault, or so many others whose ideas are finding their way into mine.

My eldest daughter is starting a master’s program in gender studies in Japan. We often have great discussions over Skype about queer studies, and I’m struck how far these discussions are from the discussions I’m having online, even with Episcopalians, about the role of homosexuals in the church.

And then, being the old geek that I am, I’m spend time talking with my transhumanist, posthumanist, singularity focused friends, and I have to wonder, how does Anglican Theology and posthumanism relate, especially when it comes to talking with folks in a typical Episcopalian parish, homeless people on the street, or elderly folks in nursing homes.

Sunday provided some insight into this. For my religious friends, it was All Saints Day, a time when we think about communion of saints, about our connectedness, our community as members of the Body of Christ. It was also the beginning of #DigiWriMo, a time when I am sharing my thoughts and writing with others online. It is also about building community, about building audience.

As I thought about this blog post, as I thought about references to posthumanism, and wondered what posthuman Christianity might be like, it seems like the connections between #DigiWriMo participants, no matter what their faith system is like, may be the closest metaphor I’ve found yet for the digital body of Christ.

Whatever construct or framework you want to look at things from, it seems like the need to build audience, build community, has never been greater.

#DigiWriMo : Mapping

This morning, I want to explore some of the #DigiWriMo discussion on cartography. I’ll start off with Kay Sidebottom’s blog post, Me, mapped. In it, she references Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman. Kay focuses on Braidotti’s idea, “A cartography maps what it means to live at this moment in time. It is a theoretically based and politically informed reading of the present.”

There is a lot worth exploring in this idea and others have been sharing some interesting thoughts. But first, I want to take a detour to learn more about Braidotti. According to Wikipedia, she is influenced by Deleuze, which is no surprise for a group I stumbled across via others interested in Deleuze. Wikipedia also mentions she is influenced by Foucault, and I can imagine discussing this with my eldest daughter who would say, “Who isn’t influenced by Foucault?” Of course, if I mention either Deleuze or Foucault to most of the people that I run into a typical day, I suspect most would not know either name, except maybe for friends who live near Foucault’s Furniture Appliance in Wallingford.

Maureen Crawford added a comment referring to “Peter Turchi's book, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer.” I took a little time out to explore Turchi’s work and am adding him to the ever growing list of things to read. On post about him was in Believer Magazine; more stuff I want to read. There are also some videos of Turchi that I want to explore.

Maureen went on to write her own blog post, Musing on Maps and Minds. She writes:

“Terra Incognita – isn’t that the essence of our exploration of identity?”

She then goes on to explore Turchi, “Miles Harvey author of, The Island of Lost Maps”, another book I should read, and so much more.

She includes one of my favorite quotes from T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ”

I first came across the quote at the end of Barbet Schroeder’s movie, “The Valley (Obscured by Clouds)”, which also seems to fit into the discussion here.

As I write this, I remember working MOOs back in the 1990s. MOOs, not to be confused with MOOCs are text based virtual worlds. You added onto your world by using the @dig command, which would create a new space and link it to the current space.

How do we map what we currently know? How do we discover new things? How do we link them to what we know? What tools are there to help with this?

I hope to explore this in more detail when I’m not rushing off to work.

#DigiWriMo: Stranger Danger, Will Robinson

One of my goals for #DigiWriMo is to be more engaged in other people’s blogs and hopefully to have others more engaged in my blog. Years ago, I used to participate in various blog swaps and I work as a social media manager, so there is nothing really new about this for me.

One person who has been really good at this, at least in the early moments of #DigiWriMo is Sarah Honeychurch. She’s been commenting on my posts, thank you Sarah, and responded to Joanne Fuchs tweet about blogging once a week, “I find having a supportive audience in events like #DigiWriMo helps me.”

So, I went over to Joanne’s blog, where her most recent post was Yes, Virginia. You Can Ask Your Own Questions!. Joanne sounds like the sort of teacher I would want my inquisitive eighth grader to have. Joanne was talking about helping students form questions around “letters from service men from different wars”. It fit nicely with the story I heard Arnie Pritchard tell Friday night about This Business of Fighting based on his father’s letters.

Joanne also reminds me of Paul Bogush and I wonder if they’ve met. As an aside, another participant of #DigiWriMo this year is Geoffrey Gevalt. I read his bio and looked at the Young Writers Project. It made me wonder if Geoffrey knew Steve Collins and Youth Journalism International. I sent Steve a Facebook message to see if they knew each other. They should.

All of this is prologue to the key focus of this evening’s #DigiWriMo post. The other week, my daughter Fiona texted me, letting me know that there was some guy at her school teaching the kids about Internet Safety. Now I want the internet to be safe as much as the next guy, probably more so, since my job is social media manager for a health care organization, but I often find a lot of the internet safety talks, at best, misguided. They focus on online predators and stranger danger, and less on more important issues like cyberbullying or how you can help online friends in times of danger.

Stranger danger: I’ve never met Sarah, Joanne, or Geoffrey face to face. Yet if I ever get a chance to, I will jump at it. They sound like my kind of people. I have met lots of other people face to face after getting to know them first online, including my wife. Knowing how to judge and get to know people that you meet through the media, whether it be online, or any other form of media is an important skill. It applies equally to getting to know authors, musicians, journalists, politicians, and others.

Yes, online predators are a danger, but I believe a greater danger may be accepting uncritically what various media personalities are saying. Learning how to think critically about what we experience through various media can address both of these dangers.

Later this week, I will be speaking at Career Day at my daughter’s junior high school. I will be talking about being a social media manager, and what it takes to do that well. Perhaps key areas I’ll focus on include the value of meeting the right people online, collaborating with them, and how to better judge what we consume online.

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