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Postdigital Theologies: Technology, Belief, and Practice

Book Workshop

On 1st October 2021, the William Temple Foundation is sponsoring a workshop on ‘Postdigital Theologies: Technology, Belief, and Practice’. The focus of this workshop is to share ideas, theories and research relating to Postdigital Theologies, with a view to developing ideas for book chapters. Further details of the book can be found here.

Venue: Trinity College, Oxford. Access available onsite and online.

Programme

10.30 Coffee and bring your own biscuits to welcome

10.45 Introduction to the book by Maggi  Savin-Baden and John Reader

11.00 Postdigital Theologies: Say what?

Dr Simon Cross, Oxford Diocese

In theology univocal language reductively shortens the ontological gap between humanity and God resulting in ‘idolatry’. In the case of digital entities, univocal description of brains as computers and computers as thinking or deciding also closes the ontological gap; doing so, I will argue, in two directions simultaneously. First by, assuming a reductive understanding of human being itself. Secondly, by overattributing human capacities, like qualia, to digital ontology.

11.20  Communion and Community in a Post Digital World

Canon Dr Andrew Braddock, Gloucester Cathedral

During the pandemic, the suspension of physical worship and the move to online platforms, shone a fresh spotlight on our sacramental practice and theology, and especially how we understand the relationship between the material, the digital and the spiritual. This paper approaches these questions by reflecting on the practice of Holy Communion in the Church of England during the pandemic and the contested nature of that experience.

11.40 Digital Afterlife and Queer Theology

Jack Slater, University of Exeter

Queer theology has long been a site of contest with regards to both relationships with the past and hope for the future. This paper argues that the differing practices of digital afterlife have the potential to transform queer relations to time with significant implications for the place of queer theology within a postdigital religious landscape

12.00 Reflections and questions with Maggi Savin-Baden and John Reader

12.15 Buffet lunch with tea/coffee

13.00 Sacramental Engines: Charles Babbage and Theological Computing

Ryan Haecker, University of Cambridge

Charles Babbage should be celebrated for having lit the silicon furnace of the digital age.  His Analytical Engine had promised to accelerate into an infinity of time, as ultimately into an infinite computational processing power.  Digital computers can thus be considered as engines of the digital, of a theological computation, and of the divine Logos, which, in critical opposition to all mechanistic reductions of life, intelligence, and sacred speech, we can consecrate as ‘sacramental engines’ of the digital age.

13.20 The Event of the Postdigital Sublime

Eric Trozzo

How can we speak of divinity in a postdigital situation in which we increasingly recognize the interdependent embeddedness of human experience within a complex matrix of not only organisms and materiality, but technologies as well, especially digital ones? This paper seeks to consider the concept of the sublime as way of speaking of an encounter with an immanent transcendence. In such an affective event, a space may be found to speak of encountering the divine in ways that prompt loving concern for the world.

13.40 Sixth short paper and comments

Tom James

Abstraction and reductive materialization are two key problems generated, according to John Millbank and Adrian Pabst, by contemporary capitalism. Does the digital help us get beyond them by opening up a world of meanings beyond material bodies and places, or does it plunge us into further abstractions and different kinds of reduction? Is the digital a mode of resistance or is it another version of the same thing? This paper is an attempt at a theological answer to this question, sketching out a post-digital Christology that affirms difference/the digital not as an escape from embodiment but precisely as it is incarnate within bodies, places, and historical agencies.

14.00 Closing remarks by Maggi Savin-Baden and John Reader

14.30 Depart

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