Tuesday, August 17, 2010

hi I'm back. | reflections on CRMC 2010

by Tim K. Snyder

This past week I was in Toronto, Canada for the 7th International Conference on Religion, Media & Culture. It was a different sort of academic conference than most. It wasn't nearly as stuffy...actually it was quite warm and hospitable. The format was relaxed and filled with long coffee breaks and casual conversations, many following up on presentations made in panel presentations.

Though I as there largely on behalf of  Luther Seminary, there was much of the conversations that connect with my own personal interests in ministry and theology. I'll just mention some brief highlights and re-cap here:

"Masculinity"at the Intersection of Religion, Media and Culture
Center for Media, Religion and Culture, University of Colorado, Boulder

Though I don't think I've ever blogged about this, I've been involved since 2007 with a movement asking some questions about male spirituality. The research presented called into question the rhetoric of Evangelicals who've wanted to combat a supposed "crisis" of masculinity. The research is pretty convincing that the projected "norms" of masculinity (especially as communicated by many Evangelical Christians) just doesn't match up with the lived experience. When broadened to Mainline Protestantism the clash is someone muted, largely because the rhetoric isn't as strong. But if there even is such a "crisis" it is a question about the connection between maleness and spirituality after the progress made by feminist spirituality/theology of the 20th century.

Godcasting, Religious Bloggers // Me, Myself and iPod
Paul Emerson Teusner (RMIT University, Melbourne) & Rachel Wagner (Ithaca College, Ithaca)

Some of my favorite panels were those that dealt with themes of religious identity and new media (blogs, social media, etc.). Paul Teusner presented twice: once on podcasting and then on religious bloggers (specifically emerging church bloggers in Australia). Paul's work on podcasting confirmed what I have suspected for a while: that religious podcasters are seeking to create a space to "talk" about religion/faith/belief in places removed from church subculture. In his research on bloggers he found an important paradox among emerging church bloggers...one he calls the “Religious Cyborg” // real life Christian community happens in embodied ways (incarnation) and yet what happens then in a space in which we do not take their bodies. The real and the virtual collide. Rachel Wagner of Ithaca College did a more explicit presentation about the fluidity of religious identity in these areas using the metaphor of the iPod/iPhone app. We create religious identity today like we go shopping for apps...except in religion there aren't frequent enough new applications, updates and episodes. It's a fascinating way of looking at how our technology effects the "religious self."

Youth (Young Adults too) and Media, Religion & Culture

Piotr Bobkowski (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) has done some important research comparing the National Study of Youth and Religion findings to the public profiles of youth's MySpace accounts. Turns out youth were about 80% consistent between formal sociological research and MySpace. Karlijn Goossen (Ede Christian University for Applied Sciences) stumbled into some interesting questions about content v. form in studying the show "40 Days Without Sex" (Netherlands) as produced by the Evangelical Broadcasting Organization. Lynn Schofield Clark's research into the mediatization of religion and the sociology of emotions highlighted a Lutheran youth groups' digital storytelling of their religious identity.

A Take Away: An Idea
Performance Criticism, Media, Religion and Culture

This conference group was good at getting at the performative value of religion, media and culture. That is to say that they "do something" to us. There was a lot on visual media, social media and multimedia. There wasn't much on music -- which is where I'm mostly coming from. I'm interested though in appropriating performance criticism to the study of "contemporary" worship music. Performance criticism is not widely used in theological circles, though Phil Ruge-Jones and others have used this in their work with Biblical Storytelling and he's also written on this for academic audiences. The basic principal here is that form (staging, technology, instrumentation, body placement, audience interaction, tone, etc) all effect the experience of a music performance. Music is best understood not as a "text" but in its performance. Much of the conversation about worship design and music have been shallow resorting to debates about the theological substance of lyrics or mere aesthetics. To my knowledge there hasn't been much serious critical treatment of the performative function of worship music in contemporary and alternative worship. I'm thinking I might tackle this.

Posted via email from curatingthejourney.org


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