Monday, July 05, 2004

Virtual Theology Colloquium 2005:
Description and Invitation (version 0.9)

Auckland: February 2005


The proposed colloquium will gather a small (but focused) group of Trans-Tasman scholars to explore and discuss themes related to doing theology (and related disciplines) in the context of an electronic world: the implications for these disciplines of the cultural and epistemological changes being brought by electronic media (hypertext, digital technologies, electronic publishing, mobile telephony and the internet) and their cultural formations and applications.

Preparation will enhance the brief face-to-face discussions. Appropriate papers will be circulated and read by participants prior to the face to face meeting. We intend to collect and publish papers from the colloquium.

This colloquium is sponsored by the RJ Thompson Centre for Theological Studies at Carey Baptist College, Auckland


Participants will identify the specific colloquium topics and agenda through e-collaboration leading up to the colloquium. The focus, however, will be less on instrumental questions of applications or use of technologies for religious purposes, and more on substantive theoretical/theological questions.

Potential topics include:
  • The impact of digital technologies and hypertext presentation on the structure of thought. The stability of written text correlates with a fixed world-view, which undergirds much of the current epistemology of theology. Does the fluidity of digital media create a different world-view affecting how theology is done?

  • The impact on theology and belief of the multiplication of information, and paths to explore it, created by electronic technologies and their effects on primary and secondary expressions of belief and the locus of religious authority. Users of electronic media must become autonomous in their evaluation of information, reducing dependence on authority. Hence the extension of the pragmatic dynamic of the consumer, and the consequent shift of locus of religious authority from institutions to the individual. What does this mean for the construction, continuity and control of religious ideas? Are ideas the best means of Christian continuity, or are ideas too emblematic of writing/print? Cf. the Reformation and the birth of print.

  • The impact of changes in textual production on the construction and nature of theology. Martin Marty observed that the practice of theology depends on "a moderate diversity of books….therefore the future of theology has a lot to do with what happens to publishing.” Publishing is changing. The diversity of books is no longer moderate, and future practices include e-books, online publishing, changes in nature of published books, and print on demand.

  • The impact on the conceptualisation and practice of theology of developments in literary and media reception theory – meaning is constructed by readers interacting texts at the point of reception, not by the creator at the point of production. How does this challenge the perception and authority of theological practice and institutional identity?

  • The implications for theology of electronic conceptualisations of reality and virtuality. What are the theological and spiritual consequences of technologies that enhance and extend human capacity?

Coordinator: Dr Tim Bulkeley (Carey Baptist College and the University of Auckland, School of Theology) editor of the Hypertext Bible Commentary and Encyclopedia project, recently organized an ‘expert seminar’ with the title “e-exegesis” for the Association Internationale Bible et Informatique conference.

Collaborator: Dr Peter Horsfield, RMIT University (School of Applied Communication) author of The Mediated Spirit (CDRom) and editor of Belief in Media: Media and Christianity from a Cultural Perspective.

Participants will be interested people identified through networks. So if you know someone who might be a suitable participant please pass this notice on.

Meeting times

Friday 11th 6pm & all day Saturday 12th February 2005
(finishing at 6:30pm followed by a final meal together)

Limited funding is available only for meeting costs and some accommodation. Participants would be responsible for finding their own travel costs.

Further contact: