Thursday, June 28, 2007

Papers, Supervisions, and Fieldwork - Oh My! Oh, and Greenbelt!!!

The paper on Authorship and Authority in the blogosphere went well at the postgraduate seminar series. Some good discussion points afterwards regarding emerging social structures in the blogosphere. Patrick Carr (a fellow PhD student from Lancaster University) made some very interesting reflections concerning spiritual disciplines and the aesthetics of the moral self - something which I think may have a great many resonances with the neo-monasticism of many emerging Christian communities.

My supervision with Deborah the next day helped me rethink my intentions for the Reading Spiritualities chapter, situating the blogging activities of emerging Christian communities in the context of shifting notions of authority. I'll be working on it over the next few weeks, for the July 31st deadline (argh!), as well as trying to schedule my summer of interviewing.

I've had lots of emails from people wanting to participate in this research project, generated through a nearly exhaustive email advertising campaign that I worried might constitute spamming(!) and a hugely helpful post about my PhD by Jason Clark. At the moment, I think I might have around 30-40 questionnaire responses winging their way to me through cyberspace, which I hope to follow up with face-to-face interviews over the next few months. I'm really looking forward to getting to sit down with people and explore their beliefs. I hope to complete the fieldwork by Greenbelt at the end of August!

Speaking of Greenbelt, the line-up looks excellent. And the New Forms Cafe (my favouritist space) looks on great again this year. There are a whole host of communities with whom I've been in contact about this research, including: Sanctuary Birmingham, Ikon, The Garden, Dream, Grace, MayBe, Safe Space, Journey, Moot, Sanctuary Bath, Foundation, hOME, and Sanctus 2nds. And I haven't quite grown out of Delirious? yet!!! Hope it doesn't rain, though!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Blogging Emerging Church

I'm giving a paper tomorrow to the Religious Studies postgraduate community, presenting some thoughts on blogs as authoritative texts for emerging Christian communities. It's a prelude to a chapter I'm composing for a forthcoming collection called Reading Spiritualities edited by fellow Lancastrians Deborah F. Sawyer and Dawn Llewellyn.

I'm exploring notions of authorship in the blogosphere, in conjunction with some thoughts on authority. I'm using data from a Technorati search for "emerging church" blogs (dated June 18 2007) to problematise this way of defining and measuring blog 'authority.' At the moment, in the chapter, I also aim to investigate author (blogger) demographics and comment on whether or not a hierarchy of literature is present among emerging Christian bloggers. In the future, I might attempt to teach myself Social Network Analysis to map linking patterns through the emerging corner(s) of the blogosphere and to identify 'authorities' and 'hubs.' But that's beyond my thesis at the moment, I think!

I've found Cameron Marlow's work a great starting point for thinking about these issues, as well as several pieces by Lilia Efimova et al on defining blog communities. Studying the discursive constructions of what a 'blog' is, Mathieu O'Neil identified LiveJournal-bashing in the blogosophere, and Susan Herring et al found offline sexism and ageism was being unintentionally transfered online. These issues of authorship and authority in the blogosphere are tangential to my PhD, so I'm pretty much out of my depth yet trying to learn how to swim. I'll post more on these topics as I move from this working paper towards the chapter.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"Tag, You're It!" - an ethical dilemma?

I was tagged by fellow e-religion researcher Louise Connelly to reveal 8 things about myself. Then I get to tag 8 others. Then someone somewhere someday will follow this meme and say something interesting about it.

But this throws up interesting issues for a research blog like Open Source Research.

For example, Heidi Campbell was tagged by John La Grou on her research blog, When Religion Meets New Media, but chose to respond on her personal blog, Long Way From Auld Reekie, so as to keep her research and personal blogs separate. I don't have this option, as I don't have a personal blog and don't intend to start one - I'm wasting enough research time on Facebook!!!

I then thought I'd ignore it - but I worried that might be misinterpreted. I worry a lot!

So then I thought I'd play. I even went so far as drafting a post concerning 8 things about me. It was witty. It was quirky. It was everything a post like it should be - i.e. ultimately uninteresting to everyone save (perhaps) the unknown someone who might someday say something interesting (perhaps) about memes and the blogosphere.

But I'm not going to post it. It threw up several ethical issues which were unlikely to come up were I not exploring blogging as a research methodology! There might be parallels in more conventional research methods, but I haven't gone so far as to try and find them yet.

The problem arose when I started to think about who I could tag next. As this is a research blog, it's not read by my friends, and I don't have friends who blog, anyway. As I'm interested in blogging as both a research site and a research tool, I have a different relationship with the blogs which I do read. I went as far as hyperlinking to their blogs: bloggers in the emerging conversation between Christianity and contemporary culture, and researchers of blogging and media studies, etc. And then I realised that what I was doing constituted not only being a linkwhore, hoping that they would track my link and either a) participate in my research, or b) inform me of opportunities for conferences, journals, edited collections, etc; but was also quite manipulative and unethical.

I'm going to reflect more on this and other experiences of keeping a research blog in a chapter for the forthcoming Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Call for Research Participants

I'm moving into the fieldwork stage of my project, exploring the beliefs of individuals involved with emerging Christian communities. I'm particularly interested in how contemporary Christians make sense of the world in which we live.

I would like to hear from you if you are interested in taking part in any stage of this research, but there are two fixed criteria:

  • You must be resident in the United Kingdom
  • You must be involved with an emerging church (however you define the term) and/or engaged in an emerging conversation between Christianity and contemporary culture
Please email me if you are interested in any or all of the following:

  • Participation in a questionnaire via email. There are 8 questions regarding your beliefs about Christianity and contemporary culture
  • Participation in a face-to-face interview, at a later date and place of your convenience

I will ensure confidentiality at all stages of the research by attributing your words to a pseudonym of your own choosing. Alternatively, if you wish to be identified, this can also be arranged.

Katharine Moody