Monday, May 21, 2012

Theological technologist?

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Koru photo adapted from
Jonathon Colman via Flickr.
More transitions are afoot these days, in addition to what the last two posts have indicated. While my blogging here has frequently made reference to my academic work at EMU, I rarely talked about my professional work at the same institution. For almost as long as I was a graduate student, I was also the Web and Information Systems Coordinator for the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. This was a part-time job as CJP's "nerd in residence," primarily responsible for web and social media for the program. But as my past-tense speech indicates, I've moved on to something new.

As of Thursday of last week, I am now the Distance Learning Technology Analyst for EMU (@DistanceEd_EMU), which is housed in the Information Systems department. This is a short-term, full-time assignment that is designed to guide interested graduate programs at the school into cutting-edge educational technologies and a distinct pedagogical approach that, when combined, provide for a deeper level of relationality and connection in virtual learning spaces. This job is a new one at EMU, and was created as a result of my work with Howard Zehr and others at CJP in the design and implementation of the program's first ever online class, which I wrote about here: Elicitive Pedagogy in the Digital Age.

Another way to put the mission of this new position is: How can we do Anabaptist-influenced graduate education online? If EMU is, as its tagline states, "a Christian university like no other," then how can those distinctives be embodied in disembodied media? Those questions and their practical implications will be what I'm focusing heavily upon over this summer and into the fall.

But another question arises. After four years away from full-time IT work, deeply engaged in graduate-level education in theology and peacebuilding, here I've just been dragged back into the IT nerdery. What do I bring to my new/old job that wasn't there before? How will this new focus affect what I write here at Restorative Theology? Here are a few thoughts which really only raise more questions than answers...

First, more context: Since the age of seven, I've had a computer keyboard at my fingertips. Since the age of 17, I've had a job that's to some degree technology-related; from fixing computers in my hometown as a teenager, to being a web developer in my early and mid twenties, to managing a small software QA team just before coming to grad school, to the job I had while in grad school. Basically, I'm a life-long tech geek and it doesn't appear to be leaving me anytime soon. How does that then become integrated with my being a minister in the church with a theological-peacebuilding education?

What I hope to be able to do is continue reading in the disciplines of theology and philosophy, and works that are focused on technology, technological society, the digital revolution, etc. The book I'm most interested in this point is Brad Kallenberg's God and Gadgets: Following Jesus in a Technological World. I'm currently reading Kallenberg's book on Wittgenstein and Hauerwas, Ethics as Grammar, and I'm very impressed with that work. Kallenberg teaches an engineering ethics course, so his gifts seem especially well-suited for my own task of theological interrogation of my line of professional work.

So as I think ahead to the coming months and my blogging here on RT, it may be that my writing takes a turn toward the technological. I've covered these kinds of things in the past here but it may become an emphasis until such time as my professional focus changes again when my family's "next steps" become clearer.

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