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CODEC Director, Dr Pete Phillips, Presents at DH2017

The largest international Digital Humanities conference, held in Montreal this year, included its first session on digital religion and theology (see further here). Dr Pete Phillips was the opening presenter, exploring the development of digital theology within the development of digital religion and the digital humanities. Find the text of Pete's presentation here, and his slides here.

MediaLit16 Newsletter

CODEC's New Newsletter is now available!

Vacancy for a Research Fellow in Digital Discipleship and Curator for the Portal Project

Durham University’s pioneering research centre in digital theology is looking for a Research Fellow in Digital Discipleship, initially until August 2018. The job will involve offering managerial support within the team of CODEC research fellows, developing research exploring CODEC’s digital discipleship project,, creating digital assets around this research to enhance understanding of discipleship within the Church, and analysing data on digital engagement with discipleship resources. We are looking for an excellent researcher to teach on CODEC’s new MA in Digital Theology and supervise students at undergraduate and postgraduate level. We would prefer the candidate to have already been awarded a doctoral qualification in theology or a related discipline, or to have recently submitted their thesis.

Employment will be with St John’s College, Durham and the salary is set at Grade 7, currently £32,004 per annum and include a good holiday and pension provision.

(16 May 2017) » More about Vacancy for a Research Fellow in Digital Discipleship and Curator for the Portal Project

Vacancy for Digital Marketing, Social Media and Web Developer

Vacancy for Digital Marketing, Social Media and Web Developer

Short Term Contract for six months from start date
The salary will be set at St John’s College Grade 6 = £25,298 pro rata
The post will initially be offered at 0.5FTE

The post will include a St John’s College Pension provision.

The person would be responsible for developing digital aspects of CODEC’s work – especially the digital marketing of the Trove and enhancing CODEC’s social media and web profiles. 

CODEC operates as a collaboratory, actively seeking to develop interaction between different research fellows and other members of staff Developing digital aspects of CODEC’s work. CODEC staff will normally work within the CODEC office in Durham. This post will also involve some business travel around the UK, engagement with other digital practitioners, and attendance at Christian conferences/festivals.

(16 May 2017) » More about Vacancy for Digital Marketing, Social Media and Web Developer

Holy Guacamole presenting Rev Dr Kate Bruce

Holy Guacamole - Created for Alternative Christian Comedy

6 April at 18:00–23:00 

This is a themed night about Christianity with or without avocados. Comedians don't have to be Christians or to approve of religion but let's subscribe to Lady Violet's line "vulgarity is no substitute for wit" :) With Reverend Maggy Whitehouse, The Monks (Weare Themonks and Kevin Moore), Jo Faith, Richard Wright, Reverend Ravi Holy, Paul Gardner, Robbie Fox, Christian Talbot, Reverend Kate Bruce and Nathalie Schon.

Our headliner is Bec Hill and our MC is Mark Palmer !

Venue: Corbet Place Bar and Lounge 15 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR London



(16 Mar 2016)

Kate Bruce Interviewed by Premier Radio

Kate Bruce, Deputy Warden and Tutor in Homiletics at Cranmer Hall and research fellow at CODEC, was recently interviewed by Premier Radio about the subject of her book, Igniting the Heart: Preaching and Imagination


(16 Dec 2015) » More about Kate Bruce on Premier Radio

CODEC is recruiting a Research Fellow in Digital Pedagogy

CODEC is looking for a new research fellow to join the team at this Durham University Research Centre for Digital Theology. We’re looking for a dynamic and flexible team member to engage with CODEC, with the Durham Common Awards team, and with partners around the Common Awards network, to develop research into the use of digital resources and online pedagogy in theological education across the UK, with growing opportunities into the Europe context. The post involves interaction with and development of major research projects and research council bids about online pedagogy, the creation of digital resources, and the practical deployment of both to enhance (theological) education. For further information or for a conversation about the post, please contact the CODEC Director,

Further Details

(1 Dec 2015)

Sin Free Social Media - really??? #facegloria #facebook #ummaland #dawah

The other day I received a phone call from BBC Scotland - "have you read about FaceGloria - could you give us an interview?". Frantic googling and there I saw all the media hype about FaceGloria - a Brazilian Evangelical alternative to Facebook - Facebook without the sin. I checked on Google Trends to see if this was a major news story and noted a lot of press picking up the story first released by AFP and then by many other news agencies including most of the online newspapers, and the BBC:

My first reaction was that a sin free Facebook was probably a human-free Facebook. But this , site, set up by Atilla Barros in Brazil, really does seem to be suggesting that it wants to be like Facebook (same colour scheme, social interacting, friends, posts, photo folders, messaging) but without the nasty stuff on Facebook - no profanity (600 words are excluded), no nudity (no bikini shots), no homosexuality. The site has set up 20 morality guardians to patrol the site and remove anything they find that is inappropriate.

I joined. I was appalled at the technology. But I kind of see the idea. A simple way of connecting with like minded evangelical Christians. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea but you can see how it works sociologically to bring together people with the same views, the same love for Jesus, the same desire to purify themselves from the world. It's a classic Christian holiness trait - separate yourself off from the unholy and you will be more holy yourself. I still have no friends, though. 

As I stayed on the site, I was worried about a few things - where were the privacy settings? How could I exclude someone from viewing my profile? What if I was being pestered? You can see all the users and their profile pictures. But there is no CEOP button, nothing about guidelines, a FAQ for problems, nothing about an anti-bullying procedure. All those things that Facebook has set up to make Facebook a better place to be. In fact, if my kids asked whether I thought FaceGloria or Facebook was a better place to be, I'd go for Facebook any day.

That's not to say that Facebook doesn't have its problems. Someone in my friendship group decided to post an explicit picture the other day involving nudity and other content which I thought was obscene. I was rather shocked. I friend people who aren't Christians and so perhaps I am just a bit naive. But I complained to Facebook about the picture because I wouldn't have been happy for my kids to see it or to see it associated with my feed. Facebook replied to say that the picture did show nudity but it was within the Facebook guidelines. I unfriended the person who initially posted the picture - a slightly awkward thing to do but I saw no alternative.

But note that I was in control. I could adjust my feed, adjust my friendships, change what I saw from who. In other words, Facebook allows us to make our own safe space. And it has all the reporting we would want to see. It is not completely free of bullying, trolling, obscenity but you can control that pretty well. Well, I think you can.

So, I was asked in the interview, do you say don't go on FaceGloria? No, I replied. It's an interesting social media experiment, but it needs better technology, better funding, lots more security. At the moment, I think FaceGloria is a dangerous technology. To leave security to 20 moral guardians rather than to code and machines is crazy! Not to have proper safeguards against grooming, trolling and abuse is...well...bad. I daren't use the word I want to use there.

The bigger issue is whether we should be burying our heads in the digital sand in the first place. We are called not out of the world, but into the world, although remaining as resident aliens: not in the world but not of it (John 15:19, 1 Peter 2:11). But that idea of residents seems important. As does the idea of being salt and light to the world (Matt 5:13-16). Salt is only good if it engages with the world. Salt has no effect on other salt. Light is not needed in a bright room. Light shines in the darkness. So, as I suggest in the interview, evangelical Christians have long argued that engagement with the world is better than withdrawal from it. 

I argued in the piece - let's make Facebook a better, richer, nicer place by our Christian presence rather than hiving off into niche worlds, sinless echo chambers, holy huddles.

Social media sites are places for interaction, friendships, all the busyness of everyday life to be shared and to bring joy to those reading, sharing, befriending. That means that social media is not just something we consume but a place for us to work at making it a better place for everyone else. 

While researching I was also directed to look at UmmaLand - an Islamic social networking site which is seen as another, better, place to avoid gossiping, frivolousness, distraction from the core subject of being a better Muslim and a better citizen of the Islamic World (the Ummah). Now, Ummaland presents a pretty monolithic and conservative form of Islam which has no place for homosexuality, provides extra security options for women and promotes certain Imam who clearly don't present a liberal view of Islam.

The site's founder, Maruf Yusupov, originates from Uzbekistan but is now based in Denmark, however seems less concerned about doctrinal orthodoxy than he is on promoting a different perception of Muslim social action and concern. So, one of the first things you see on the site is the BE HELPFUL button - how can you help out with the project, how can you make your contribution. This is real social media which engages everyone in the task rather than doing it for you and allowing you to be a consumer of a product.

In several interviews, here and here, Maruf outlines the core focuses on Ummaland:

  • Productivity: “Its not just about what we do; how we do it is important, too. We believe productivity enables the Ummah to live in a more efficient way, thereby permitting us to reclaim our dignity and integrity.”
  • Charity: “While education and productivity relate to self-improvement, we’d also like to focus on charity, gathering donations for worthy local and global causes.”
  • Action: “In contrast to other social networks that promote ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ only, wed like to change this attitude into something actionable. For example, if a masjid or local community needs support, we want to be able to visit and help out in person if we can.”
  • Education: “We believe proper Islamic education is the solution to most of our daily challenges. That’s why we’re integrating Islamic education as the core feature of our network. We welcome all Islamic institutions to join us in this endeavor.”

I think there are some big issues with Ummaland as a social networking site and I am aware of the dangers of removing people from embedded, real-life teaching. But just as that removal can be part of a process of radicalisation, so too, a place like Ummaland which teaches Dawah (social action, mission, engagement) so powerfully can be a place of deradicalisation, a place to embed and enact the values of Islam in a really helpful and worldwide project.

If you asked me where the real example of positive social networking is taking place, in Facegloria or Ummaland, I'd have to say the latter any day.

What do you think? Leave a comment, please.

(10 Jul 2015)

A Week Of Reflection – Christian Messages on the Radio, Cringe Making or Life Giving?

Book Cover: How We Think

I started the week, based on no evidence or reflection at all, that Christian radio or Christian slots on secular radio were a bit cheesy. I spent the first couple of days listening to the Pause for Thought type slots that had been broadcast on secular radio and Christian radio stations. I soon realised that the ones that were holding my attention were the broadcasts that had a story or a personal experience in them. 

I was becoming more convinced of their value and decided to ask my Facebook friends their views on Pause for Thought type slots. I was very surprised by the results, especially from my friends who do not have a faith. One man replied that he had heard something on the radio about doing one selfless act a day for no personal gain and he had been trying to do this, another lady valued the time to stop and think that the broadcast gave her and to hear a different perspective on life.

My friends with a faith and busy lives valued the fact that they could be challenged or encouraged by God while going about their daily tasks. Others said the radio can be on as background noise but when Pause for Thought starts they find themselves concentrating.

(25 Jun 2015) » More about Christian Radio Messages

What is the place of face-to-face church in a digital age?

Church Icon

In an almost constantly connected digital age. What is the current and future place of face to face in Church, especially Sunday morning services and house groups? 

I have spent this last week looking at issues around digital media and how it relates to church. The more I have read the more questions I have had. Some of these questions are listed below;

What will be the future shape of ministry in a multimedia age?

What might the church look like in 25 years’ time? How will church happen? What present and future techs will affect how churches run a service?

Where is the place of intimacy in digital media?

What does it mean to be gathered? Jesus says; for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18v20).

 Does this apply when we are part of an online community?

Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty in the West was loneliness. So how does digital media help with loneliness? People can be digitally connected but still isolated.

 How are we changed as technology offers us substitutes for connecting face to face?

What actually is church?

(24 Jun 2015) » More about Church in a digital age

Placement reflections Digital Catechism

Codex Manesse, fol. 292v, 'The Schoolmaster of Esslingen' (Der Schulmeister von Eßlingen), Wikipedia

“What is your Name?”

So begins the catechism in the Book of Common Prayer. Inspired by one of the presentations at the Media Lit 2015 conference last week (by the brilliant Erkki Sutinen), I have spent the last few days exploring the potential creative connections between digital media and catechism.

Catechism is an ancient practice of initiation into the Christian faith – an initial Christian education, in which catechumens (those doing the learning) are accompanied by a catechist (a more experienced Christian) who can pass the foundations of the faith down to them. This grounding has traditionally included:

  • Doctrine (often as creedal statements)
  • Ethics (usually including the 10 Commandments, and Jesus’ summary of ‘the 2 greatest Commandments’)
  • Practice (knowing what the sacraments of the Church are and what they mean)
  • and Prayer (centred on The Lord’s Prayer)

Today the formal practice of catechism (and the word ‘catechism’) is something that is mainly at home in the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly for me, growing up as a charismatic evangelical, this kind of formal structured Christian learning was not something that I experienced. However, in my time as a youth worker – particularly through working with groups who were preparing for confirmation – I found myself drawing on this rich heritage. New believers, or young people making the transition into owned, informed, adult faith don’t need a download of every experience and thought of an older Christian – part of our journey of faith with God is about learning to follow Jesus and working that out with Him – but what we do need is a solid foundation on which our lives of faith can be built. This is the value of catechism.

(23 Jun 2015) » More about Digital Catechism

Some Thoughts on MediaLit15

MediaLit15 Group

Last week was another packed, inspirational MediaLit course. With three students working with CODEC this week, we asked for their thoughts on the past week:

Student 1: 

Last week we spent a week with Codec on a Media Lit Course. We had several experts in the field come and discuss with us many different aspects of our multimedia digital age. I have really been encouraged by how up to date the course was; we have been looking at multimedia issues that are current and relevant. Too often in church ministry it seems that we are trying to catch up with current trends and fads in the world at large. So often we seem to be one step behind what is actually happening in the ‘secular’ world. The Media Lit course went totally against this trend. I feel that I am now far better informed regarding current trends in media and how they might impact us as church leaders. 

(17 Jun 2015) » More about MediaLit15

Is Online Communion Theologically Sound?

Sacraments (stained glass window)

"Communion services on social media like Twitter "compromise the integrity of the sacrament", according to a report to be considered by the Methodist Conference later this month."

So starts an article on the theological validity, or otherwise, of online communion. CODEC team members Dr Bex Lewis and Rev Dr Pete Phillips both commented on this, with extended comment from Pete based upon recent research. 

(5 Jun 2015) » More about Online Communion

CODEC Research Seminar with Josh Mann 28-05-15

Josh Mann Screenshot

“From Scrolls to Scrolling: The Bible’s Ever-Changing Medium and Layout”

Biblical texts have been recorded upon (or in) various media and in various layouts over three millennia. Exploring these changes and their effects helps us put digital versions of the Bible in perspective and develop reading strategies for getting the most out of the Bibles we read, whatever the medium.

Watch Video

(29 May 2015)

CODEC Research Seminar with Elizabeth Buie

Buie starts presentation

“User Experience and the Human Spirit”

People use artefacts in many ways to support their spiritual practices. From low-tech artefacts such as books, candles and pencils to high-tech ones such as DVDs, websites and mobile apps, design plays a role in how artefacts contribute to the practices and experiences that they support. This talk will summarise Elizabeth’s PhD research and give a hint of the grounded theory that is beginning to emerge from it.

Watch video.

(11 May 2015)

Digital Theology Research Seminar, 7th May

On Thursday 7th May, CODEC staff will be introducing aspects of Digital Theology along with the following guests from Finland:

Professor Erkki Sutinen, Computer Science, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu

Dr Esko Lahtönen, Head of Research, Diak University, Finland

Dr Hannu Majamäki, Social Media Coordinator for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland

Venue: Tristram Room, St John's College

Time: 10 am – 3 pm

Please book via

Tickets for lunch can be purchased for £6.90 or £5.75 [student]

All welcome

(30 Apr 2015)

Dimbleby Lecture - Martha Lane Fox

Martha Lane Fox

Martha Lane Fox's Dimbleby Lecture the other night seemed to hit a nerve. There were some key takeaway lines: "It's not OK not to understand the internet anymore" (Aaron Swartz), "Britain could be brilliant at digital, but we've been too slow, too incremental - in skills, infrastructure, in public services”, “We’re letting commercial technology platforms shape much of our digital lives”…and indeed much of the speech seemed to be a collection of memorable one liners designed to make digital savvy viewers jump for joy!

The speech is worth a watch and it is available here on the BBC, or here in a shorter text format on the Guardian's Comment is Free.

(1 Apr 2015) » More about Dimbleby Lecture

[BOOK CLUB] The Meaning of the Digital Humanities by Alan Liu

Alan Liu

In the above article, discussed by the CODEC reading group this week, Liu argues that the problem of meaning in the digital humanities registers the crisis of meaning in the humanities more generally: 

“My thesis is that an understanding of the digital humanities can only rise to the level of an explanation if we see that the underlying issue is the disciplinary identity not of the digital humanities but of the humanities themselves. For the humanities, the digital humanities exceed (though they include) the functional role of instrument or service, the pioneer role of innovator, the ensemble role of an ‘additional field’, and even such faux-political roles assigned to new fields as challenger, reformer, and (less positively) fifth column. This is because the digital humanities also have a symbolic role. In both their promise and their threat, the digital humanities serve as a shadow play for a future form of the humanities that wishes to include what contemporary society values about the digital without losing its soul to other domains of knowledge work that have gone digital to stake their claim to that society” (410).

(19 Mar 2015) » More about The Meaning of the Digital Humanities

Preaching the Psalms - 21 February 2015


On Saturday 21 February, 84 delegates arrived at Haughton House from various parts of the north east to be part of a day on Preaching the Psalms which St John’s College, Durham University was hosting. The day was organised by CODEC's Research Fellow for Preaching and Imagination Rev Dr Kate Bruce and is part of her series on ‘Preaching’. The day was led by three outstanding speakers. 

(18 Mar 2015) » More about Preaching the Psalms Event

CODEC Research Seminar with Dave Stout

Dave Stout speaking at seminar

Presented at the CODEC Research Seminar, Thursday 5th March 2015

David Stout, Research Fellow in Digital Resources, explores the use of digital and online technology for training Ordinands within the Church of England.

Watch Video.

(7 Mar 2015)

Introducing The Portal Project

Bric-a-Brac (needs sorting), via Kevin Utting on Flickr

CODEC was recently commissioned by the Jerusalem Trust to set up an online site for discipleship resources, which will host a broad range of materials from across the spectrum of British Christianity. We know that there are lots of great resources out there, but it can be very difficult for individuals and groups to find high-quality materials that are suitable for their context. We plan to be the first place that Christians from all kinds of churches in the UK will come to in order to find resources to use as they seek to grow and develop in their faith.

(19 Feb 2015) » More about The Portal Project

Dr Bex Lewis featured on The One Show

Screenshot Bex on The One Show

For Internet Safety Day (theme 'Make a Better Internet Together'), drawing on her best-selling book Raising Children in a Digital Age, Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, was invited onto the famous green sofa for The One Show, along with BBC News the following day, and a range of radio interviews (see full media coverage). 

Watch The One Show, or Watch BBC News

(10 Feb 2015)

BOOK CLUB: How We Think by Katherine Hayles

Book Cover: How We Think

This week the CODEC team focused upon the third chapter of Katherine Hayle’s How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (University of Chicago Press, 2012). The third chapter focuses upon ‘How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine’, and certainly gave us lots to chew on.

Initial comments were that we liked what was written, but found the emphasis on all the negative reports about digital as frustrating. An oft heard argument is that our reading is worse ‘because of digital things’, and some members of the team felt that there were broader cultural factors at work rather than solely technological factors. There was agreement that the forms of technology may be changing the manner of reading, as we referring to the ‘F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content’, noting that the further a user scolls, the more eye attention tends to drop off. On p.66, Hayles noted that “Canny web designers use this information to craft web pages, and reading such web pages further intensifies this mode of reading” – so in a self-reinforcing manner, as this form of reading becomes common, more people write for it, so it becomes more common. 

(4 Feb 2015) » More about Katherine Hayles 'How We Think'

NEWS: New CODEC Branding


If you keep half an eye on CODEC you might have noticed a few changes that have been happening over the last few months. First up was our designation as a Research Centre of Durham University, then shortly after that came the addition of three new staff members (you can read up all about these events on our blog here).

Well, I’m glad to officially introduce our latest change: the new CODEC branding (including a video).

(8 Dec 2014) » More about New CODEC Branding

BOOK CLUB: Defining Digital Humanities

Terras Book Cover

Back in October the CODEC team discussed Melissa Terras’ inaugural professorial lecture on digital humanities, whilst this week we focused on the associated book Defining Digital Humanities: A Reader (Ashgate, 2013) edited by Terras, Nyhan, Vanhoutte. We focused upon the introduction (pp1-7), and a series of definitions of ‘digital humanities’, covering the years 2009 to 2012 (pp279-297).

Discussions started with a questioning of which of the definitions most resonated with members of the CODEC team, seeking to clarify that what CODEC is doing is actually “digital humanities”. Bearing in mind that the text indicates that “we make no attmpt to imply that one view is more correct than another, nor do we believe this to be the case” (p279), it is unsurprising that there were a range of views. Digital humanities allows us to pursue questions humanists have always pursued, but faster and on a larger scale; it allows us to focus on digital culture, including cyberculture and posthumanism; and other projects allow us to create new online materials for future use.

(7 Dec 2014) » More about Defining Digital Humanities

PRESS RELEASE Transformative Church Technology: CODEC Travels to Finland

Pete Phillips giving keynote in Finland

Durham researchers travelled to snowy Finland to explore transformative technology with potential for use within the worldwide church.

Peter Phillips and David Stout, two members of Durham University’s CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology, recently travelled to Joensuu to visit the University of Eastern Finland.

(5 Dec 2014) » More about CODEC Travels to Finland

KEYNOTE Transforming Humanity with Pete Phillips #CNMAC14

Rev Dr Pete Phillips speaking at CNMAC14

The prospect of designer babies, genetically enhanced athletes, human clones and transhumanism all raise huge ethical questions and challenge our concept of what it means to be human.

Watch this 10 minute keynote from CODEC Director, Dr Pete Phillips, at the Christian New Media Conference 2014

(3 Dec 2014) » More about CNMAC14

BLOG: How accurate is research drawn from Social Media Data???

Question Mark

There is a really good piece of research in the Telegraph today which raises serious questions about the use of social media in quantitative research. The article is based on research done by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and McGill University in Montreal. The key argument is that the bias towards specific age groups and social profiles of different social media platforms is rarely corrected within the datasets which are drawn from them.

(28 Nov 2014) » More about Beware of reading too much into Social Media-based Quantitative Data!

BOOK CLUB: Discusses Funding in Higher Education

Clay Shirky (via Wikipedia)

Today the book club met and discussed three pieces I (Josh) selected, none of which came from a book(!), as it happens:

(1) Clay Shirky, “The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age” (from Shirky’s blog). Jan 2014

(2) John Warner, “Clay Shirky Comes Not to Praise Education, but to Bury It” (online Inside Higher Ed).

(3) Simon Head, “The Grim Threat to British Universities”. (online, The New York Review of Book, 2010).

(18 Nov 2014) » More about Book Club - Funding in Higher Education

EVENT: Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible

Book Cover

CODEC's Research Fellow in Digital Discipleship and Curator for the Discipleship Portal Project, Dr Marika Rose, will be responding to Catherine Keller, Professor of Constructive Theology at the Theological School, Drew University, placing Keller's work into dialogue with her own interests. 

(18 Nov 2014) » More about Marika responding to Catherine Keller’s Cloud of the Impossible

PUBLICATION: Review in Political Theology

Journal Cover

Dr Marika Rose had a review of Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism. By Clayton Crockett and Jeffrey W. Robbins. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 181 pp. £51. ISBN: 978-1-137-26892-1 (hbk) published in the journal Political Theology

(17 Nov 2014) » More about Review in Political Theology

MEDIA: Rev Dr Pete Phillips on Bible Reading in the UK

UCB Logo

A month ago, Pete was asked to go on UCB Christian Radio and discuss ebooks and Bible reading with the presenter Paul Hammond. We've just been able to get hold of the interview in MP3 format.

(13 Oct 2014) » More about Rev Dr Pete Phillips on Bible Reading in the UK

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis Should McCann Twitter abuser have been doorstepped on TV?

Screenshot of The Conversation

Dr Bex Lewis was asked to write a piece for 'The Conversation' (Academic Rigour, Journalistic Flair) on the death of Brenda Leyland related to 'trolling' of the McCanns. 

(7 Oct 2014) » More about Dr Bex Lewis Should McCann Twitter abuser have been doorstepped on TV? on The Conversation

BOOK CLUB: Understanding Digital Humanities

Understanding Digital Humanities by David Berry

The CODEC team have initiated a bookclub which meets every other Tuesday lunchtime. Recently I was asked to pick the reading for the first meeting and then to write up the conversation afterwards in the form of a blog post. Sadly, so much is happening in CODEC at the moment that I have only just got round to writing this post.

(3 Oct 2014) » More about Book Club

MEDIA: Marika Rose 'Is it Wrong to Seek Miracles?'

Premier Radio Logo

Dr Marika Rose is discussion with Charlynne Boddie and Maria Rodrigues, on Premier's Woman to Woman show, sharing their thoughts on the miraculous.

(16 Sep 2014) » More about Marika Rose on Premier Christian Radio discussing miracles

NEWS: CODEC welcomes new staff to the team


Over the summer, CODEC some fun interviewing a host of excellent candidates for the new posts made available through the research grants awarded to us last Spring. The three successful candidates are now in post.

(5 Sep 2014) » More about New Staff

NEWS: CODEC designated as a Research Centre of Durham University


CODEC has been designated as a Research Centre of the University of Durham, hosted by the world-renowned Department of Theology and Religion, and within the Faculty of Arts.

What does that mean? Well, it means that our ground-breaking research, our passion for networking and our brilliant staff are recognised within the university as offering a leading role in developing the new field of Digital Theology. It means that we have more confidence in approaching Research Councils, knowing that we are part of one of the UK’s top five universities and one of the top 100 universities in the world. It means we can hopefully secure more funding to do some more great work.

(3 Sep 2014) » More about CODEC designated research centre

EVENT: Greenbelt 2014

Greenbelt Handrawn image

The CODEC team was invited to participate in 'full force' at Greenbelt 2014, running a morning worship session each morning, focusing on discipleship (Dr Bex Lewis), gaming (Dr Tim Hutchings and Dr Marika Rose) and cyber-humanity (Rev Dr Pete Phillips). 

(1 Sep 2014) » More about Greenbelt 2014

EVENT: CODEC Participating in Spiritus North-East, an Ecumenical Event

Spiritus Logo

CODEC is a Research Centre of the University of Durham exploring the interfaces between the Bible, the digital environment and contemporary culture. We want to see how the contemporary world interacts with the world of the theology and religion - particularly the Christian faith story. We will be occupying a suite of rooms in Pemberton Hall for the day of Spiritus14. You can find out more about what we do, and we will be offering interactivity in the form of conversation, a discussion board, face-to-face conversation, and some sugar - as well as the following workshops and social media surgery: 

(20 Aug 2014) » More about Spiritus North-East

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis offers 'GodSlots' for UCB Media

UCB Logo

Dr Bex Lewis prepared one minute 'Godslots' for UCB Media, to be played frequently across the radio station for at least 6 weeks from w/c 4th August 2014.

(18 Jul 2014) » More about Dr Bex Lewis offers 'GodSlots' for UCB Media

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis on 'In Good Company' with Jeff Lucas and Ruth Dearnley

Premier Logo

Dr Bex Lewis is the core guest on this "Laid back chat show where guests are interviewed about their life ministry and their faith journey", particularly related to her book Raising Children in a Digital Age

(29 Jun 2014) » More about Dr Bex Lewis on 'In Good Company' with Jeff Lucas and Ruth Dearnley


Work Icon

CODEC are pleased to invite applications for three new posts within this exciting and pioneering Research Project based at St John’s College in the University of Durham. CODEC are looking for:

  • Curator for the Digital Discipleship Project (full-time, Grade 6)
  • Research Fellow in Digital Resources (full-time, Grade 6)
  • Research Fellow in Biblical Literacy (full-time, Grade 6)

(27 Jun 2014) » More about New Jobs

NEWS: Call for Papers for Transforming Theology Stream #CNMAC14

CNMAC14 Theme Logo
CODEC are putting together the Theology Strand of the Christian New Media Conference in London on 1st November, 2014. 
The theme of the whole conference is: Transformers. 
The four theology sessions are going to run as follows:

(10 Jun 2014) » More about #CNMAC theology strand

PRESS RELEASE: £700k boost for research into faith & digital culture


A leading research centre looking at the interaction of faith and our increasingly digital society has been awarded £700,000 to continue its work into the relationship between the Church and today’s digital culture.

The funding will enable the CODEC research project at St John’s College, Durham University, to develop its exciting and important research into the impact of digital culture on both the academic study of theology and the daily life of the Church.

(20 May 2014) » More about £700k awarded

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis features in the Church Times

Screenshot Back Page of Church Times

Dr Bex Lewis was interviewed for the much sought-after slot of the back page of the Church Times, as her book Raising Children in a Digital Age continues to do well. 

(9 May 2014) » More about MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis features in the Church Times

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis features in Daily Telegraph

Telegraph Article (in paper form)

Dr Bex Lewis is the focus of a half-page article in the Daily Telegraph weekend regarding her new book Raising Children in a Digital Age, insisting that “It’s a landscape with so much to offer young people if only you show them how to use it properly."

(15 Feb 2014) » More about Dr Bex Lewis features in Daily Telegraph

MEDIA: Dr Bex Lewis 'Big Guest' on Steve Wright in the Afternoon

Screenshot Bex Lewis on Steve Wright

Dr Bex Lewis chats to Steve Wright and the team about her new book Raising Children In A Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst as part of Safer Internet Day 2014. 

(11 Feb 2014) » More about Dr Bex Lewis as 'Big Guest' on Steve Wright in the Afternoon

PRESS RELEASE: Getting Creative, Getting Social: Responding to Poems for Lent” #BIGRead14, February 2014

BIGRead14 Logo

Lent is a journey that moves us toward the Cross”. So says one of many Pinterest images spilling through my feed today. Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter with fasting, repentance and spiritual discipline, focusing some of that energy into reflecting upon the life and death of Jesus. The BIGRead14 is back for its fifth year, and inviting people to share in that discipleship journey through small groups, and in online conversations, focused around Stephen Cherry’s Barefoot Prayers, a collection of poem-prayers designed to stimulate meditative thinking.

(4 Feb 2014) » More about #BIGRead14

The Book Club

The CODEC team have initiated a bookclub which meets every other Tuesday lunchtime. Recently I was asked to pick the reading for the first meeting and then to write up the conversation afterwards in the form of a blog post. Sadly, so much is happening in CODEC at the moment that I have only just got round to writing this post.

I asked the group to look at David Berry’s introductory chapter from the book he edited, Understanding Digital Humanities (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012). In the chapter, Berry gives an overview of the development of Digital Humanities within the modern academy as a reaction to massive growth in knowledge, data and ways of working. He talks of the “new infinite archive” and the academy’s reaction to this in terms of waves:

  • wave 1: the process of digitization, development of infrastructure, focus on quantitative aspects of knowledge and research
  • wave 2: the embedding of digitally native artifacts into research, generating new environments for research which is much more qualitative, experiential and emotive.

Berry’s understanding is that the first wave replicated the old forms of scholarship in digital terms – that it was essentially mimetic, digitally reproducing established disciplines. However, the second wave, exemplified in the Digital Manifesto, creates entirely new “disciplinary paradigms, convergent fields, hybrid methodologies and new production models” (Berry quoting directly from Presner’s version of the Digital Manifesto - see more on this below).

The group had a long and intense conversation about Berry’s work. Our conversation was prefaced by a reminder that photography changed everything – or rather than the experience of playing with a pinhole camera reinforced that the image created was not the same as the image viewed with the eye – photography framed reality and changed reality, reformed, remodeled reality... Of course, it’s not quite that simple – the arts and humanities have always sought to frame reality. But there is a parable here about the persistent move to see reality through the screen, and so the overriding importance of the screen in modern life.

So we talked as well about a popular/populist view in contemporary hermeneutics as dealing with texts as a window (historical/sociology of past cultures), as a frame (historical-critical approaches like text, form, redaction criticism), as a mirror (reader-response, ideological criticisms). We wondered whether Digital Humanities were pushing us further to think of a hermeneutics of the screen – observation, distancing, a lack of power to change, passivity of the part of the reader, a kind of reflexive circularity in thinking about the thinking – meta-hermeneutics?

We talked about Digital Humanities as yet another control mechanism whereby something new simply replicated the control patterns of the past in demanding a new form be created to feed the capitalist machines. Some of us have been reading Heidegger’s “Question on Technology” which makes a similar point. A river crossed by a bridge remains a river. The technology of the bridge does not change the river’s essence (Dasein). However, when a hydro-electric power plant is set into the river, the river is dammed up into the plant – the river becomes a resource for the plant, its essence has been changed. Modern technology, for Heidegger, turns everything it touches into a resource waiting to be used up – what Heidegger calls Gestell. (If you are interested, I think Marika would recommend you read Deleuze’s “Postscript on Control Societies” as well). 

I’m not convinced that Heidegger is right here. Or if he is, then he misses the change which the bridge effects. The river is now a crossable river. It has changed. It is no longer a barrier but a path. And the bridge actually changes the structure and fluidity of both river and riverbed. The bridge is as much a piece of technology as the hydroelectric power plant. It changes the river and the context of the river. The river’s Dasein is simply not the same with bridge as it was without bridge.

Earlier in the piece, before he runs away with his control metaphor (Gestell), Heidegger had talked about technology as a place of revelation. In other words, technology reveals something, like Art does, about the nature of things. McLuhan, of course, argues that technology is an extension of humanity’s capabilities which reveals what is gained by that extension but also what is lost (probably best read through Shane Hipps reflection. A car extends the human faculty of movement, but in driving, we lose the connectedness with the earth, the rhythm of walking which, as Wittgenstein used to say, is the only way to do proper thinking.

Then other thing about the Heidegger push to control is that this is exactly what Digital Humanities seems to want to avoid. I mean, you have read the Digital Humanities Manifesto (linked above already! READ IT!!!)? The whole essence of which is an attempt to blow apart the old ways of being a university, the closeted lone academic image and in its place create collaboratories of academics working together in the humanities just as in the sciences. I’ll quote a paragraph from Berry (p.3), quoting Presner’s version of the Manifesto:

“Digital Humanities 2.0 is deeply generative, creating the environments and tools for producing, curating, and interacting with knowledge that is ‘born digital’ and lives in various digital contexts…[it] introduces entirely new disciplinary paradigms, convergent fields, hybrid methodologies, and even new publication models”

In a talk in 2003, Alan Liu talked of the new concept in the humanities of teams working together like scientists – or even of new ventures where students and staff worked collaboratively, where we consciously “intermix faculty from the humanities, arts, sciences, engineering, and social sciences”. That was over a decade ago - lots has happenned but...lots remains left undone!

Such places are the collaboratories of the Digital Humanities. 

CODEC is designed specifically to be a collaboratory.

Our current work with the Institute for Advanced Research Computer to explore a UK Data Centre on Religion Analytics is not an accident. We have just sent off a research centre bid for a 250K project looking at Data in Religious Communities. It is a joint project with our iARC colleagues. We want to purposefully push against the boundaries and silos of some of contemporary academia.

CODEC is consciously a Digital Humanities Project. 

But not just because we are tech-centred. It is because for us, for me as Director certainly, “digital” is shorthand for larger cultural shift – a Kuhnian paradigm shift perhaps, towards greater democratization, flatter hierarchies, shifting in disciplinary boundaries, the use of technology to ameliorate the feeling of incompetence in the wake of information overload, and the fusing of various disciplines and technologies to offer new paradigms for research. It is, of course, so much more…but space doesn’t allow us to explore too much more.

One final point, Berry raises the point (p.5) that computer code facilities everything nowadays – as Matthew Fuller points out: “all intellectual work is now ‘software study’.” I see the point and agree with the sense that the ubiquity of code and coding could further change society, especially if our children are taught to code from an early age. The shift from Greek to Latin was not just one of vocabulary but one of semantics and linguistics. Greek is a much more fluid language, with a greater tendency towards metaphysics than is available within Latin – although you have to admit they did well. The shift from medieval French to English transformed British life and not just in a political dimension. Code is not a full language with which we communicate with one another. But the structure and flow of this new language may well have an even greater role to play in our future paradigms. What would it mean to do theology in the language of Code?

Pete Phillips, CODEC Director



CODEC welcomes some new staff to the team

Over the summer, CODEC some fun interviewing a host of excellent candidates for the new posts made available through the research grants awarded to us last Spring. The three successful candidates are now in post.

Joshua Mann is our new Research Fellow in Biblical Literacy. He is going to be working with the Director of CODEC, Pete Phillips, to develop research opportunities for biblical literacy and digital theology and on a major review of the BigBible project. Joshua comes from USA originally and is currently engaged in a PhD programme in Edinburgh looking at illumination as a theme in Luke/Acts.

Dr Marika Rose is the new Research Fellow in Digital Discipleship and Curator of the Discipleship Portal Project. It’s a big title. Marika has just completed her PhD her PhD, which was a theology of failure, drawing on the mystical theology and the work of Slavoj Žižek. Marika’s focus will be on the Discipleship Portal Project – of which more later – and on exploring online pedagogy. Marika has already been working part-time for CODEC on a number of research bids and this work will also fit into her new post for a while.

David Stout is our new Research Fellow in Digital Resources. Previously working in IT in Sheffield, David comes with an MA in Biblical Studies from the University of Manchester and the possibility of starting a PhD in Technology and the Sacred here in Durham while he works for CODEC. David will be working on a project CODEC has developed in partnership with the Common Awards Programme of the Church of England creating and disseminating digital resources for theology, as well as developing new research projects on online education and discipleship.

It is great to have this talented group of people working with Bex, Kate and myself. We are looking forward to what develops out of this and at how CODEC flourishes in the coming months and years.

Hope you can engage with us and enjoy what happens too!




CODEC designated as a Research Centre of Durham University

CODEC has been designated as a Research Centre of the University of Durham, hosted by the world-renowned Department of Theology and Religion, and within the Faculty of Arts.

What does that mean? Well, it means that our ground-breaking research, our passion for networking and our brilliant staff are recognised within the university as offering a leading role in developing the new field of Digital Theology. It means that we have more confidence in approaching Research Councils, knowing that we are part of one of the UK’s top five universities and one of the top 100 universities in the world. It means we can hopefully secure more funding to do some more great work.

Coming at the same time as we opened up our interview process for the appointment of the three new CODEC posts, this is indeed good news for Digital Theology.

Some more information about the new Research Centre:

The CODEC Centre for Digital Theology

Codec: /kəʊdɛk/ a device, either physical or virtual, hardware or software, for translating, re-coding, re-engineering the analogue and the digital. CODEC is not an acronym: it is a name.

CODEC began as a research project at St John’s College focussed on biblical literacy and Christian preaching. Since then, we have developed into a major research centre exploring the interfaces between theology, media and digital culture, focussing especially on religious communication, theology and the sacred texts.

The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology seeks to provide an ongoing place of translation, re-coding, re-engineering between the ancient world of faith and contemporary world of the digital. CODEC aims both to research and to transform theological discourse around and within digital culture.

Our focus is on the interaction between theology studied/practiced/performed within digital culture, and on the impact of the digital environment on religious identity and practice. But our research also looks into the theological implications of that digital culture. For example, CODEC seeks to research the full scale of the interaction between social media and religion: “What is the theology of social media?”, “What are the implications of social media for the teaching of theology?” and “How does social media affect the contemporary practice of faith communities?”

CODEC seeks to translate/re-code/re-engineer theological discourse through developing major national and international research projects on aspects of the pedagogy, practice and culture of contemporary religious communities, as well as on classical aspects of religion research such as biblical literacy, hermeneutics and homiletics. The outcomes and delivery of this research aim to transform theological discourse as part of the new movement of Digital or Transformative Humanities.

CODEC’s overall research focuses on three areas:

  • Theology for a Digital Age – including Biblical/Scriptural literacy; humanology; impact of digital transformation on society, culture and communication; theological issues related to transhumanism, digital divides, singularity research
  • Preaching and Imagination in a Digital Age – homiletics; communication of ideas; narrative theory and imagination theory
  • Discipleship in a Digital Age – ongoing Biblical Literacy projects; BigBible web project; issues of growth and discipleship within religious communities and their use of social media; being human; humanology

The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology, integrated into the UK’s leading research department in Theology and Religion, offers a unique opportunity to develop major research projects exploring the interface between biblical literacy, theology and digital culture. The impact of the Centre is intentionally both academic and public: through peer-reviewed publication, conferences and seminars, research and taught courses as well as through engagement with religious practitioners, religious bodies and society in general.

CODEC is non-denominational in focus and does not apply any sort of faith test for those it employs. On the one hand, growing out of a Christian theological seminary at Cranmer Hall, CODEC’s current research focuses mostly on Judaeo-Christian texts (Biblical Literacy), discipleship in the Christian Church and preaching in the Christian traditions. However, CODEC is excited about and will actively pursue options to widen this research into other contexts – for example we are actively seeking out research funding to explore Jewish and Muslim aspects of contemporary discipleship.

The Centre will seek to work collaboratively with other research centres, institutes, departments both at the University of Durham and at other institutions; with the Academy and Religious Bodies; with public bodies and with the public; with researchers and practitioners.