The conference is just beginning. . . I’m up first, so I won’t blog my presentation, but I’ll try to cover the rest.
OK, I finally stopped talking. Now Trevor is up, talking about performing identity in a tripartite way: we perform with attention to text, we select what we’re performing, and we embed that selection in a particular genre. But we don’t just reflect on texts; we also engage in praxis, in specific places or spaces, when we act out these texts, we understand them. At that point, we get feedback and take risks, strengthening or damaging relationships. Performances are embodiments of certain texts.
Trevor quotes from Ezekiel, when God appears to the prophet and commands him to eat the scroll that includes the divine word.
Does performance situate itself in virtual bodies? Trevor acknowledges that he was skeptical at first, but that his doubts may have been influenced too much by television. TV detracts from our capacity to pay attention, because we have no feedback; he cites the Matrix Reloaded, but he’s giving spoilers so I’m not listening.
Can we then instantiate individual or social bodies online? Not in familiar ways, nor in a novel on-substantial (not-instantiated-in-physical-worlds) religious phenomenon. He argues that touch can’t be simulated; there’s an ontological difference between a physical touch and an electronically-mediated touch. That doesn’t mean that Trevor is theologically negative and nervous about online theology; he wants to give a positive account of online interaction, and he focuses on blogs. They’re more oral and aural than other online modes in a healthy online parasitism that forms a web of social connections like the web of connections that we enact in sacraments (that one I doubt).
Trevor characterizes blogs as stories, whether in pictures (he cites Burningbird and Rageboy, an unnerving combination) or words. Now he’s misguidedly defending the idea of spatial metaphors for online activity, but that’s not necessary to the point that he’s making about blogs as fulfilling his characterization of online activity and performance.
He wants to push the performative dimension of blogging by drawing in a connection to virtue (not Bill Bennett), citing the Epistle of James 3:17f: “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” All of this, Trevor says, can be done online, and with that he rests his case.
Now Lacey Graves is starting up; she’s the youth desk coordinator for the Bahai’i faith. The online version of her paper is here. Since she’s got the text of the paper online, I’m going to use this interval to take a break from typing (and thus rest my right thumb)
Now Naomi Chana is up, talking about naming and identity. She refers to the DIDW website, and notes that most discussions of DigID emphasize security, technical, legal, and economic issues and ignore questions about the constitution of identity. DIDW suggests that digID should restore the ease and security that once subsisted in human transactions. Naomi questions the reality of that narrative of a golden age of human interaction; was it ever that way? She points to DigID discourses as a myth of salvation from the ambiguities and fears of digital interaction. Moreover, the language of DIDW collapses theology into anthropology where “the human” is unquestionably good, and the “impersonal” unquestionably bad.
She talks about naming, pseudonymity, polynymity, and the issues of trust that that raises. If names are metonyms for reality, we need to limit the play of polynymity. She invokes the category of mysticism to escape the binary opposition of nominalism and essentialism. Perhaps by considering the question of names for God, she can help clarify the relation of name and identity online.
She picks Abulafia as a representative figure — not because he’s a representative figure, but because he opens a useful window into matters of naming. He broke down the Tetragrammaton into components, recombining (recombinant onomastic DNA?) the letters in different representations. He thought he could attain enlightenment by spoken and written versions of the Divine Name. She passed out several lines from “The Battle of Blood and Ink,” blood and ink symbolizing intellect and imagination. There are also numerical resonances with various features of the created order.
My fingers are burning out. Naomi talks really quickly, and I need a break — sorry.