Digital Media, Liturgy, and Theology

REL651
Fall 2016
W 1:30pm - 3:20pm
Area: 
Area II, Area V
Permission Not Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

This course – the first at YDS to focus on digital cultures – enquires into ecclesial practices that have migrated online and are digitally-mediated, especially those of prayer and worship.  In recent years, both very old and entirely new liturgical practices have flourished in digital social space, from the live-streaming of worship services to digital prayer chapels, virtual choirs, online pilgrimages, and digitally-mediated devotions such as daily prayer via tweets or “pray-as-you-go”-apps.  In some communities, so-called cyber-baptisms and cyber-communions have been experimented with.  And cyberspace hosts communities of faith that exist online alone, for example in web-based interactive virtual reality environments.  This course enquires into these ecclesial practices by bringing together the tools and insights of new media theories, liturgical studies, and constructive theology. 

Our learning outcome objectives in this course are to familiarize students with theological reflections on digital culture, especially as these pertain to practices of worship and prayer.  We hope to enable students to reflect theologically on the complexities of the digital age, with some knowledge of the basics of contemporary media theories. 

Background Expected: 

At least one liturgy and/or theology course (previous or concurrent) is highly desirable.

Course Requirements: 
  • Attendance, timely and attentive, at all class sessions.    
  • All readings as well as other forms of preparation (e.g., spending time online) to be completed in full by class time. 
  • A class presentation by each student.  As part of this class presentation, a student will submit a written review and critique of the assigned materials for the seminar session. This paper (2-3 pp., double-spaced) will be the basis for the student’s presentation, and is due at class time.
  • Presentation in class, on a chosen cyber-theological topic pursued over the course of the semester: Session 11
  • A 12-15pp. final reflection paper (double-spaced), on a subject-matter of your choice related to the seminar; due date TBD.  Late work will result in the paper being graded down and not receiving any written feedback.
Basis of Evaluation: 

Grades for the course will be determined according to the following formula: class participation: 20%; class presentation & written reflection paper: 25%; in-class presentation on cyber-theology project: 15%; final paper: 40%.