Category Archives: Theology

PhD done!

I have successfully defended my PhD thesis! Now after a few more edits, I have uploaded my thesis to UBC’s circle (collection of theses and dissertations). You can find the link to my thesis HERE.

My PhD oral examination

Today, I will be defending my PhD thesis. The information is as follows:

The Final Oral Examination For the Degree of
(Curriculum Studies)

Yu-Ling Lee

Wednesday, May 10, 2017. 12:30 pm
Room 207, Anthropology and Sociology Building,
6303 Northwest Marine Drive


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to understand how religion and spirituality matter in the consumer use, design, and engineering of media and technology. Specifically, the research questions were: 1) What role do ethics and values perform in maker and hacker networks? 2) How are ethics and values integrated and manifested throughout the design process in maker or hacker networks? 3) What are the routines, rituals, and subjective well-being of participants in the maker or hacker design process? The research setting was the designers in the maker community in Vancouver and technologists associated with Code for the Kingdom in Seattle. All designers and technologists in Vancouver and Seattle have independent projects at various levels of collaboration. I recruited seven participants affiliated with the Vancouver maker community for in-depth analysis of their design process. In Seattle, I recruited two hackers who participated in Code for the Kingdom, a Christian organization that hosts hackathons for altruistic and religious purposes. Their focus on innovation, design methodologies, and critical making allowed me to discern their values and ethics through their design process. These participants have different perspectives on religion and spirituality, which make their technotheological networks complex. Case studies facilitated in-depth examination of makers and hackers as the main actors of our inquiry. The use of video in dialogue with ethnographic inquiry allowed for nuance, discerning complexities, and giving form to expression in designing technotheologies. Conceptually, the research is framed by actor-network theory (ANT) and value sensitive design (VSD), enabling the study to discern how participants discover, design artifacts, make meaning, develop values, and maintain a sense of the good life and well-being, emotional and spiritual. Findings indicate that among the makers and hackers, technotheological networks articulate specific values alongside technological creations, practices, and personal ways of being. In their own unique ways, these makers and hackers inquire into the materialized morality and design phases of ethically responsible decision making processes. Conversely, the non-human actors express their own values within technotheological networks. My role as a techno-theologian helped facilitate competing value claims by positing a normative focus and by temporarily opening black boxes.

Prof Richard Young (Counselling Psychology)

Supervisory Committee:
Prof Stephen Petrina, Research Supervisor (Curriculum Studies)
Prof E. Wayne Ross (Curriculum Studies)
Prof Francis Feng (Curriculum Studies)

University Examiners:
Prof Kerry Renwick (Curriculum Studies)
Prof Brian Wilson (Kinesiology)

External Examiner:
Prof Matt Ratto


journal article – Lingering on Aoki’s bridge

My technotheology article finally comes out. From the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. Here’s the abstract:

Ted Tetsuo Aoki (1919-2012) was a Japanese-Canadian educator who spoke compellingly against the technological-instrumental implementation of curriculum found within the business-consumer model of education. In his greater mission of understanding curriculum and instruction, Aoki has tried new modes of interpretation, seeing curriculum as currere, praxis, ideology, as plan, as lived. One possibility implied in Aoki’s work is inhabiting the space in-between materiality and spirituality, more specifically between technology and theology. As Aoki might ask: how we can linger on the bridge between technology and theology? The purpose of using the bridge metaphor, is to discern lines of movement in Aoki’s writings which bridges technology and theology. We are asked to pause, delay ourselves in true conversations and discern Aoki as a possible curricular techno-theologian. Within this reconceptualization, we may understand the way Aoki’s curricular possibilities allow us to dwell in a technological world which does not default into instrumentalization. Link below.

Lingering on Aoki’s bridge: Conceptualizing Ted Aoki as Curricular Technotheologian


Technotheologies in the Holy Land

WIRED has a documentary on YouTube called Holy Land: The Era of Permanent Revolution about the developing tech and innovation in Israel. This is a fascinating case study where techne readily meets theo. Certainly other issues of geography, politics, and education all come into play, however, for my purposes, this is an assembling of technotheologies.

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Hacking Minds

Almost done the edits for an upcoming chapter (co-authored with my supervisor, Stephen Petrina), titled, Hacking Minds: Curriculum Mentis, Noosphere, Internet, Matrix, Web in the book Hacking Education in a Digital Age: Teacher Education, Curriculum, and Literacies (Editors: Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, Sarah Pratt, Bryan Smith, and Linda Radford)

You can find our current draft HERE.

Researching technotheologies: Introducing Code for the Kingdom Hackathons

My working thesis, so far,  is titled Designing technotheologies: Ethics, pedagogies, and spiritualities in maker actor-networks. In essence, my focus is to understand how religion or spirituality matter in the consumer use, design and engineering of media and technology. My research is aiming to distinguish how religion and spirituality contribute to ethical know-how in this area. In order to discern values and ethics throughout the design process, I am situating my research in the DIY community, maker culture, and hacker space.

Which is why, this past weekend, I went to Seattle to conduct research at Code for the Kingdom Seattle.

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According to their website, Code for the Kingdom is described as: “A hackathon movement igniting the Christian passion and purpose of technologists and entrepreneurs to innovate culture shaping technologies that would reclaim our times for the Gospel”.

Hackathons are events where technologists collaborate for a set period of time on various software projects. These events are regular phenomenon in computer related workplaces and studies, yet there has never been a direct link to religiosity until the development of organizations such as Code for the Kingdom.

Code for the Kingdom specifically addresses the intersection of technology and theology through the medium of the hackathon. A more detailed description of their purpose as found on the website:

Code for the Kingdom is a weekend hackathon and ongoing ecosystem where global issues are tackled from a Christian perspective.

Join an incredible group of individuals who are applying their skills and experiences to advance common good and serve God’s Kingdom. In collaboration with innovative nonprofits and churches, we’ll write code and create technology to help release the oppressed, teach God’s Word, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and support the church and the body of Christ.

Make a difference by writing much-needed code or designing beautiful interfaces. Find a community of peers who want to have fun while serving the Lord.

Code for the Kingdom is a new technological-theological phenomenon that I am hoping to capture in more detail as part of my research. I will report more details from my experience this past weekend in Seattle in the next post.

Two upcoming paper presentations

I am pleased to share that I will be presenting papers at two different conferences.

First, I will be heading down to Chicago for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting (April 16-20). It is the largest education conference in North America and I’m delighted to be presenting a paper for the ‘Spirituality & Education’ Special Interest Group. The paper is titled, Understanding Curriculum as Techno-Theological Text. Here’s the abstract:

This paper is based on the writings of Ted Aoki, the Japanese-Canadian scholar at the forefront of the re-conceptualized movement within curriculum theory. One possibility implied in Aoki’s work is inhabiting the space in-between technology and theology. As Aoki might ask: how we can linger on the bridge between technology and theology? The purpose of using the bridge metaphor, is to bridge technology and theology, to discern curriculum as techno-theological text. A reframing of this question is whether we can be in a mode of technology without defaulting into instrumentalization. This paper, then, is an attempt at making sense the multiple ways in which the words technology and theology can be understood within an Aokian framework.

I’ve been developing the ideas of curriculum as technotheology for awhile, and Ted Aoki is a wonderful curriculum theorist who speaks into both the theological and the technological. Hopefully I will get some constructive feedback and some great discussion. If you’re down at AERA, my session is on Thursday, April 16, 12-1:30pm at the Hyatt, West Tower – Green Level, Crystal B. For more info, go to this link.

In May, I will be participating in a 2-day symposium on the Significance of Study, held at UBC. I will be acting as a discussant, responding to Alan Block, Professor from the University of Wisconsin, who will be reading from a paper, titled, Study as sacred. I am excited for this opportunity as Block has written in the area of religion, theology, and education. For more info, here’s the website.

DBR and Technotheocurriculum @ Provoking Curriculum Conference 2015

I had the privilege of participating in the CACS 7th Biennial Provoking Curriculum Conference at UBC. As indicated by the title of the conference, the purpose was to provoke curriculum studies by attending to the multiple denotations of provoke: to stimulate, arouse, elicit, induce, excite, kindle, generate, instigate, goad, prick, sting, prod, infuriate, madden, ruffle, stir, and inflame.

The first day, our ‘How We Learn‘ research team presented a panel discussion about Design Based Research (DBR). The abstract is as follows:

In the second decade of the 21st century, to ask the question “how do we learn?” is to ask questions of “how we learn media and technology across the lifespan” (HWL). Formal educational systems are challenged by 21st century learning while researchers are challenged to document cognitive implications of new media and technologies. Over the past decade, our research program has empirically explored problems of learning media and technology across the lifespan. Our field and lab investigations focus on the problem of how (not whether) new media and technologies affect learning across the lifespan. With a core of graduate students, our research team has been immensely productive and original in reconceptualizing cognition, learning, media, technology, and their interdependencies with curriculum. This panel focuses on Design-Based Research (DBR) 2.0 methodologies.

The key objectives of this panel are 1) to profile methodological advancements and insights in DBR derived from lab and field-based studies; 2) to prompt discussion on DBR in context of new technologies and the design turn in DIY or maker culture. Providing empirical examples, this symposium introduces advancements in DBR and connects interest in DBR with understandings of design and engineering cognition. The format will be conversational and demonstrative, beginning with a series of focus questions to generate interest and audience discussion. A series of demonstrations of DBR will be provided as examples and to provide depth of understanding. The overall goal is to provoke new understandings of methodology in context of design-based research 2.0 into curriculum, media, technology and learning.

The second presentation consisted of Dr Stephen Petrina, Dr Franc Feng, and myself, speaking about the intersection of technology, theology, and curriculum. The description of our presentation is as follows:

In many ways, curriculum, technology, and theology emerge coincidentally or contemporaneously within Homer, specifically within the Iliad and Odyssey. The three are somewhat conceptually interrelated in Homer and subsequently Hesiod. In Homer, the concepts, practices and words are given their ancient meanings. Medieval and modern derivatives and meanings are in some ways are quite similar and in other ways distinct from ancient Homeric and Platonic uses. Our premise is that curriculum, technology and theology are co-emergent— mutually interdependent. We do not have one without the others. This is not merely semantics. By acknowledging these interdependencies we can begin to provoke and understand curriculum anew.

This panel provides three perspectives and papers on TechnoTheoCurriculum. The first paper, “On the History and Metaphysics of Curriculum,” describes ancient encounters with curriculum, technology, and theology as they co-emerge. Inasmuch curriculum refers to the loneliness of the long distance runner, it also refers to the Circum Maximum, Maxime Circe, or the Circus Maximus, referencing chariots and conjuring up a complex technotheological infrastructure. The second paper, “Understanding Curriculum as Technotheological Text,” provides a history of a late medieval and early modern re-emergence of curriculum and technology in a Protestant and Calvinist culture at the hands of Peter Ramus. This paper traces Ramist interdependencies of curriculum, technology, and theology through the seventeenth century in the work of William Ames and technometry. The third paper, “On the History of Hermeneutic Techniques,” traces a circle from twenty-first century understandings of curriculum, technology and theology through Augustine’s City of God.

And finally, just for fun, here’s a timelapse video of our technotheocurriculum session.

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Religion as technology or technology as religion?

Religion’s just a technology. How the hardware of humanity gets used will depend on the software – Irwin Kula

In a Time article, titled, This is Why Religion is Just a Technology (published July 25, 2014), I was first introduced to Irwin Kula, an eighth generation Rabbi. The article would introduce Kula, a progressive Rabbi who would be among the speakers at the BIF – a Business Innovation Factory conference.

In the TIME article, Kula asks, “what would happen if we applied innovation theory to religion, to compress the resources it takes to create good people?” In his talk, Kula explains how he is going about researching this questions. He is conducting a study on religious traditions in America where people are asked “what is the actual impact on the user” and “what is the actual impact on the person in their life.” His research questions include, will gratitude increase? Will hope increase? Will a sense of belonging increase? Kula’s research should appear in a peer reviewed article in Jan/Feb 2015 which would have implications for the business model and pedagogical model of religious practices, as he is attempting an empirical analysis into his definition of human flourishing.

As Kula is speaking to a business audience, he suggests the development of “accountability technologies” as there is no more God in the sky as the overarching seeing eye may be replaced by the technological surveillance eye, or perhaps a spiritual sense of inner seeing eye, being accountable to our communities.

While Kula’s research is indeed interesting and merits further investigation, his ‘practical suggestions’ and general posture seem to veer towards what David Noble calls, the religion of technology. It may be that his research is perpetuating the religious fervour for a technological utopia which may include spiritual rituals mediated through accountability technologies. Of course, this discussion would be greatly clarified and further enhanced once his research article comes out and his notion of human flourishing is clarified.

TED, Pico Iyer, and the question of secular sabbath

As TED continues its proliferation of offering content related to technology, entertainment, and design, its newest booklet, The art of stillness, ventures into areas of the technotheological. Below is the trailer for the book, written by Pico Iyer:

In an article published by TED, titled, Why we need a secular sabbath, Iyer outlines the core concept of his book – that there is an urgent need to slow down, to rest, to find sabbath in our lives. He notes that many businesses, particularly tech companies such as Google have created spaces, schedules, and/or work cultures to promote mindful rest. Intel experimented with a ‘quiet period’ of four hours every tuesday, in which all engineers and managers were to refrain from e-mails, phones, and meetings for four hours, creating space for ‘thinking time.’ General Mills has meditation rooms throughout its campuses. Kevin Kelly (founder of Wired magazine) and many others in Silicon Valley practice an “internet sabbath” every week.

These practices of rest seem to draw from the religiously abundant practices of rest, meditation, prayer, and sabbath. Iver himself, connects these modern practices of rest to the ancient ones of sabbath in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He rightly points to the book of Numbers, which outlintes the boundaries of sabbath, because the sabbath is holy. Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Jewish theologian would say that in sabbath, we find “a cathedral in time rather than in space.”

How then, can Iyer limit the sabbath to a secular time and space?

One reading of Iyer may be to limit practical forms of sabbath by removing all connections to the religious or spiritual. The case of transcendental meditation (TM), a form of mantra meditation, offers an example of just how complicated it may be to claim such practices as religious or non-religious. While many of its practitioners claim TM is non-religious, it “unsuccessfully fought a legal action to defend itself from being declared a religion in New Jersey” (Wallis, 2003, p.54).

The secular thesis merits further study as, in this case, it co-opts the religious practice of sabbath rest and delimits secular boundaries for the general populous. One voice to consider is Charles Taylor, who describes the secular as a theological distinction which privatizes transcendent experiences, redefines belief, or making unbelief in religion a possible reality (Taylor, 2007, p. 3). Secularization, for Taylor, is therefore a theological construct with its own conditions of belief, as one among many new religious subjectivities in the modern world that is characterized as individual spiritual fulfillment of the self (Taylor, 2007, pp. 508-510). This privatization may be another way to read Iyer, in that sabbath practices are necessary for all, yet forced to the private sphere.

We continue to wonder, to ask, to reflect on how the idea/belief/practice/enactment of sabbath has become a secular sabbath? Or at least, how did Iyer come to frame his book with this particular narrative? This story is further complicated with other actors and actants: TED, Kevin Kelly, e-mail, Google, the Bible, God, Sabbath, sabbath, sabbath-ing, and sabbath-ness.

While this can immediately be framed as an ANT problem, I am thinking, a way to go about this issue is from Day Reconstruction Method (DRM), questioning and problematizing the daily routines and subjective well-being of those who practice a form of sabbath keeping. In this way, perhaps some data can emerge within this network of the technotheological.

Taylor, C. (2007). A secular age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wallis, R. (2003). Three types of new religious movement. In L. L. Dawson (Ed.), Cults and new religious movements: A reader (pp. 36-58). Malden, MA: Blackwell.