Tag Archives: jon whittle

Faith and false starts

I’m going to try and keep a little blog of what I get up to this summer, partly because I’m sure that having notes on my process will help in the writing up, come the Autumn. I had something of a false start. I’d been well committed to doing my ‘summer project’ (for the HighWire MRes, effectively a masters dissertation) on the strand of research that’s taken up most of 2013 for me: Research Impact. I’ve done various pieces of work on that thread, culminating with my work on Communities of Impact.

One of the requirements for the summer project is that we have a ‘live’ (real world) stakeholder: the research impact project was perfect for this because Lancaster University’s marketing team had expressed their interest in being that stakeholder. Furthermore I’d managed get Professor Jon Whittle onboard to supervise me for this project (having a supervisor is another requirement). Sadly I had a massive crisis of ‘faith’ (the reason for the quotes will become clear shortly) with the project after the initial meeting between me, the stakeholders, and Jon. I won’t go into the detail, but the biggest issues were (1) that I and Jon had had a slight mis-communication about our expectations for the project and (2) my passion for research impact is grounded in extremely deep rooted issues: something that I doubt I’d be able to get to grips with over the summer months alone. So there was a change of direction.

The direction came from something I wrote a very quick blog about a few weeks ago: virtual religions, cyber faith, digital spirituality- these are all candidates for what to call it (I haven’t decided on one yet). So… just some quick notes on what I want to do, why, and how I plan on doing it. All of which are subject to change over the next few weeks!

I’m going to build a conceptual or theoretical model of what think a religion is. There is no hard and fast definition, a few Google searches will reveal that… but I’m going to build a model based upon a synthesis of various resources. You could think of this part as ‘religion as formula‘.

Once I have this model in place, I’ll build a software application that allows anyone to enter their own ‘values’ into the model (or formula), and thus create their own personal religion. The software will also allow some form of practice (or you could call it worship) to take place, again as per any individual’s own design.

The reason I want to do this, is that I have a hypothesis that some of the things that make up a religion are really good. I’m not sure what they are, but I think they’re good. Personally speaking I’m an atheist, had some exposure to the sceptics movement, and witness something of a stigma towards religion in general. Maybe, by deconstructing the essence of it, then allowing it to be reconstructed in the vision of an individual, rather than a religious institution, a new way to access the benefits of a spiritual/religious life may emerge.

We’ll see……

Dr Lynne Blair has provisionally agreed to supervise me on this work, and our initial meeting was really positive: so I’m very happy to have found somebody interested in this realm. I don’t however, not currently anyway, have a stakeholder agreed (or group of people). Any ideas?