Dear AWRC members, subscribers, and readers,
Greetings from AWRC!
The Editorial Advisory Committee (EAC) for iGi is calling for papers on the theme- Technology, Fake News and Misinformation for Dec. edition in 2019.
Communication in bytes!
Women would take their pots and meet at the well or the common water tap; they would have many community events where all would be invited; they would meet at coffee shops or in public parks or even in malls or shopping centers; they would meet in each other’s homes………these were the times and places where communication happened. News both good and bad was shared; relationships were sealed, and solidarity and friendships were nurtured. These could also be the moments when the state of the world was discussed, and concerns shared. It was also the time to talk about the church, one could tell the others present of what she/he liked about the sermon the last Sunday; while another talked about the upcoming elections to the pastorate committee.
Face to face communication was the only way we lived in the community. For every age group talking directly to each other, noticing changes in expression and in body language mattered – as it is this that affirmed each one of us in community. By listening carefully to each other it strengthened human relationships and gave opportunity for apologies to be made for any misunderstandings explained to clear the air. The veracity of a claim could also be assessed and perhaps checked.
But this way of human communication, while it certainly continues to exist in some form, has been overtaken by technology. Mobile telephones, computerized communication through email and social media have become the way in which we talk to each other! There is a plethora of jokes of groups sitting together with all heads bent down with eyes glued to phone screens. Children face the gravest consequences of families obsessed with electronic media and communication in bytes!
Is this true?
One of the challenges is that not everything on the internet or that comes to us through social media is true. Programmers had to get busy in developing software to verify if something shared is genuine and true – names of apps such as “hoax-slayer” symbolize what we are dealing with. The use of media to spread fake news has led to a crisis in public confidence and even security. Fake news spreads like wild-fire and this has led (for instance in India) to the targeting of minority communities and leads to incidents of lynching and other forms of violent abuse. For example, a recent report carrying a picture of a stash of spears supposedly confiscated from a mosque in Kashmir was circulated, provoking reactions from the majority religious community. It was so obviously fake news – spears are not used by the minority community in question – even if it is to harm! This is just one small example of how social media is manipulated to spread hatred and fear. Election processes in so-called democratic countries are also manipulated by the spread of fake news and negative propaganda.
The fourth stage of the industrial revolution?
One of the claims made by governments is that we are moving to digitalizing just about everything – from identity papers that are needed for most official transactions to the use of money for buying and selling goods. Cash payments are slowly being made to disappear – the use of plastic cash cards is gaining ascendancy. Ironically, at the same time millions of people have no access to machines that are replacing human transactions – why in many parts of the world electricity is a rare commodity; let alone the internet. All over the world women and men are losing their jobs as machines replace them. The digital divide is glaring and unjust ensuring that access for all cannot be taken for granted. And yet for those who have cash in the banks and access to buying on credit, generous money back guarantees are awarded for every digital transaction.
In the words of the Korean theologian Park Seong-Won, “In the neoliberal economic paradigm, Empire and dictatorial regimes collude with transnational corporations to appropriate science and technology to gain profit, control and penetrate into people’s privacy and violate security.” He goes on to say that citizens are being forced to adapt to such technology which he describes as an “increasing and aggressive proselytization process towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” The challenges to ensure economic and ecological justice for all in such a world are all but made impossible – while a small percentage of the business community and the rich do benefit. In spite, of some contributions to human well-being – questions of technologies’ availability, accessibility and affordability far outweigh its benefits.
As Christians, we are posed with many challenges. First, how do we handle the truth, fake news, and misinformation that comes to us through communication technologies? How do we sift out all that is life-affirming and factual from untruths that are worth challenging? When the overwhelming logic is to entice us with exaggerated information – how do we focus on the impact of all this on peoples and the earth? How do we check out what we read in the social media and internet against the soundest “hoax slayer” – the Word of God? Perhaps the greatest challenge is to provide an alternative life-affirming voice in the media particularly social media, with courage and Christian conviction.
The second challenge is how do we handle technologies that seem to be taking over our lives, our ability to discern good from evil and of ensuring the welfare of all – down to the least. We are inspired and influenced by the Jesus community and the way in which Jesus handled the people around him as well as how he handled evil forces – he refused to be tempted and be allured instead of which he constantly reinterpreted life with love, compassion, and justice as the yard-stick.
As feminist theologians we must ask whether technology enhances the life of all human beings but also of all of creation? Anything that divides humanity and destroys the quality of our own lives and that of others cannot be worth investing in. Additionally, we must continue to be concerned about the impact this has on women and on women’s bodies. The fourth phase of industrialization especially artificial intelligence redefines what it means to be human and questions the embodied theology that feminist theology has affirmed. The subjugation of women and all of creation in a world of industrialization has been at the heart of eco-feminist theology, needs continued attention. The search for new models of God and the community has been a way for women to redeem the contributions the church and theology can offer to the world in this time of technological expansion as well as of the manipulation of our minds.
This issue of in God’s image with a focus on these timely themes will draw together our responses – theological, biblical and ecclesiological. Articles are invited that address the diverse but inter-related concerns this issue of iGi hopes to address – be it the challenges of this digitalized world that recklessly excludes large sections of the people of the world; or the manipulation of the truth and the threats this poses on the quality of life and on our security; or the misinformation that confuses the minds of citizens and has an impact on public opinion and perceptions. The question we should address through this issue of iGi is what we as women with a commitment to justice, peace, and inclusion of all have to say to the world in this context.
Attached is a flier outlining “Guidelines for Writers of iGi.” Please send your contributions and 1-3 appropriate graphics to complement the article at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 10th Oct 2019.
Recommended word limit for each article: 1000 to 4000 words
Please be noted articles that are published elsewhere will not be accepted.
As a gesture of appreciation and thanks, AWRC will send you two copies of iGi whenever your paper or art piece is published.
We look forward to your participation in the work of iGi.
On behalf of the Guest Editorial Team
 The byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, the byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the smallest addressable unit of memory in many computer architectures. Wikipedia.
 Park, Seong Won ed. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Looking into it with Human Mind and Heart_, Gyeong Theological Graduate University, Andong, Korea, 2018.