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Propaganda with a mission (for ASREC Conference)

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Propaganda with a Mission: Learning from the Second World War for the Christian Sector in a Digital Age

In the Second World War, British propaganda posters were circulated using the techniques of persuasion, education, information, celebration, encouragement, morale boosting, and identification of enemies to encourage civilians to understand and undertake their responsibilities in ‘The People’s War’.
In the face of oft-reported declines in church membership, there is urgency for the church to recognize the possibilities of online spaces. The author of a PhD on the above topic developed the BIGBible Project in 2010. The Project blog curates contributions from #DIGIdisciples, questioning what it means to be a Christian in a digital age and in the digital environment. What do digital technologies allow us to do differently, and what can we learn from the past?
The conference paper will draw from the rich collection of over 2,750 #digidisciple posts to demonstrate the potential that the digital has offered the Christian sector, whilst also emphasizing continuity with the past.


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Propaganda with a mission (for ASREC Conference)

  1. 1. Propaganda with a Mission: Learning from the Second World War for the Christian Sector in a Digital Age Dr Bex Lewis Research Fellow in Social Media & Online Learning CODEC, Durham University The Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture Conference, Durham, September 2014
  2. 2. @drbexl
  3. 3. A public notice aims to inform or command. A poster aims to seduce, to exhort, to sell, to educate, to convince, to appeal. Whereas a public notice distributes information to interested or alert citizens, a poster reaches out to grab those who might otherwise pass it by. Susan Sontag Read more: http://j.mp/ww2posterch2 @drbexl
  4. 4. http://ww2poster.co.uk/phd-research/phd-ww2poster-2004/ @drbexl
  5. 5. Ministry of Information • Central governmental publicity machine • Formed September 1939 • Tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’. @drbexl
  6. 6. During the war, a ‘shared sense of national identity had to be mobilised amongst the people of Britain’. Achieved partly through propaganda posters, more and more people ‘were encouraged to identify themselves as active citizens, as active members of the nation’, a citizenship ‘to be earned by communal and individual service of one’s nation in wartime’. Lewis, R., Unpublished PhD thesis (2004), quoting Noakes, L., War and the British: Gender and National Identity, 1939- @drbexl 91, 1998, p.48.
  7. 7. Benedict Anderson ‘Imagined Communities’  What ‘makes people love and die for nations, as well as hate and kill in their name’?  1991 @drbexl
  8. 8. @drbexl https://www.wordnik.com/words/community
  9. 9. The Big Bible Project has emerged as an online community using everyday social media platforms. The site itself aims to involve its community not only in Biblical engagement, but also to consider what it means to be a disciple in the digital age (and the digital culture). http://www.newmediacentreofexcellence.org.uk/resources/ communityinthe21stcentury#sthash.CHBenwRc.7AW3LP3H. dpuf @drbexl
  10. 10. Image: http://j.mp/IaePVj @drbexl
  11. 11. http://audioboo.fm/boos/367199-a-few-pearls-of-wisdom-from- jas-tdc11-re-community @drbexl
  12. 12. In the 1930s Aldous Huxley recognised that propaganda ‘canalises an already existing stream’; it is only effective on those already in tune with the ideas expressed. Propaganda encourages its audience further along the direction that they are already moving, and reinforces partly formed ideas. Doherty, M., ‘What is Political Propaganda?’ (Lecture), ‘MA in Propaganda, Persuasion and History’, at University of Kent at Canterbury, October 1997 @drbexl
  13. 13. Casting a compelling vision for a Christ-exalting life is part of leadership, but understanding how best to communicate God’s word into individual and corporate circumstances with persistence, persuasion and precision is what distinguishes a visionary from a biblical leader. http://toddengstrom.com/2013/11/18/meeting-people-where- they-are/ Todd Engstrom @drbexl
  14. 14. Darren Hill, The Worship Cloud All these great Bible verses arrive on my feed without any context, background or explanation. As believers we are fine with this, we of course know the context to any text that appears online… don’t we? But what about everyone else? http://bigbible.org.uk/2012/11/posts-promises- and-perennial-issues-darrenrhill- digidisciple/ Image Credit: Darren Hill @drbexl
  15. 15. Relationships/Communication @drbexl
  16. 16. Abram Games (1914-1996), War Office • 1940: Infantry • ‘an understanding of what the ranker thinks, does and, perhaps more important, does not do’, as the army mentality was different from that of the ‘outside world’. • 1941: Recruiting Posters for RAC • 1942: “Official War Office Poster Designer” @drbexl
  17. 17. How to Keep Well in Wartime During three years of total war the nation’s stubborn good health has been invaluable to out war effort. Even so, as a nation we are still using about 22 million weeks’ work each year through common and often preventable illnesses such as colds and influenza, dyspepsia, biliousness, neurasthenia, rheumatism, boils and other septic conditions. This is calculated to be the equivalent to the loss of 24,000 tanks, 6,750 bombers, and 6,750,000 rifles a year, not to mention the pain and inconvenience we suffer as individuals. How to Keep Well in Wartime, Ministry of Information, 1943 (Booklet) @drbexl
  18. 18. http://www.propagandacritic.com/ articles/index.html @drbexl
  19. 19. Posters did not stand alone • Legislation • Newspapers • Radio • Cinema • Leaflets • Window Displays @drbexl
  20. 20. Simon Edge, ‘Sign of the Times’, Daily @drbexl Express, Thursday March 19, 2009, p36
  21. 21. @drbexl http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_And_Carry_On
  22. 22. @drbexl
  23. 23. Celebrity @drbexl
  24. 24. Global http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/magazine/05FOB-@drbexl consumed-t.html?ref=magazine
  25. 25. http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/ @drbexl
  26. 26. Citizen Warriors The boundaries between the civilian and the combatant soldier were blurred during the war, with ‘propagandist attempts to personify the entire population as heroic’. Lewis, R., Unpublished PhD thesis, quoting Paris, M., Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850-2000, 2000, @drbexl
  27. 27. The Church Front Door? For many churchgoing is no longer the ‘cultural norm’. People don’t actively ignore the church: they don’t even think about it. … With literally billions in the digital spaces, the online social spaces presented by churches need to be appealing, welcoming, and not look like they are just an afterthought: they are now effectively the ‘front door’ to your church for digital users, and you ignore those spaces at your peril. @drbexl Image Credit: freeimages.com http://www.churchgrowthrd.org.uk/blog/churchgrowth/growing_churches_in_the_digital_age
  28. 28. [If we are…] means by which God communicates and reveals himself through his spirit, then our blog posts, status updates, tweets, artistic images, and online comments should be products of a life transformed by Christ and indwelled by his spirit. As restored image bearers, our online presence and activity should image the triune god. Byers, A. Theomedia (2013, 196) @drbexl
  29. 29. @drbexl
  30. 30. @drbexl
  31. 31. @drbexl
  32. 32. @drbexl
  33. 33. @drbexl
  34. 34. @drbexl
  35. 35. Christians and Churchgoing http://www.ons.@drbexl gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_290510.pdf
  36. 36. https://www.facebook.com/maryengelbreit/photos/a.283968321636466.87914.1388327 42816692/809142355785724/?type=1&theater @drbexl
  37. 37. http://phdinprogress.wordpress.com Dr Sara Batts (2013) @drbexl
  38. 38. The Growth of the Internet http://oxis.oii.ox.ac.uk/sites/oxis.oii.ox.ac.uk/files/content/@drbexl files/publications/OxIS_2013.pdf
  39. 39. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication, which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore a prerequisite for a significant presence there. Pope Benedict XVI (2013) @drbexl
  40. 40. “Bringing the young in…?” “Jake told the executive that he never goes directly to a brand like this man’s newspaper or even to blogs he likes. ... he reads a lot of news – far more than I did at his age. But he goes to that news only via the links from Digg, friends’ blogs, and Twitter. He travels all around the internet that is edited by his peers because he trusts them and knows they share his interests. The web of trust is built at eye-level, peer-to-peer.” Jarvis, p.86, my emphasis @drbexl
  41. 41. Cohen, D.J., & Rosenzweig, R., Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, 2006, p18 “Writing history requires that you first immerse yourself in the styles, conventions, and methods of historical writing and that you understand the different genres of history books, whether scholarly monograph, popular narrative textbook, or reference work. The same holds true for those who want to create history museum exhibits, make history films, and teach history classes.” … and of course history websites.
  42. 42. Church: Broadcast Model @drbexl Image Source: RGBStock
  43. 43. On the Emmaus road, Jesus was recognized in the breaking of bread rather than in the exegesis of scripture. That’s an intriguing lesson to learn when so much of the web and so much of digital communication is about proclamation rather than reception. Phillips et al, 2013: 10 @drbexl
  44. 44. New Opportunities @drbexl Image Source: Stockfresh
  45. 45. #DIGIDisciple those who seek to live out their Biblically-informed Christian faith in the digital space, exploring both what it means to be a disciple in the digital age, and also how the digital age affects or alters discipleship. @drbexl
  46. 46. https://audioboo.fm/boos/1577833-what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-digital- disciple-with-changingworship @drbexl
  47. 47. It’s something about the informality and distance; the ability to pause and think, which can be difficult in a conversation; and the way discussions can pick up where they left off several hours, days or weeks later. Emma Major, BIGBible Post, 2012 @drbexl
  48. 48. Thank you for your time… QUESTIONS? @drbexl @codecuk