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Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

CONSTRUCTIVE THEOLOGY IN THE AGE OF DIGITAL CULTURE AND ANTHROPOCENE

Periods
January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2027
Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
6.11.00  Humanities  Theology   
5.03.00  Social sciences  Sociology   

Code Science Field
6.03  Humanities  Philosophy, Ethics and Religion 
Keywords
Constructive theology, environmental theology, ecofeminist theology, ecological crisis, sustainable development, digital culture, digital technology, digital teology, cybertheology, atrificial intelligence, virtual environments, digital bodies, transhumanism, posthumanism, deconstructionism.
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Points
4,677.67
A''
516.73
A'
2,273.01
A1/2
2,624.35
CI10
204
CImax
61
h10
6
A1
16.11
A3
0.99
Data for the last 5 years (citations for the last 10 years) on June 12, 2024; A3 for period 2018-2022
Data for ARIS tenders ( 04.04.2019 – Programme tender, archive )
Database Linked records Citations Pure citations Average pure citations
WoS  48  149  138  2.88 
Scopus  69  218  195  2.83 
Researchers (12)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  51181  PhD Gorazd Andrejč  Philosophy  Researcher  2022 - 2024  76 
2.  23752  MSc Barbara Bradaš Premrl  Economics  Technical associate  2022 - 2024 
3.  56641  Victoria Vanessa Dos Santos Bustamante  Philosophy  Researcher  2023 - 2024 
4.  22368  PhD Nadja Furlan Štante  Theology  Head  2022 - 2024  254 
5.  55448  PhD Maja Gutman  Anthropology  Researcher  2022 - 2024  23 
6.  52519  PhD Noreen LuAnn HerzFeld  Theology  Researcher  2022 - 2024  20 
7.  00494  PhD Valentin Hribar  Philosophy  Retired researcher  2022 - 2024  768 
8.  27912  PhD Blaž Lenarčič  Sociology  Researcher  2022 - 2024  189 
9.  24404  PhD Matej Mertik  Computer science and informatics  Researcher  2022 - 2024  129 
10.  29463  PhD Gašper Mithans  Historiography  Researcher  2022 - 2024  106 
11.  54413  Karin Šmid  Art history  Junior researcher  2022 - 2024 
12.  50198  PhD Luka Trebežnik  Philosophy  Researcher  2022 - 2024  62 
Organisations (1)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  1510  Science and Research Centre Koper  Koper  7187416000  14,120 
Abstract
This research programme will discuss, from an interdisciplinary view, some of the most important issues for our present society. The main aim of this research is to understand and place in dialog the role of Christianity in the ethics of environmental protection, ecological awareness, and ecological empowerment, on the one hand, and the theological and philosophical interpretations of technology, particularly digital technologies, on the other. The starting point of this research programme is the increasing intertwinement of natural and digital environments for contemporary and future life on our planet. The development and increasing use of advanced digital technologies and artificial intelligence raise a number of challenging ethical questions. Understanding these challenges and formulating theologically reflective responses to them are important aspects of digital theology. Digital culture is the context within which we increasingly do theology, thus, digital theology impacts both theology as a discipline and digital culture within which we live. Our focus on this reflective contextual interaction between digitality and theology, will examine the impact of digital culture on questions regarding the nature of God, God's interaction with the world, the mystery of faith, on our relationships with one another and the Other (including God, gender, nature, and non-human beings). We will also explore the impact of theology on digitality and digital culture. Digital technology is different from previous technologies and brings with it both new dangers and new possibilities. It can be either a poison or a remedy, or a range of possibilities related to both - in other words, digital technology has the capacity to be either a positive or a negative influence upon how we live, think, and relate, and the challenge is to identify which is which and under what conditions. Digital technology operates somewhat differently from previous technologies by virtue of the ways in which it takes our thoughts, memories and, indeed, our habits and speeds up the normal processes through which they operate. Such technologies, employed by consumer culture and commercial interests, risk short-circuiting our processes of reflection and critical thought. The times, spaces, and reflective methodologies provided by religion could provide an antidote to this, functioning similarly to the dreams and intermittences which escape external control and enable the opportunity for alternative thoughts and experiences. New modes of ethical cohabitation are needed in the Digital-Anthropocene age, therefore new models of theological responses will be sought and proposed by our programme. This research programme draws upon, contributes to, and brings together the fields of theology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, religiology, computer sciences and digital humanities.
Significance for science
In the context of Slovene theological and religious studies, the proposed research programme results open a pioneering field that has not yet found its place in the academic and scientific spheres in Slovenia. Except in small pockets of research (such as Andrejč's ARRS project Creatures, Humans, Robots which is currently ongoing), it is practically an unexplored and unrepresented field, waiting for more thorough placement and development. In a broader context, the originality of the proposed programme lies also in the fact that, in Europe, digital theology is "still in its infancy in comparison with Digital Humanities", something Phillips, Schiefelbein-Guerrero and Kurlberg (2019) have established in their recent and thorough examination of this emerging field. The question of the importance of raising ecological awareness in the field of Christianity and ecological ecumenical dialogue in Europe and throughout the world is more developed and dynamic than ever before. However, it faces strong pressures and is often a victim of rough politicization. Therefore, critical contextualization of the research topic will contribute importantly to the fields of ecotheology and ecofeminism, which are still neglected in Slovenia. Furthermore, the research programme will present an original contribution to theology and religious studies through its analysis of the multiple relationships between ecotheology and digital theology, including the (eco)theological reflections on digitality and digital culture. At present, the study programmes of Slovene universities do not include any direct or research-driven content dedicated to the questions of digital theology, environmental theology, and ecofeminist theology. This programme will help bringing these topics to the university curricula and generate further research projects. It will bring new methodological approaches to bear on the pertinent questions of environmental destruction and its (possible and actual) relationship to digital culture within theology, philosophy, and related humanities research more broadly, by analysing some of the most pressing issues of our society. The programme results will contribute directly to the existing M.A. and PhD programme at Alma Mater Europaea Applied Artificial Intelligence. This programme, headed by Dr. Mertik, is the only one in Slovenian Universities and explores the uses and interpretations of AI in different fields of society. It has been designed for PhD students with a necessary level of Artificial Intelligence background to explore different fields of humanities (including theology, philosophy, and ethics) and law by way of interdisciplinary interactions between AI and these fields. It will contribute to critical understanding of the growing importance of AI and draw differences between human consciousness, subjective experience, and modeling of the human mind for the purposes of AI development. It will also be implemented into the existing PhD and undergraduate programme at AMEU ISH, which is a private higher education institution, based in Ljubljana and established in 1995. Since 2014, AMEU ISH is a part of Alma Mater Europaea which works under the academic patronage of European Academy of Sciences of Arts (EASA, Salzburg, Austria). And also, into M.A. programme at Philosophical Faculty, University of Maribor, as well as providing educational material for courses at The College of St. Benedict, St. John's University and Seminary (USA), and UNISA (the largest open distance learning institution in Africa, the oldest distant on-line education university in the world).
Significance for the country
A systematic and thorough understanding of AI's current capabilities, along with its advancements and limitations, will enable researchers to contribute their knowledge to the industry as scientific consultants. Dr. Mertik's continuous and direct involvement in applied AI research will enable the programme research to be used for advisory and steering purposes in designing new technological solutions; and Dr. Herzfeld's work has very good chances to continue influencing the debates and eventually decisions on the innovative use and even new designs of autonomous AI systems, including autonomous weapons. Dr. Gutman's track record in the field of consulting to tech companies can attest to the fact that theoretical understanding can indeed be transferred to tangible business solutions in the process of digital transformation (see section C.22). Matching PhD-qualified experts from various fields with digital projects that need their skill set will be done in the following way: 1.) introducing the research project (as described above) to the network of already established collaborations (for example, the researcher has cultivated a strong relationship with representatives of prominent startup international entities Y Combinator); 2.) participating at the initial stages of product developments: the group will offer knowledge to tech companies (at home and abroad) who want to integrate the philosophical and anthropological understanding of the AI at the into their products before they are fully developed: for instance, in the past years, the community of code developers and programmers has faced vigorous debates on the coded bias - a topic that has deep anthropological and sociological roots. Such issues can be resolved by interdisciplinary dialogue between philosophers, media scholars, and computer programmers; 3.) Being critically aware that such dialogues are essential for the future development of digitization, and that the theological and philosophical conceptual frameworks can no longer be detached from the real world, but rather carefully integrated into it, the researchers will offer their expertise to the companies, which are open to interdisciplinary dialogue and committed to the development of humanlike software solutions; 4.) Practical implementation of knowledge: to have a substantial and long-lasting impact on emerging technologies, the research group will establish a dialogue with tech companies that are in the incubation phase of their product development. Finally, the research programme will contribute to the proliferation and dissemination of original knowledge through the well-established international scholarly and social-outreach networks in which the researchers are already active. The work on religion and digital philosophies by Andrejč and Mertik, as well as the work on Christian theology of technology by Herzfeld, will contribute to the research, knowledge-exchange and the activities of the recently established UNESCO's International Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) in Ljubljana - all three researchers have already contributed to the UNESCO document on the ethics of AI which has been collated and edited by IRCAI, and Andrejč and Herzfeld are co-organizing a conference on intelligent systems with IRCAI in July 2021. This cooperation is bound to continue, and the research modules planned for this research programme by Andrejč/Mertik and Herzfeld, respectively, have direct relevance for the work of IRCAI. Herzfeld will also draw on the research generated here in her advisory capacity as a member of the Vatican Advisory Committee on AI, as well as a member of AAAS Advisory Committee on AI and COVID-19. The results will also extend to the field of improving social policies in the broadest area of life preservation, including legal protection of natural environments (European/Slovene legislation; environmental laws; their improvement or amplifying/ broadening). In addition, the influence of the results will be discernible and directed towards discussion within the religious sphere (within an established cooperation between the researchers and the Office for Religious Communities (Ministry of Culture) of the Republic of Slovenia).
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