Institute of Buddhist Studies Announces 16 Grantees for Public Theologies of Technology and Presence

Steven Barrie-Anthony  |  July 30, 2018

The Institute of Buddhist Studies is pleased to announce the grant recipients for its Public Theologies of Technology and Presence research and journalism initiative. Sixteen scholars of religion, theologians, and journalists will receive grant support for their research and publication projects addressing the impacts of technologies on human relationships, on the ways in which people are (or are not) present to each other. The scholar and theologian grantees hail from institutions of higher education and theological education from across the U.S. and from a broad variety of academic disciplines and religious traditions, and the journalists from leading media outlets.

The grantees’ projects draw on the study and practice of many different religions—Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Africana religions, among others—to address cutting-edge technologies such as cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence, human augmentation, surveillance technologies, videogames, and social media. The projects offer new and exciting insights into technologies’ impacts on human relationships, including on friendships, introspective abilities, sexual relationships, moral attentions, and capacities for relational authenticity. The journalist grantees from leading media outlets—The Atlantic, Slate, and CBS—will actively participate in Initiative symposia and will publish streams of coverage about the intersections of religion, technology, and human relationships.

Public Theologies of Technology and Presence is a three-year initiative, supported by a $475,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, which harnesses the power of religion scholarship and theology to shed light on this matter of deep public concern. Grantees will gather regularly in Berkeley to discuss and hone their ongoing research. They will actively engage with Silicon Valley technologists, exploring the concrete implications of their research for technological work and innovation. The Initiative will facilitate an ambitious agenda of scholarly and popular publishing, public talks, the publication of a digital forum, white papers, and the development of models for teaching the subject within university departments of religion and theological institutions.

“Technologies are rapidly remaking the landscape of human relationships,” said Steven Barrie-Anthony, the Initiative’s Program Director. “The difficult questions of how to shape and navigate this process are fundamental to modern life. Our grantees bring to bear on these questions the deep and varied insights of religion scholarship and theology. Their work has major implications for scholars, technologists, and the public.”

A full list of grantees and project descriptions is available here.

The journalist grantees are Liz Kineke, Producer for the CBS Religion & Culture Series; Justin Peters, Correspondent for Slate; and Sigal Samuel, Global Religion Editor for The Atlantic.

The scholar of religion and theologian grantees are:

  • Stephen T. Asma, Columbia College Chicago—Living Online: Isolation, Disembodiment, and the Challenge of Friendship
  • Amy Sue Bix, Iowa State University—“Technology Sabbath” Beliefs and Practices: The Quest for Sacred Time and Interpersonal Presence Amidst High-Tech Pressures
  • Sheila Briggs, University of Southern California—Sex as Salvation in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • Ilia Delio, Villanova University—Deep Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Nature, and Transcendence
  • Gregory Price Grieve, University of North Carolina at Greensboro—Video Games and the Problem of Evil
  • Margarita Simon Guillory, Boston University—Africana Religion in the Digital Age
  • Kevin Healey, University of New Hampshire—Contemplative Media Studies
  • Natasha Heller, University of Virginia—A Genealogy of Moral Surveillance in China
  • Noreen Herzfeld, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict—Authentic Relationship in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
  • Beverly McGuire, University of North Carolina Wilmington—Moral Attention and Digital Technology
  • Stuart Ray Sarbacker, Oregon State University—Technology of the Self: Yoga, Buddhism, and the Social Implications of Human Augmentation
  • Devin Singh, Dartmouth College—Decentered Sovereignties and Spectral Transactions: Cryptocurrency, Public Theology, and the Ethics of Presence
  • R. John Williams, Yale University—The Spiritual Technologies of Presence

The Initiative is led by Program Director Steven Barrie-Anthony, with the assistance of an Advisory Board of leading scholars and theologians, journalists, and technologists.

For more information contact Dr. Barrie-Anthony:, (510) 500-9722.

The Institute of Buddhist Studies, established in 1949 and located in Berkeley, California, is one of the few Buddhist seminaries and graduate schools in North America. An affiliate member of the Graduate Theological Union, IBS offers graduate-level degree and certificate programs across the full breadth of the Buddhist tradition. The Public Theologies of Technology and Presence research and journalism initiative extends IBS’s cornerstone interest in applying theological insight to innovative work in the contemporary world as well as its joint academic and theological foci and its dedication to collaboration across traditions.

1 thought on “Institute of Buddhist Studies Announces 16 Grantees for Public Theologies of Technology and Presence”

  1. Ed Papson says:

    RE: Stephen T. Asma, Columbia College Chicago—Living Online: Isolation, Disembodiment, and the Challenge of Friendship.

    Eager to read the outcome of this research. The internet has simultaneously did as much harm as good with regard to
    human relationships. With the ability to reach out instantly across the globe, too many people feel shut in either because of this or in spite of this technology. I trust that Mr. Asma will explore this from the standpoint of Shin Buddhism and contrast this vast technology to the seemingly simple , local and unbounded practice of Nembutsu.

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