My guest this week is Stephen Garner who works at Laidlaw College in New Zealand as Academic Dean and Senior Lecturer in Theology. He talks about how the seasons are different between our two countries, and how Christmas, and its attendant nostalgia, fits into this framework. He once celebrated his birthday twice in one year.
Stephen works in the areas of technology/new media and bioethics/transhumanism as well as religion and popular culture. He tells us about his interest in collecting film resources – such as by rummaging around second hand stores – from the Pacific, foundational to New Zealand cinema, which are increasingly unavailable. So, he is accumulating physical media that is disappearing from physical memory and has up to 1500 DVDs.
We discuss the differences in curating our own movie collection when we are dealing with physical products and how it can’t happen in the same way in a streaming context. The packaging also tells a story of a particular time. Stephen also reflects on the importance of having personal contact with a vendor and the serendipitous encounters he has had with physical copies.
We learn that Stephen was born in the UK and moved to New Zealand in the 1970s. He shares his earliest memories and talks about how he has returned in later years to some of the places in the UK where he grew up.
He was the only kid in his school who had a library card and we discover how books and comics allowed Stephen to explore his innate curiosity.
We find out how Stephen ended up doing theology and how difficult it is not to offend somebody when sacred religious texts and popular culture are brought together, as with Warrior Nun comic books which, we learn, have some deep theology going on in them. We discuss satire and the concept of ‘the Jesus that laughs’ and we find out why Stephen gets his students to curate photos and how he learns from his students.
Stephen is a systems person and was initially going to study astronomy but ended up working in computer science. We learn how he made the move to the study of religion and theology and how his PhD drew together computer science and theology. He is interested in stories of technological salvation, has always had a love for the craft of teaching, and we learn why academia is his tribe – and why he never becomes bored.
We discover that going to university was a form of rebirth for Stephen and we learn how memories that weren’t positive have shaped who he is, and how he uses his blog to reflect on himself. At the end of the interview Stephen talks about how he is exploring the notion of Christian hope as a way of linking together different things about digital culture.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Stephen Garner and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.