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Personal profile

Overview

I specialise in the study of theology and posthumanism. Posthumanism explores what it means to be human when technologies are enhancing and possibly dehumanising us. As such, it involves a questioning of different approaches to and understandings of 'the human' against, for example, nature, animals, and even aliens and machines. My research focuses on the ways that technologies are theorised and problematised in both theology and posthumanism, which is an interdisciplinary endeaour that engages theology with insights from social sciences and cultural studies.

My previous doctoral work explored theological anthropology, which is the study of how the human has been understood by religious doctrine such as Genesis 1-2. I considered this through the notion of the 'cyborg', which has been popularised in science fiction and has come to represent our fears and hopes about new technologies and the ways to 'stay human' in an increasingly uncertain and technological age. This work has been published by I.B.Tauris under the title Cyborg Theology: Humans, Technology and God

Currently, I am researching how 'love' can be used to characterise and problematise human-machine relations. I interact developments in AI and robot ethics with models of love presented by theologians in order to investigate the role of theology in popular culture, and our attitudes to love in a world dominated by rational machines that are also somewhat enchanting to us. Details of this project can be found at the Lincoln Theological Institute, where I completed postdoctoral research.

I am also Programme Director for Liberal Arts at The University of Manchester, based in the School of Arts, Languages, and Cultures (SALC). For more information on this programme, see here or contact ug-lib.arts@manchester.ac.uk

Research interests

Artificial intelligence (attitudes to, philsophy of)

Cyborgs (esp. Donna Haraway and in critical theory)

Ecotheology

Love (ontology and ethics)

Machines (Science and technology studies)

Nature

New media (i.e. internet)

Popular culture (including secularisation)

Posthumanism

Postmodernism

Robot ethics

Science fiction

Technology (attitudes to, theories of)

Theological anthropology (imago dei)

Transhumanism

Virtual reality

Teaching

I have taught at the Universities of Manchester and Chester on themes of humanness, humaneness, secularisation, popular culture, technologies, Christian ethics, apocalypse, ecotheology, and other topics. I have previously supervised BA and MA dissertations and directed reading projects on religious ethics and immortality; identity conflicts and new media; apocalyptic narratives and video games; queer theologies in a postindustrial context; religious attitudes and video game censorship; AI and religious ethics; human identity and cyberspace; religious approaches to transhumanism. 

I am currently leading the Liberal Arts programme at the University of Manchester. The programme is designed to train students in interdisciplinary and challenge-led learning, and it champions the University's strengths in world-class research and social responsibility. 

Units taught

I am currently teaching on/developing the following courses:

I also supervise a number of undergraduate dissertations, and co-supervise a number of PhD students. 

Office hours

Tuesdays 1-2pm

Wednesdays 1-2pm 

Other research

Current project: Living with and Loving Machines

Technologies are a constant source of wonder and anxiety for humans, and this has much to do with how they represent the ability to change, transform, and even develop various aspects of our lives and the world. At their most extreme, technologies may instigate what has been widely (and vaguely) referred to as a ‘posthuman’ future, where the human itself is irreversibly changed in that it can be genetically manipulated, prosthetically augmented, or even digitally uploaded. This future remains understudied in theology, and so this LTI project aims to contribute to our understandings by exploring how we interact and engage with machines, including the benefits and challenges of such relationships in areas extending to health, education, leisure, food, and manufacturing.

The project is led by Dr Scott Midson, whose previous research, including a PhD thesis titled ‘The Cyborg and the Human: Origins, Creatureliness, and Hybridity in Theological Anthropology’, has explored what it means to be human and to be made in the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:26) in an increasingly advanced technological world. In this work, it was revealed that certain assumptions about the nature of humans and technologies govern and determine our attitudes, but cyborgs may offer a way of challenging them through an emphasis on complex relationships.

Building on this, the ‘Living with and Loving Machines’ project uses ‘love’, a provocative term in discussions of technology, to explore the character of human-technology relationships in innovative ways. In theology, ‘love’ is a significant notion and can be used to refer to an array of relationships ranging from divine love to the more ‘natural’ loves including friendship, affection, and partnership. By using the notion of love to cast interrogative light on our relationships with machines, the project seeks to continue to debunk our sense of wonder and anxiety, and to encourage an engagement with technologies that is informed, reflective, and responsible.

As part of these aims, the project will host a number of events that will facilitate interdisciplinary as well as public reflection on complex human-technology relationships and the theme of love. There will additionally be an online blog that picks up on these discussions, and a number of papers and publications that emerge from the research.

Supervision information

Details of doctoral students that I am currently co-supervising can be found on the LTI PhD students website

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Areas of expertise

  • BL Religion
  • BR Christianity
  • BJ Ethics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Christabel Pankhurst Institute
  • Creative Manchester

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