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Heidi Campbell - Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 12:21

The upcoming American Academy of Religion 2015 convention boasts a number of very interesting session related to Digital Religion studies. From engaging themes such as Religion and Game Studies to Buddhist & Jewish engagement with the Internet, here are our recommendations for top 4 must attend Digital Religion sessions for this year:

(1)
Video Gaming and Religion Seminar
Theme: Crafting the Study of Religion and Video Games: A Roundtable Discussion of Key Perspectives
Heidi Ann Campbell, Texas A&M University, Presiding
Monday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton-206 (Level 2)

The roundtable addresses the study of religion and video gaming. In order to "craft" key perspectives, the discussants focus on the sandbox game Minecraft (2009), an open world platform in which players find various materials which they can then transform into almost any structure imaginable. Through a moderated conversation, each discussant will use Minecraft to respond to one of three questions: (1) How should religious study concern itself with video games? (2) What methods and research questions do you recommend? (3) Do scholars have to play the game to analyze it? On a more general level, the roundtable will address how studying video games furthers religious studies. Just as films helped to illuminate and expose the religiosity of the twentieth century, video games now depict the religiosity of the twenty-first century in compelling and important ways

Panelists:
Jason Anthony, Brooklyn, NY
Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology
Gregory Grieve, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Owen Gottlieb, Rochester Institute of Technology
Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, University of Bremen
Michael Waltemathe, Ruhr Universität Bochum
Rachel Wagner, Ithaca College
Xenia Zeiler, University of Helsinki

Responding:
Michael Houseman, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

(2)
Religion, Media, and Culture Group
Theme: Lessons in Jewish Resistance and Reconstruction of New Media from Digital Judaism
Heidi Ann Campbell, Texas A&M University, Presiding
Monday - 4:00 PM-6:30 PM
Marriott-A601 (Atrium Level)

This panel explores how various stakeholders within Jewish communities respond to new media through a range of strategic negotiation processes involving a complex interplay between embracing and resisting various technological affordances. Presenters represent key studies from Digital Judaism: Jewish Negotiations with Digital Media and Culture (Routledge, 2015). Each study considers how Jewish user-communities in the USA and Israel negotiate perceived positive and problematic affordance of digital media in light of their religious tradition and moral boundaries. Together presenter reflect theoretically of the religious and cultural factors influencing the technological decision-making for various Jewish communities from American Reform Jewish communities use of social media to attempts of National Religious groups in Israel to create a kosher internet through filtered engagement strategies.

Menahem Blondheim, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Jewish Communication Tradition and Its Encounters with (the) New Media

Wendi Bellar, Texas A&M University
Sanctifying the Internet: Aish HaTorah’s Use of the Internet for Digital Outreach

Oren Golan, University of Haifa
Legitimation of New Media and Community Building among Jewish Denominations in the USA

Michele Rosenthal, University of Haifa
On Pomegranates and Etrogs: Internet Filters as Practices of Media Ambivalence among Israeli National Religious Jews

Owen Gottlieb, Rochester Institute of Technology
Jewish Games for Learning: Renewing Heritage Traditions in the Digital Age

(3)
Religion, Media, and Culture Group
Theme: Third Spaces, Media, and Hybrid Subjects
Andrew Aghapour, University of North Carolina, Presiding
Sunday - 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Marriott-A705 (Atrium Level)

Media creates spaces where religious authority, identities, and communities are forged. Subjects come into being in these spaces, shaped by the state, the market, religious authority, but also by the alternative and hybrid possibilities that emerge in unexpected ways from new modes of communication. The panel begins with an exploration of third spaces as a theoretical framework and, from there turns to intriguing case studies of diverse hybrids: autodidact Sunni intellectuals subverting traditional modes of authority, the production of a marketable America after WWII by the Ad Council, and the tourist who finds herself in the strange juxtaposition of paired centers celebrating civil rights and Coca Cola. In each, media reifies entrenched modes of being while simultaneously opening new spaces for unprecedented subjects.
Stewart M. Hoover, University of Colorado
Nabil Echchaibi, University of Colorado
The Third Spaces of Digital Religion

Emad Hamdeh, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
The Internet and Religious Authority in Modern Sunnism

Andrew Polk, Middle Tennessee State University
Free-Market Religion: Selling America after the Second World War

Lucia Hulsether, Yale University
Buying into the Dream: Utopian Subjects at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

(4)
Science, Technology, and Religion Group
Theme: Science Fiction, Science and Religion
Ted Peters, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Presiding
Sunday - 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Marriott-International 9 (International Level)

This paper session examines the role science fiction plays in thinking about science and religion.

Catherine Newell, University of Miami
Single Vision: The Wages of Scientific Materialism and Resurgence of Nature Religion in LeGuin's "Newton's Sleep"

Lisa L. Stenmark, San Jose State University
Developing an Apocalyptic Vision: Postcolonial and Indigenous Science Fiction and Hope for a New World

Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, Nassau Community College
AI as Awakened Intelligence: Technological Singularity and the Buddhist Bardo in the Film Her


Heidi Campbell - Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 08:39

Sex is often a taboo topic in many conservative religious cultures. However, researchers have found that the Internet breaks down normal social barriers and helps religious individuals, such as Muslims, engage more freely about sex.

According to Roxanne D. Marcotte, associate professor in religious studies at University of Quebec-Montreal, websites like MuslimVillage.com provide Australian Muslims with a unique social space that enables them to more openly discuss sexuality-related issues than is typically possible in traditional communities.

This is a follow-up to an earlier study about online gender and sexuality discussions in Australian Muslim forums, which found Muslims actively tackle, negotiate, condone and condemn controversial issues such as polygamy or polygyny and homosexuality, for which non-Muslims have so many preconceived ideas.

In “Let’s Talk about Sex: Australian Muslim online discussions,” Marcotte looks at how MuslimVillage.com, an Australian-based Muslim community website started in 2001 with over 26,000 registered members, seeks to build a sense of community and provide an online space for Muslims to discuss a wide variety of topics, including queries about religion and sexuality.

Through careful observation of how Muslim participants write about certain sex-related issues online she concludes that the Internet significantly helps to break down traditional social taboos.

“Because of anonymity online, such talk is no longer restricted to circles of close and personal friends,” explained Marcotte. “Online forums make possible open and lively public debates of rather intimate matters. The Internet helps Muslims engage with fewer inhibitions than they might have with offline family or community, and forcefully put forward their own opinions.”

Her research also notes a double standard between Muslim men and women. Online forums allow women to question why men suffer few consequences for engaging in premarital or extramarital sex, while women are viewed extremely negatively if they do so. The Internet also allows Muslims of both genders to debate practices such as women undergoing surgery to reconstruct their virginity in order to conform to prevalent social community norms.

This study spotlights the important resources the Internet provides, especially for Muslims living in Muslim minority countries. As Marcotte states, “It highlights the many ways Muslims in Muslim minority contexts tackle and juggle tradition and modernity, by engaging in opinion sharing that is very wise, down to earth and pragmatic in the ways they deal with sexuality related issues, so that its advice translates across cultural contexts.”

“Let’s talk about sex: Australian Muslim online discussions”, was published Contemporary Islam by Springer Netherlands. More information can be found at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11562-014-0316-9

This summary of research is also found at RNS, see: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2015/03/03/study-explores-impact-m...


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 10:16

A new online journal seeks to broaden and energize scholarly and popular discussions on video gaming, religion and culture. Motivated by evidence that suggests video games play an important role in cultural and religious socialization, especially for the young people, “gamevironments. games, religion, and stuff” is a groundbreaking journal highlighting important approaches to studying gaming and religion.

The publication is spearheaded by Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, Associate Professor of Media of Religions from the University of Bremen in Germany, and Xenia Zeiler, Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, from the University of Helsinki in Finland. They represent a new movement of scholars that take seriously the ways digital and video games and game play reflect and shape popular notions about religion in contemporary culture.

Gamevironments seeks an exhaustive understanding of video games, religion, and culture through not only providing analysis of the religious themes within video game content, but also provide spotlight research that focuses on the impact religious characters and narratives have on gamers.

As Radde-Antweiler states, “This journal looks beyond how religion is simply depicted and narrated in video games, by also highlighting research of how religion is encountered in studies of gaming and environments.”

Together Radde-Antweiler and Zeiler argue that in order to fully understanding the complex relation of religion and video games requires gathering information on more than just the content of games. It includes truly exploring how religious content in games such as World of Warcraft and Halo are discussed and negotiated by the very people playing these games.

“For us the title ‘gameviroments’ captures this important and unique approach to studying religion and games,” suggests Zeiler, “We are interested in the actual discussion on religious content within a game by gamers, and other people interested in games.“

As the journal’s title implies, articles seek to provide a new understanding of both the technical and cultural environments of video games. This is unpacked in the inaugural issue which spotlights importance of researching ‘game environments’, or gamevironments, through so-called Let’s Plays. These are increasingly popular self-recorded gaming videos, where gamers narrate their strategies and are commented on by often tens of thousands of people. Studying Lets plays allows researchers unique insights into how gamers and audiences perceive gaming and discuss them.

Future issues will also take-up topics including games for education and religion and video games in Asia. The editors welcome contributions in these areas and on any other topic which addresses religion in diverse global video games and the gaming landscape. Their aim is to establish and maintain a critical dialogue on religion, gaming and culture, which include perspectives beyond regional contexts.

“Overall the journal demonstrates the key approaches and new frontiers of researching video games and gaming which strongly relate to religion, culture, and society from a global perspective . . . Work presented here will help widen the lens by drawing attention to research on the actors, that is gamers and people interested in playing and commenting on games,” said Zeiler.

The first issue gamevironments –titled “Video Gaming, Let’s Plays, and Religion: The Relevance of Researching Gamevironments”–was released for publication on December 31st, and is found at: http://www.gamevironments.com.

This summary of research also appears on Religion News Service at:http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2015/01/28/new-journal-highlights-...


Forrest Rule - Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 10:42

Digital Death: Mortality and Beyond in the Online Age, by editors Christopher M. Moreman and A. David Lewis provides a broad selection of essays revolving around the online behaviors that the living perform to congregate around, mourn, and memorialize the dead. The authors intend for Digital Death to serve as a primer to generate further inquiry into the interplay of the digital sphere and the practices the living enact in the commemoration of those that have died. In this regard, the book succeeds by introducing readers to several topics within this emergent discussion.

A section concerning social media and mourning includes chapters that examine the role and function of deceased users’ Facebook profiles, the changes such profiles undergo when they cease to be a representation of the user’s identity and are instead managed collectively by the Friends who visit the deceased’s profile. Other chapters in this section analyze the impact that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest have had on the ways that users experience and express, and make a spectacle of grief online.

The second part of the book explores memorialization online and questions surrounding ‘legacy.’ The authors of this section’s chapters broadly consider issues of space and place, permanence and temporality, animation and repose, commerce, vandalism, and socially sensitive design in online memorials and digital cemeteries.

The final section of the book focuses on what the editors offer as “Virtual Worlds beyond Death.” This section ventures into diverse and surprising territory. One chapter examines the purpose of and discourse within a fanfiction memorial on LiveJournal commemorating a deceased character, Laura Roslin, and Battlestar Galactica, the televisual universe that she inhabited. Another chapter explores works by Nabokov and Diderot that have anticipated or shaped our understanding of various relationships between biological mortality and media. Another chapter explores player character’s death in video games and its relation to progress loss, saving to retain progress, and the implications of permadeath—the permanent loss of a player’s character and progress. The final chapter of this section explores digital death of MMO’s by examining the rise and fall of massively multiplayer online games. Reflecting on his own experience as an MMO player and digital ethnographer, Bainbridge exposes the mortality of digital worlds which cannot be conserved in the ways that archives and libraries can retain books, recordings and conventional video games stored on discs and cartridges.

Moreman and Lewis do not simply provide an eclectic and accessible collection of essays concerning the myriad ways that mortality, grief, commemoration, and impermanence have shaped and been shaped by their interaction with the digital sphere; this collection provides a set of readings housed in a series of discussions that are already well underway. The work provides an accessible introduction to the subject with ample references to existing scholarship. While the book does not anticipate a well-informed reader, a scholar of digital religion will find a number of insights and questions for future research.


Heidi Campbell - Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - 06:05

Buddhism has been uniquely affected by the digital revolution and integration of new media into its spiritual practices. Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus offers a collective interdisciplinary exploration of the existence and nature of Buddhism in the digital and highly networked era we live in. This is the first book in the new Routledge Studies in Religion and Digital Culture series.

Editors Gregory Price Grieve, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and Daniel Veidlinger, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at California State University-Chico, have compiled a collection of significant discussions that surfaced from a 2011 symposium on Buddhism and digital media. This collection provides the first collaborative and multi-disciplinary investigation of how Buddhism intersects with digital and online worlds.

“This volume aims to assess how digital media affect Buddhism and to help us understand what new forms of Buddhist practice, belief, and community are emerging within this digital nexus,” states Veidlinger.

Contributors suggest that digital and online media have now taken the place of oral communication and manuscripts as new conduits for religion. Turning their attention to Buddhism, they examine its relationship with digital media through concrete case studies, ethnographic research, cognitive psychology, historical investigation, and content analysis.

Veidlinger notes that while Buddhism’s relationship to digital media has been understudied there are in fact many important reasons to focus on this topic. For example, Buddhism speaks of notions such as the ideology of constant change, which features prominently in the ephemeral world of digital media as well. It is also a religion that is thriving in our current interconnected world, and practitioners are eagerly utilizing online virtual space for communication, practice and development of new religious communities.

“Rituals are being reconfigured for online virtual worlds and mobile apps, and communities that are spread out across the globe are communicating with each other in new and unprecedented ways,” says Veidlinger. “Buddhism’s authority structures are being challenged in some cases and upheld in others, its scholars are publishing important studies online, and the whole process is being recorded and commented on in innumerable blogs.”

The ten contributors from disciplines such as communication, sociology, Buddhist studies and comparative religion each bring with them diverse perspectives on methodological, historical and sociological approaches to digital Buddhism. Together they ultimately argue that the digital mediation of Buddhism has been an important and well-suited transition that expresses much of this religion’s ethos.
As Grieve notes, “for historic and conceptual reasons Buddhism meshes well with digital media’s affordances. In fact, digital media and Buddhism have shared an intimate link from the very beginning.”

By offering a comparative approach involving scholars from a number of different disciplines this book capture the unique effect new media has on Buddhist communities online and offline. It also shows how digital religion engages and is shaping non-western contexts.
Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus was release this month, November 2014, by Routledge of the Taylor and Francis group, see: http://routledge-ny.com/books/details/9780415721660/.

This summary of research also appears on Religion News Service at:
http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/11/24/new-book-explores-impac...


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 11:39

While media, religion and culture studies has emerged as an important area of research, few publications exist that provide a thorough comprehensive overview in the key questions and approaches taken. Jeffery Mahan, Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Chair in Religion and Public Communication at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, new book Media, Religion and Culture: an Introduction provides a unique overview of the multidisciplinary perspectives taken in the emerging study of religion, media, and culture with his new publication. Media, Religion and Culture addresses a fundamental question that resides within the study of media and religion, that is the extent to which media, religion and culture are inseparably dependent and they ways the influence perceptions of religion in popular culture.

Mahan argues “people’s experience of the sacred and religion is thoroughly mediated” and so media spaces and cultures becomes important space to understand religious meaning-making. An important contribution of the book is his work highlight that studying religious intersection with digital media provides a fruitful way to explore broader question of religious community and identity in media culture. Mahan suggests that digital media serves as a metaphor through which people think about their own religious lives. Just as digital media are constructed of pixels of information which can be endlessly recombined, people see their religious identity as a something they construct from multiple sources, and which they are free to continue to edit and revise. “In the digital world, authority has become conversational. We can have interactions with those in power that we were never able to have in the past. This creates a very different power dynamic than the hierarchical model of authority in which someone stands at a high place and speaks down to a group of people,” said Mahan.

“Today religious authority is rooted in charisma, and being able to have rich ongoing conversation in which people are empowered to make choice.” While other publications exist seeking to provide an overview of general themes and specialized topics related to the study of media and religion Media, Religion and Culture combines overview essays with case studies from leading scholars in the field to illustrate the multidisciplinary approaches taken. For example, after the chapter key themes in the study of media, religion and culture Jeremy Stolow, Associate Professor of Communication at Concordia University, offers an overview on his study of “telegraphing the spirit” to show that communication technology since the telegraphy have often been regarded as religious mediums, able to mediate between human and spiritual realms so technology is seen as providing opportunities to interact with God. This case study illustrates that contemporary claims within

Digital Religion studies about the discourse and relationship between media technology and spirituality and their impact have a long history that needs to be considered. Combining these essays and case studies with discussion questions, highlighting key terms and an annotated bibliography of special topic readings means Media, Religion and Culture provides those interested in international and interdisciplinary conversations about media, religion and culture a vital and vibrant introduction “I hope that the book plays a role, in shaping the way that both for students and scholars that are new to the conversation, think about the topic, which will in turn hopefully shape the discourse,” said Mahan.

The book has already been recognized as in important resource, as Christopher Helland, Associate Professor at Dalhousie University, says “Understanding the complex relationship between religion and media is no easy feat. In this compelling and insightful volume we are provided with one of the most detailed and well-presented explorations of the intersections between the two. Mahan offers a truly multi-disciplinary approach that is both significant in its depth of study and broad in its range of topics. This book is a must read for anyone interested in exploring religion in contemporary society.”

For more information about Media, Religion and Culture: an Introduction, visit: www.routledge.com

This summary of research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu), which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.

Full Story also found at RNS website: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/10/29/new-book-offers-vital-o...


Heidi Campbell - Sunday, August 31, 2014 - 14:13

The following is a list of some of the current positions open for the 2015-2016 academic year of possible interest and relevance for scholars working in New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies. Deadlines and requirements for these jobs vary, so consult the ads carefully before applying.

TENURE TRACK POSITIONS

Assistant Professor in Media Studies
Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia
https://jobs.virginia.edu/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?ti...

Assistant Professor in Religion & Media
University of Toronto
https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=49547

Professor of Visual and Digital Culture
Bournemouth University
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AJN264/professor-of-visual-and-digital-culture/

Lecturer in Media Studies (Digital Media Production)
Massey University,School of English & Media Studies
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AJM304/lecturer-media-studies-digital-media-pr...

Professor of Converged Communications
Florida State College at Jacksonville
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175911033&Title=...

Associate or Full Professor
Department of Communication/Jacobs Institute, Cornell University
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175892785&Title=...

Assistant/Associate/Full Professor - New Media History and Theory
University of California, Berkeley
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175934440&Title=...

Assistant Professor in Digital Media
Xavier University
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175944941&Title=...

Assistant/Associate Professor of Web Communication & Media Arts
Houghton College
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175946062&Title=...

Assistant Professor in New Media
SUNY Purchase
http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/details.cfm?JobCode=175950460&Title=...

Open Rank Professor in Global Media and Technology
Texas A&M University
http://www.higheredjobs.com/details.cfm?JobCode=175931880

Dean of Media, Culture & Society
University of the West of Scotland
http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AJM806/dean-of-media-culture-and-society/

Open-rank position in Interactive Media
Department of Communication at the University of Haifa
http://mass.icahdq.org/ohana/website/?p=54164295

Assistant Professor Position: Media Technology Innovation & Effects Research
School of Communication at Florida State University
http://jobs.fsu.edu/ (Job #37749)

Assistant Professor in Digital Communication
University of Calgary
https://prdcgw.ehs.ucalgary.ca/uc_cg.html?Page=HRS_CE_JOB_DTL&Action=A&J...

Assistant Professor of New and Emerging Media
School of Journalism and Media Studies at Univ. of Nevada-Las Vegas
https://hrsearch.unlv.edu/current_vacancies.asp (search for position 15252)

Assistant Professor of Culture and New Media
Institute of Communication, Culture, Information & Technology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
https://utoronto.taleo.net/careersection/10050/jobdetail.ftl?lang=en&job...

Jointly appointed Assistant Professor in Digital Studies and Social Justice
University of Michigan’s Department of American Culture and the Residential College
http://www.lsa.umich.edu/ac/people/jobopenings/digitalstudies_ci

Assistant or Associate Professor, Communication Technology
Ohio State University
http://www.jobtarget.com/c/job.cfm?job=19857026&vnet=0&str=6&max=5&site_...

Assistant Professor of Communication-New Media
Wheaton College
http://www.jobtarget.com/c/job.cfm?job=19738054&vnet=0&str=16&max=5&site...

Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Communication in Digital Culture
University of Pennsylvania
http://www.jobtarget.com/c/job.cfm?job=18744136&vnet=0&str=16&max=5&site...

Tenure-track Assistant Professor in Religious Studies and Material/Visual Culture
Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania
https://facultysearches.provost.upenn.edu/postings/267

POSTDOCS

2015-2016 Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Culture and the Arts
John Hopkins University
https://www.h-net.org/jobs/job_display.php?id=47378

Postdoctoral Fellowships at the Society of Fellows
Dartmouth College
http://www.dartmouth.edu/sof/

Pre- and Post-Doctoral Fellowships for Developing Teacher-Scholars from Diverse Backgrounds
Elon University
https://researchfunding.duke.edu/detail.asp?OppID=5540

John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures Postdoctoral Fellow
Rice University - Humanities Research Center
https://researchfunding.duke.edu/detail.asp?OppID=15287


Sebastian Maldonado - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 10:19

In Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life (Oxford University Press 2014), Robert M Geraci engages the way virtual worlds mediate religion in fostering space for community, ethical reflection, human meaning, and ideas of transcendence.

Immersive virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life have become treasured relief from conventional reality for millions of users who take up new identities and form communities online. Based upon ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, surveys, and textual analysis of virtual worlds, Geraci argues that these worlds are “virtually sacred” in that they “participate in our sacred landscape as outsiders, competitors, and collaborators.”

When traditional religious institutions migrate into virtual worlds, this provides new opportunities for old communities. From a recreation of the Islamic hajj (pilgrimage) to a Narnian-themed Christian community, Second Life offers a multitude of ways in which religious groups can share their visions online and construct new ways of creating religious communities. Online participants have a wide variety of reasons for joining virtual worlds, but the powerful religious opportunities in those worlds are among their chief attractions and keep users returning again and again.

Virtual worlds “allow us new ways of expressing old religious practices and beliefs,” Geraci writes, “but they also offer new ways of circumventing those traditions.” Both Second Life and World of Warcraft operate as what Religious Studies Scholar David Chidester calls “authentic fakes”—secular practices that do the work of traditional religions.

For some users, the transcendent appeal of World of Warcraft is so strong that they would like to copy or transfer their minds into the game, becoming immortal software angels. This desire to upload consciousness into a virtual reality has become increasingly common in tech culture, with influential advocates such as Google’s Ray Kurzweil and M.I.T.’s Marvin Minsky arguing that human minds are information patterns that can be replicated outside of the body. This belief pervades Second Life’s culture, and Geraci documents its influence in the design of the virtual world and in the enthusiastic participation of transhumanist communities there.

“They wander across amazing landscapes in amazing bodies and gain powers beyond mortal ken,” writes Geraci. “Now, however, virtual worlds approach the powers of religion by offering transcendent places and experiences, and have, in fact, been explicitly compared to religious places and practices.”

Bonnie Nardi, Professor of Informatics at UC-Irvine and author of My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft, states that Geraci’s “astute argument that video gamers discover enchantment, redemption, and transcendence in gaming deserves widespread attention. Virtually Sacred is one of the most original treatments of gaming and participation in virtual worlds I have ever read. The elegant, understated prose provides the perfect foil for Geraci’s unexpected, provocative foray into grasping the contours of religiosity in gaming and virtual worlds.”

Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life was published by Oxford University Press in June 2014. More information can be found at: http://global.oup.com/academic/product/virtually-sacred-9780199344697

This summary of research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu), which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.

Contact

Robert M Geraci, PhD Professor of Religious Studies Manhattan College
robert.geraci@manhattan.edu

New item is also posted online at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/08/21/virtually-sacred-explor...


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 09:23

Increasing scholarly attention is being given to how religion engages and is shaped by digital culture, as seen by the focus of many presentations slated for the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture conference in early August in Canterbury, UK.

The International Society for Media, Religion and Culture (ISMRC) conference held August 4-7, 2014, is the 9th in a series of events assembling an international group of interdisciplinary scholars to better understand relationships between media, society and religion and the significance of media for religion in public life. The event draws a diverse crowd of academics and students with interests ranging from media studies and religious studies to anthropology and digital humanities.

According to Lynn Schofield Clark, Professor at the University of Denver and Conference Program Planner, the series has proven to have a lasting impact. “The conference series has provided an important foundation for thinking about these areas of media, religion, and culture. This year’s event highlights new theoretical frameworks for understanding how societies encounter religion through media institutions and the ways religious life takes place through media-related practices.”

The conference is hosted by the University of Kent’s Professor Gordon Lynch. This year’s program is notable for drawing together scholars working on digital religion research. Several prominent themes include the portrayals of gender in religion digital media, how new media influences religious authority and the ways religion and religious identity is lived out through social networking and mobile media.

Samira Rajabi, from University of Colorado-Boulder, explores gender and digital media in her work on “Powerful Pinning: Gender, faith and meaning making on Pinterest”. Her research explores how female users carefully select religious symbols and images to present their personal religiosity in ways that imitate religious devotional acts.

Numerous papers investigate how religious authority is reshaped by digital media including that of Ruth Tsuria, from Texas A&M University, who considers how Orthodox Israeli Rabbis present their authority online in, “Rabbis Negotiating their Religious Authority Online: A case study of Israeli Jewish Responsa”. Tsuria notes her work shows, “How the study of digital religion is maturing, to consider the complexities of the interaction between offline-online relationships within religious communities, or in the case of my research, how religious authority negotiate the opportunities and challenges new media.”

In his research titled “American Cyber Sufis: Islamic Authority, Identity and Ritual Online”, Robert Rozenhal from Lehigh University shows that American Muslims use internet to affirm their faith while undermining traditional religious institutions. Additionally Anna Piela, from Leeds Trinity University-UK, investigates Muslim identity online through ways women represent the niqab (the all-enveloping Islamic dress) on photo sharing websites such as Flickr.

These and other presentations show the increased interest in the growing diversity of religious activity and engagement online, from the ways online temple ritual connect members of the Tibetan Diaspora to creative ways of spreading Christianity through mobile phones in Zimbabwe. This year’s event shows that digital religion has become a pervasive and dynamic global phenomenon.

Clark suggests the event offers an important opportunity to reflect on these trends. “The International Society for Media, Religion and Culture conference series provide a unique opportunity for an interdisciplinary crowd from around the world to deepen collaborations, form new friendships, and discover new areas of interest and relevance that can influence their teaching and research agendas on many themes for years to come.”

This event is sponsored by The University of Kent, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture, and the Porticus Family Foundation. More information on ISMRC and the conference can be found at: http://www.kent.ac.uk/secl/thrs/events/event2014-08-06.html

This summary of research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu), which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.

Contact

Gordon Lynch, University of Kent
G.Lynch@kent.ac.uk

News item is also posted online at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/07/17/digital-religion-resear...


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, June 26, 2014 - 11:16

The book "Playing with Religion in Digital Games" spotlights the growing influence religion has in digital gaming. It also showcases the increased attention by scholars around the world to digital gaming and its impact on popular conceptions of religion.

A recent Indiana University Press release illustrates how using religious images, narratives and characters in popular video and digital games can reveal important insights about how religion in popular culture. Playing with Religion in Digital Games gives a fresh look into a range of common manifestations of spiritual and religious themes of different gaming platforms. The book also maps the ways religion is used in gaming to create myths and meanings, revealing the implications of these uses for gamers and framings of religion.

This is the first volume in Indiana University Press’s Digital Games Studies Series, which is devoted to examining video games while engaging a range of social and cultural issues. The publication is edited by Gregory Price Grieve, associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina and Heidi A Campbell, associate professor of Communication at Texas A&M University, who assembled an international collection of scholars working on the intersection of religion and gaming.

This is an important collection, as editor Gregory Price Grieve notes. “There is a notion that games and religion have nothing to do with each other,” said Grieve. “This book provides evidence that they do actually have a lot of similarities and these similarities offer insights into aspect of how religion is performed.”

The book explores how religion is portrayed and negotiated within religiously-themed gaming, the ways religion is performed and presented within mainstream gaming and how gaming may serve a religious-like role in the practices of some gamers. Chapters analyze debates about how using Muslims and Hindu gods as gaming characters reframes religion in both positive problematic ways. Other chapters consider how some characterizations of religion expressed in popular games present non-traditional conceptions of the relationship that exists between virtual and spiritual worlds.

This book contributes to understanding of how religion is interpreted and employed by game designers and players in important ways, shedding light on existing questions about the role of religion in society and conceptions of religion outside religious communities.

Overall, Playing with Religion in Digital Games maps the different and dominant approaches in the emerging field of religion and gaming studies, while urging why games studies needs to pay more attention to the role played by religion in digital games.

As Grieve comments, “Many people have made very general claims about religion and games, but few close readings about the games themselves exist. No other book provides such a thorough and theoretically mindful analysis of religion within a variety of games as this one.”

The book has already received accolades from Publisher’s Weekly and scholars including Mia Consalvo of Concordia University and author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames.

“This volume brings together the fields of religion studies and game studies in valuable ways,” Consalvo writes. “It helps us see the many and complex roles that religion and spirituality can take on within contemporary videogames, and explores how digital games have become a key element of contemporary life—in both its sacred and its profane expressions.”

Playing with Religion in Digital Games was published by Indiana University Press in late April 2014. More information can be found at: http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=807175

A summary of this research is provided by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu), which seeks to show how digital religion shapes our everyday lives and world.

This overview is also posted at Religion News Service at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/06/27/new-book-sheds-light-ro...


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