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Heidi Campbell - Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 10:30

Network Research Associate Adam Bajan talks about his current research on Bridging the Gap: The Deterministic Influence of Digital Media on Pastoral Authority. His PhD work explores how religious leaders reflexively orient themselves to developments in communication technology.

As he states:

In 2015 the Pew Research Center released a landmark longitudinal study entitled America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Results confirmed what pastors and priests throughout America had known for some time; that the Christian share of America’s population is in decline and that the number of Americans identifying as religious is also dropping. But within this trend is a surprising statistic: affiliation with the evangelical Protestant tradition actually increased by roughly two million in the last several years. This brings the total number of American evangelical Protestants (denominational and non-denominational) to an estimated 64 million and growing. While there are a number of factors behind this demographic shift, one in particular links them all together: a rise in the use of digital media by religious practitioners, both in and outside of the church environment.

This ever-increasing use of digital media in religious environments results in the barriers that previously separated on and offline lived religious practice becoming bridged, blended, and at times, blurred. In turn, scholars have proposed a number of theories to explain how religious organizations adopt and shape media in order to facilitate worship within this digitally mediated context or ‘digital religion’ (Campbell, 2012). Many of these theories are rooted in a social shaping of technology paradigm which affords agency to religious organizations and their leaders who are responsible for ensuring a safe future for their churches and congregations. My research aims to connect a social shaping of technology approach to media development with a soft-determinist perspective in which media, as extensions of human beings, exert an ecological influence on religious group leaders, one which occurs prior to the social shaping of technology process.

More information found online at: https://comm.tamu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2015/08/Bajan-Research-...


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - 13:48

Each month the MediaCommons Field Guide website hosts different conversation in the Digital Humanities, asking contributors to connect their interests or research to a core conceptual question.

In October they asks scholars working in various areas of Digital Humanities to consider. In October 2017, it asks scholars to consider, "How does the digital intersect with spirituality/religion?" and "How have digital/virtual technologies broadened approaches to the study of spirituality/religion?" How does the digital intersect with spirituality/religion? How have digital/virtual technologies broadened approaches to the study of spirituality/religion?

Below is the Opening Response solicited by MediaCommons and offered by Heidi A. Campbell, Associate Professor of Communication, of Texas A&M University, found at: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/question/how-does-digital-inters...

For over two decades I have studied the intersection between computer-mediated technologies, digital spaces, and religion. I began in the mid-1990s studying the rise of online religious communities that were forming through email and other discussion forums. This led me to explore issues of religious identity and authority online in cyberchurches, Islamogaming, the kosher cell phone, religious mobile apps, and most recently investigation how Internet memes about religion provide insights into how religion is represented within digital culture. My research has emerged alongside the work of other scholars in the fields of Communication, Religious Studies, Sociology of Religion, and Theology, and in the last few years this given rise to a new subfield of inquiry known as Digital Religion Studies.

I define “digital religion” in the introduction of the edited collection Digital Religion: Explorations in New Media Worlds (Routledge 2013) as the technological and cultural space that is evoked when we discuss how online and offline religious spheres have increasingly become blended and/or integrated in our network society (Campbell 2013). Those who study digital religion see online religious practice and beliefs as integrated into offline religious communication and communities and vice versa. As the Internet has become an integral part of the everyday lives of many religious practitioners, scholars have observed the variety of ways digital technologies help bridge, connect, and/or extend online religious practices and spaces into offline religious contexts. From online worship and prayer in virtual temples and churches to building new forms of religious community with fellow believers around the world through social media such as Facebook and Instagram, spiritual seekers continue to find creative ways to use digital platforms to reimagine religious rituals and express their sacred beliefs.

Digital Religion Studies has primarily theorized about how religion and the digital intersect by focusing on how religious communities respond to digital technologies and/or how digital cultures are shaping religious individuals’ behaviors and practices. Drawing on theories from Sociology and Media studies — such as Mediatization, Mediation of Meaning, and the Social-Shaping of Technology — has provided useful frameworks for explaining the different perceptions of how religious believers and leaders negotiate and relate to new media technologies and environments.

More recently work begun by scholars seeks to unearth and identify born-digital theories of digital religion. In other words, scholars have begun to consider how the unique social nature and cultural context of our digital, network society informs perceptions of what we consider religious, and how spiritual meaning and process become understood and conceptualized within technologically-infused space and culture. Digital Religion Studies is now situated within an interesting intellectual moment. It is one where scholars are exploring alternative frames —such as those found within Posthuman and Post-secular discourses — to explain not only how the digital and religion intersect, but how they become entwined and increasingly interdependent on one another. I suggest Digital Religion Studies offers a unique and vibrant area to explore how the digital becomes integrated into different cultures, and not just religions ones. This work highlights the factors that shape individual and group negotiation processes with technology, and how these inform the ways we view humanity and reality in a digital age.


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 13:40

Over the next few month the Network will be featuring a new blog series. The "Digital Religion Scholars Spotlight" series will provide brief overview of interesting and important work being done by scholars around the world studying themes related to Digital Religion. Spotlights will provide reviews of recent books and research studies of these scholars , as well as provide background information on key and up-and-coming scholars in the field.


Heidi Campbell - Monday, September 25, 2017 - 11:06

The International Society for Media, Religion and Culture (http://ismrc-seoul.com/) is offering a unique opportunity for Doctoral Students studying Digital Religion topics. Below is a Call for Papers: for the 2nd Doctoral Colloquium Pre-Conference to be held the day before the start of the 2018 ISMRC conference (see: http://www.colorado.edu/ismrc/). The event will be held at University of Colorado, Boulder.

This pre-conference will provide doctoral students the opportunity to present their research, receive feedback from leaders in the field, discuss theoretical, methodological and professional challenges, as well as network with other peers.
Interested students should prepare a) 1-2 page (500-800 word) extended abstract of the student's thesis/major research project and b) a sample paper/chapter (up to 5000 words) of writing related to the topic.
All materials are to be prepared in English and are due on or before 15th of January 2018.

Please send all applications to the Doctoral Colloquium Chair, Associate Professor Heidi Campbell (heidic@tamu.edu), with subject: ISMRC doctoral colloquium application.
Questions may also be directed to the same email.

Important dates are as follows:

Pre-Conference date: 7th of August 2018
Deadline for Paper proposals: 15 January 2018
Notification of acceptances: end of February 2018

We highly encourage international and interdisciplinary student participation in this event!


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 11:20

The season of Lent is upon us. This is a holy season for Christians who seek to identify with Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting as he prepared to be tested and later crucified. In order to identify with Christ’s self-sacrifice, Christians often join in a symbolic fast, giving up certain foods such as meat or chocolate or even giving up certain practices.

In recent years, fasting from the internet or other forms of technology has become popular. Fasting from technology is encouraged by many religious leaders as the ideal way for individuals to reflect on their daily dependency on technology. Sometimes called taking a “digital Sabbath,” it refers to the Christian and Jewish practice, in which one day a week is set aside as sacred.

On such a day, secular practices such as using media are halted in order to help believers focus on God and their faith. This is based on the premise that the best way to critically engage with technology is to unplug from it. It’s a way to remember that true communication is unmediated by technology and grounded in being with one another in the “real world.”

Unplugging from social media or limiting one’s internet use for a set period such as during Lent can be helpful for some individuals. My research, conducted over two decades, however, shows that some of core assumptions on which digital fasting is based on can be problematic or misguided.

Technology can, in fact, be good for religion. The question is, how do we engage with technology thoughtfully and actively?

Media and immoral values?

First, let’s look at how religious groups interact and make decisions about new forms of media.

In my recent book, “Networked Theology,” my coauthor Stephen Garner and I discuss how some religious communities believe the media primarily promote immoral values and frivolous entertainment. Therefore, they insist interaction with media via digital devices should be controlled, just as is done during a digital fast.

In “Networked Theology,” we explain how abstaining from media is based on an assumption often referred to as “technological determinism.” It is a theory that argues media technology shapes how individuals in society think and act. Technology is presented as the central factor driving society, and its character is often described as selfish and dehumanizing.

This view presents the internet as a medium that creates environments that disconnect us from reality. For example, YouTube could be seen to promote entertainment culture over wisdom, Facebook encourages self-promotion over community-building and Twitter facilitates tweeting whatever comes to one’s mind rather than listening.

People are not passive users

The truth is digital media is increasingly a part of daily routines. People learn, do business and communicate with technology. Often technology enhances our daily lives, such as eyeglasses correcting vision or the telephone helping people communicate across time and space.

A man praying during Lent. AP Photo/Fernando Llano
.
The problem, however, comes when we assume that people have only two options: to engage technology and inevitably be seduced by it, or refuse to use it in order to resist its power.

Digital fasting follows this second option. It presents individuals as slaves of technology. Taking the occasional timeout from the all-powerful grip of technology is done in order to simply regroup and prepare to again face its irresistible seduction.

In my view, such an approach places too much emphasis on the assertion that technological devices now dictate most people’s lives. It also does not take into account that technology users have the ability to make their own choices about how they approach it. So people can choose to use technology in ways that fulfill spiritual goals.

In “Networked Theology,” we argue that digital technology can be reshaped by users. As others have written, we agree that people should take more responsibility for the time spent with their devices.

Deepening devotion with technology

So, instead of resisting technology during Lent, individuals could use this space of holy reflection to actively consider how to integrate technology to support their spiritual development.

Religious groups have the ability to determine the culture technology promotes, if only they take time to prayerfully create their own “theology of technology.”

I describe part of this process as being “techno-selective.” What this means is reflecting on the technology we select and how and why we use it. It also means being proactive in shaping our technologies so they enhance and not distract from our spiritual journeys.

A digital Lent can become about considering how our devices can help us do justice, practice kindness and demonstrate humility in our world. For example, people could ask if their postings on Facebook are helping in creating a positive or more abusive world? Or, whether the apps they use or their cellphone etiquette promotes peace and social change?

Apps for social justice

In the last five years I have been working with a team of students at Texas A&M University to explore how social and mobile media are being developed that can support a variety of religious beliefs and practices. We found there are religious apps to help people do that. Internet memes also provide unique insights into common stereotypes about religion within popular culture.

Memes can be crafted to counter such misconceptions. For example, the wearing of hijabs, or head scarves, by Muslim women is viewed by many outside the religion as oppressive, but wearing the veil and modesty are themes frequently affirmed in memes created by Muslims.

Digital devices can create space for holy reflection. Linda Flores, CC BY-NC-ND

Further, our research on religious mobile apps has found increasing numbers of apps are available that help individuals stay faithful in their religious practices on a daily basis. Apps can help with the reading of sacred texts, provide religious study aids, help locate kosher or halal products to maintain a holy lifestyle and connect people with places of worship and also to other beliefs.

Prayer and meditation apps can help users remember when to pray and become more accountable in these daily spiritual practices.

Also apps designed to encourage involvement in social justice causes, such as TraffickStop, Lose Weight or Donate and CharityMiles, help raise awareness of key issues and even help users link their daily practices, such as what they eat, to micro-donations to social justice organizations.

A digital Lent?

Lent is a great time for religious individuals and groups to pause and consider not only their own technological practices and how they shape our world but also the ways in which digital resources can be integrated into their communities to support their beliefs.

So instead of giving up Facebook for Lent, consider doing Lent digitally.

Practicing 40 days of technoselectivity might actually have a longer-term impact socially and spiritually on one’s daily life. It could even deepen religious devotion.

This piece was first published with The Conversation and appears online at: https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-digital-devices-this-lent-for-hol...


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...


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