AAR 2015 Top Digital Religion Sessions

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:

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

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

Michael Houseman, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

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

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

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