Blog

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...


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 10:38

A recent study of religious mobile applications from five major world religions provides insights into common types, purpose and use of religious apps.

While iTunes is a leading repository for religious mobile applications, its App store does not offer a specific “religion” category. Finding religious apps and identifying their intended spiritual purpose can be difficult.

A research team at Texas A&M University investigated the range of religious mobile apps in iTunes. Their study of more than 450 apps found the apps fell into 11 different categories, regardless of the app’s religious orientation.

“Our study of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim apps offers a clear set of categories for those seeking to understand how designers expect users to practice religion with digital mobile apps” said Wendi Bellar, project team member.

Through an extensive review of hundreds of religious apps, researchers found 11 common app categories across different religions and several key design features.

Some of the most common categories include Religious Utilities that offer information to help users perform specific religious practices, Sacred Texts providing interaction with digitized versions of sacred texts, and Prayer apps that allow mobile devices to become a conduit for prayer.

The researchers also found that their 11 categories could be further divided into two groups. Apps oriented around religious practice are those that help to facilitate religious practices such as praying, meditating, and reading scared texts. Examples include the Lulav Wizard app, which creates a digital replica of a palm tree’s frond, teaching the users how to swing it during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, and The Lord’s Prayer app that offers users simple text guides through a recitation of the well-known Christian prayer.

Apps embedded with religious content are those that insert religion into secular practices, rather than recreate traditional religious practices. For example, the Islamic Free Quiz app uses a game show format to teach users about basic tenets of Islam. Other religious content apps help users remember important dates and times for religious holidays, such as the Hebrew Calendar Converter.

“What this means is that developers tend to concentrate their app design around reminding users when to practice their religion, or helping users practice their religion whenever, wherever they are,” explains Bellar.

Overall the study suggests these 11categories provide a starting point for evaluating the intentions and motivations behind the design of religious apps.

“This research opens up the door for more careful reflection on how audiences engage with mobile applications” said Heidi Campbell, Associate Professor of Communication and project director, “It gives scholars a unique and useful methodological framework for studying religious apps.”

The full study “There’s a religious app for that!: A framework for studying religious mobile applications” is authored by Heidi A Campbell, Brian Altenhofen, Wendi Bellar, and Kyong James Cho and appears in the May issue of Mobile Media & Communication (http://mmc.sagepub.com/content/2/2/154.short).

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/2014/05/07/study-finds-religious-a...


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 09:11

Some Brief Reflections on Allen Downey’s Report on Correlations between Religious Affiliation, Education and Internet Use

Allen Downey’s Religious affiliation, education and Internet use report (March 2014) has received much press coverage this week. This morning I awoke to several press inquiries in my inbox regarding my reaction to his findings. Many news stories and blogs have suggested his findings show that the Internet is destroying faith, or at least leading to a significant decline in religious affiliation. However, In my opinion, this conclusion is not wholly founded based on a close reading of the report.

The study itself argues that “the impact of internet use is comparable to the effect of religious upbringing” (Downey 2014, p.6) which noted a strong decline in people being raised without a religious affiliation has increased from 3.3% in the 1980s to 7.7% in the 2000s. A some have noted while the study shows a strong correlation between the rise of internet use and the decline of religious affiliation, this does not necessarily indicate a clear correlation. The report also suggests that the strongest explanatory variable noted is that religious upbringing influences religious affiliation.

This specific finding seems to echo the Pew 2012 report on “Nones on the Rise report” about American adults without religious affiliation that hypothesizes some of reasons for this trend might relate to delayed marriage, broad social disengagement and trends toward secularization in American society. Therefore religious affiliation seems to be influenced by family patters of religiosity and trends that note a general decline in civic engagement and other social affiliations.

While the report “imagines” a possible connection between increased Internet use and disaffiliation due to two factors (a) that the Internet allows people to connect with those outside their homogeneous communities and (b) enabled those with religious doubt opportunities to seek out like minds it also states: “it is hard (but not impossible) to imagine plausible reason why disaffiliation might cause increased Internet use. (Downey, p. 9). The study author also stresses that “it is unlikely that religious upbringing has a negative effect on Internet use large enough to explain the relationship between Internet use and affiliation” (p. 9). So the author himself seems to doubts any strong or significant correlation between the factors of religious affiliation decline linked strongly to increase in Internet use.

What I make of this is that this study shows that the rise of Americans who seem themselves as religiously unaffiliated mirrors trends in the rise of Internet access in use in a similar time window. However trends toward religious disaffiliation, or what some sociologist have called “belief without belonging”, has been occurring for a much longer period, arguably at least since post WWII, which is much than we have had public Internet access. In my opinion I think it is much too early to make a strong causal link between the two trends.

In my previous work I have argued that what the Internet does is magnify and spotlight broader religious trends already happening in culture. For example, claims that Internet use is causing a disintegration or loss of religious community are generally unfounded. Rather the internet facilitates new forms of social networks that serve in similar roles and often augment traditional religious communities (Campbell 2004). It also highlights that the ways people understand, create and function as religious communities have shifted over time from tightly-bound groups based on geographic and family ties to loose social networks based on social needs and personal preferences. Also instead of people using the internet to log on and drop out of offline religious groups or engage in religious ritual spaces, the Internet becomes a way to extend religious practices into new spheres of engagement and supplement their offline activities to expand the breadth of their religious activities (Campbell 2005).

Overall in my two decades of research on religion and the Internet I have found that the internet tends to supplement rather than fully substitute for religious offline engagement. Also I note that rather than the Internet is leading to declines religious identification, attendance and the influence of religious leaders, what the study of religion online does is highlight such trends already manifest in offline culture (Campbell 2012). Therefore the Internet does not prove to be the cause, but the microcosm that highlight broader social shifts that challenge religious institutions and communities (Campbell 2013).

It is also important to note that studies showing a decline in religious affiliation do not necessarily mean “religious nones” have a decline in spirituality or personal religious practice outside formal institutions (Drescher forthcoming). The Internet is a great facilitator of religious practice though this may be taking place in social networks and online gatherings rather than in traditional spaces such as churches, which are marked as the measure of traditional religious affiliation.

So in summary, while I think Downey’s report provides an interesting reflection and on issues impacting and shaping the American religious landscape, I think a much closer investigation is needed about the other social factors leading to disaffiliation before claims that Internet use is a primary causal link can be made.

References:
Campbell, H. (2013). Religion and the internet: A microcosm for studying internet trends and implications. New Media & Society. 15(5): 680-694.

Campbell, H. (2012). Understanding the relationship between religious practice online and offline in a networked society. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 80(1), 64-93.

Campbell, H. (2005). Considering spiritual dimensions within computer-mediated communication studies. New Media and Society, 7(1), 111-135.

Campbell, H. (2004). Challenges created by online religious networks. Journal of Media and Religion, 3(2), 81-99.

Downey, A. (March 2014), Religious affiliation, education and Internet use
URL: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1403.5534v1.pdf

Elizabeth Drescher (forthcoming) Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones. NY: Oxford University Press.

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (2012) “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. URL: http://www.pewforum.org/files/2012/10/NonesOnTheRise-full.pdf


Heidi Campbell - Monday, April 7, 2014 - 11:50

A recent study of young British Sikhs shows that while they may be digitally savvy and engage with religion on the Internet, for many of them, traditional offline community and authorities continue to play a central role.

While many scholars argue that online environments may lead to the rise of new religious authorities, a new study conducted at the University of Leeds shows that for young Britain Sikhs, online interactions may not always alter religious beliefs and practices.

“Much of the influence of the internet appeared to depend on the prior affiliations of young religious users and what they brought with them from the offline” says study author Jasjit Singh, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds.

If a young Internet user, for example, is already affiliated with a specific religious Sikh group, the Internet can help reinforce existing ideas about religious tradition and authority. Sikhs in the study identified themselves as 18 to 30 years of age.

“If you are unaffiliated and begin to engage with tradition online, the Internet affords a ‘safe’ space for exploring tradition on your own terms,” reports Singh.

The young British Sikhs in this study used the Internet in unique ways, such as discussing taboo subjects, exploring diverse ideologies within the Sikh tradition, accessing religious music and discourse, learning of Sikh events, purchasing Sikh resources, and discovering the legal position of Sikh articles of faith.

Although the Internet has often been described as the technological advance that changed the world, the study found that little has changed for some Sikhs. The Internet allows young Sikhs to explore and engage with traditional religion. Yet, when young Sikhs “check” information found online, they often continue citing offline elders or authorities.

However, the Internet does appear to affect some traditional religious structures; young Sikhs can now bypass these to mobilize on issues they feel are important.

“There is some influence on religious ideology, as practices such as Kundalini yoga, which previously was not very well known, have their profile raised through the online environment,” Singh said.

This study also observed that the Internet may affect how young Sikhs read religious texts, because online translation software enables them to engage with these texts in ways their parents would never have been able to.

Overall, the study shows that although the Internet has become a new resource for religion learning and interaction, it does not appear to be replacing the role and value of face-to-face interactions with hierarchical religious authorities.

For the full text of “Sikh-ing online: the role of the Internet in the religious lives of young British Sikhs” is found in the January 2014 edition of Contemporary South Asia at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09584935.2013.870974#.Uyy1Mvl...

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.

This report also appears on the Religion News Service website at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/04/07/study-young-networked-s...


Kyong James Cho - Sunday, March 30, 2014 - 22:19

Religion Across Media brings together scholars to offer a perspective which problematizes an oppositional reading of media and religion, opting instead for a more integrated approach. The edited volume approaches religion and media from a mediation perspective. This mediation of religion approach views “religion as practice of mediation between humans and the professed transcendent” (p. 8). The locus of study is not so much the belief system as it is in religious expression. Religion is always mediated, whether by text, speech, our bodies, or digital technology. Birgit Meyer poses the question in the following way (Chapter 1):

“How do new media intervene in an established practice of mediation, characterized by the use of particular media, modes of transmission, and systems of communication? How does this change normalized transmission and communication? Posing these questions is even more intriguing with regard to religion, which has long been held to be the ultimate zone for immediate, deeply existential encounters with the sacred. How do the notions of mediation and re-mediation transform our understanding of religion 'as we know it' and help us grasp the role of new media in transforming religion?” (p. 7).

The uniqueness of religion is that it is assumed that those engaging in religious practices have a direct connection to God. However, any communication with God or religious expression within a community or in interpersonal context should be understood as mediated. Even praying (silently or out loud) appears to require some bodily movement or posture. This approach helps broaden our perspective of media beyond what Ingeborg Lied (Chapter 4) identifies as the myth of the history of media beginning somewhere in the 15th century with Johannes Gutenberg. We begin to see the use of bodily mediation and religious performance (Husken's Chapter 5) as significant, and oral communication and writing prior to print.

The unique strength of this approach is that it doesn't see media and religion as the intersection of separate subjects of study. Media is not distinct from religion, and their intersection is a unique perspective of studying religion. This is especially important considering the media-saturated environment that many in developed portions of the world operate. Digital media especially pervade daily life.

How does the mediation of religion perspective contribute to our understanding of digital religious behavior? One good example of this is Lovheim's chapter on the expression of religion by female Swedish bloggers, whom negotiate their sense of authority in digital space. These actors, by participating in blogging, are not only asserting their own authority but are giving expression to religion through the blurring of the private and the public. To view the act of blogging as religious expression gives it a new meaning difficult to perceive if blogging were viewed simply as a transmission of religious ideas to a new media, for example.

Religion Across Media takes seriously the means through which religion is expressed. It is a collection of work which articulates the mediation of meaning perspective as applied to religion. It may be useful to consult Lundby chapter on theoretical frameworks for approaching religion and new media in Digital Religion (2013) to get a sense of where this approach fits along the spectrum of study.


Heidi Campbell - Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 09:56

Recently I came across a useful list of journals offered by the Association of Internet Researchers that are known to publish quality work on Internet studies. Many of these have also published work related to digital religion research including my own work over the past decade. The full list is found at: http://aoir.wikia.com/wiki/Journals_for_Internet_Research

Of these I would most notably recommend the following journals for digital religion scholars looking for high quality outlets for their work. These are also important publications to consult when doing focused literature reviews of what has already appeared and been researched on topics related to new media, religion and digital culture studies:

Convergence: http://con.sagepub.com/

Information, Communication & Society: http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=rics20#...

Journal of Computer-mediated Communication: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291083-6101

Mobile Media & Communication: http://www.sagepub.com/journals/Journal202140

New Media & Society: http://nms.sagepub.com/

The Information Society: http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=utis20#...


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 10:08

A recent study shows how digital and social media has allowed one of the largest international religious and benevolent organizations to keep in touch with its more than 10 million followers worldwide, and help them in their mission to provide humanitarian relief.

Tzu Chi, or the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, exemplifies a growing trend towards digital innovation among religious organizations.

Tzu Chi was established in 1966 in Taiwan by a 29-year-old Buddhist nun. She recognized that the Buddhist virtue of compassion could be achieved in practical innovative ways, such as activism and donation, rather than in traditional Buddhist approaches such as mediation. Today, Tzu Chi has millions of members in 50 countries and provides significant humanitarian aid all over the world.

However Tzu Chi leaders saw a need to help members find ways to show compassion on a daily basis. This is where social media started playing a crucial role, by helping Tzu Chi supporters to maintain contact with each other and offering members around the world opportunities to get involved in aid outreach and environmental conservation.

“When clergy and members of a religious community get involved in online activities, it helps religious organizations spread their vision and mission globally. This means daily online communication plays a vital role in building such organizations,” according to Pauline Hope Cheong, Associate Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, and the study’s lead author. The study was published in the journal of Information, Communication & Society in January 2014.

“The use of new media not only helps to advance the spiritual knowledge, but also helps to increase a sense of unity, belonging and commitment to public service among community members,” Cheong adds.

The Tzu Chi community has developed, for example, a unique icon-based online religious sign language that is shared only by members, allowing them, with a few keyboard characters, to say “Giving thanks” or “Praying piously” online. This use of the special religious symbols and other community specific communication strategies reinforces a sense of family among the members.

Tzu Chi’s innovative use of digital media—from posting teachings and mantras on a YouTube channel—to allowing members to share prayer requests on Facebook, also demonstrates what is described as “Engaged Buddhism.” This form of Buddhism focuses on putting Buddhist philosophy into action to alleviate human suffering and to advance human well-being. In “Engaged Buddhism,” media technology becomes the gateway for deeper spiritual and social engagement.

Cheong notes that while other scholars have presented social media as a problem and a threat to religious authority, their study shows social media is “an essential tool that helps reinforce a religious leader’s positions and their community creed.” By embracing social media, religious leaders make themselves more approachable and relatable, which helps them gain the support and trust of their members and volunteers.

Overall this study demonstrates that digital media practice helps religious organizations expand their influence and authority around the world.

For the full text of study, “Transnational Immanence: the Autopoietic Co-constitution of a Chinese Spiritual Organization Through Mediated Communication,” authored by Pauline Hope Cheong, Jennie M. Hwang and Boris H. J. M. Brummans visit: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1369118X.2013.833277

Summary of research 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 report also appears on the Religion News Service website at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/03/12/religious-organizations...


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