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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...


Wendi Bellar - Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 23:10

Craig Detweiler uses his book “iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives” to argue for a theology of technology in the Christian world. He argues that the ever invasive and ubiquitous digital tools available in today’s society become replacements for a relationship with and reliance on God, and concludes by offering a prescriptive through his version of a technological theology. The God he is talking about is Christian in origin as is Detweiler, who teaches at Pepperdine University. The book is designed not necessarily for an academic audience but for parents, teachers, and pastors who need to help young people navigate their “hyperconnected and distracted” lives.

Detweiler begins the book by defining technology, by situating modern technology within a tradition that stretches back to the Roman Empire. He argues Jesus was a technologist of his day, using all the newest tools in his craft. He also argues that technology is art as well as science: “At its best, technology is a creative act, merging thought with matter and time,” (p. 25). Detweiler points to the many facets and affordances of technology and argues that technology is not neutral; it is a tool that can be used for good or for bad.

After laying the groundwork for the reconfiguration of technology, Detweiler discusses Steve Jobs and the cult of Mac followed by a history of the internet and ecommerce through the lens of Amazon and Google. He moves on to focus on social media including Facebook and Twitter before addressing how the demigods of technology fight for iGod status in users’ lives. The conclusion lays out his “telos of technology” that argues against the utopian, liberating theology of technology; he ends by suggesting a Christian perspective that emphasizes an “embodied, incarnational faith” in the digital world.

The literature is well supported and the content satisfactorily organized. However, there is a troubling thread of technological determinism woven throughout the book. Even the title contains deterministic language (i.e. technology shapes our lives). Detweiler is also fond of quoting Marshal McLuhan, the father of technological determinism. It would be beneficial to more clearly explicate the theories on which his view of technology rests. Although determinism seems to be prevalent throughout, Detweiler does argue that users have the agency to refocus their views and uses of technology, albeit through the guidelines of God’s Word.

As an instructor in communication technology, I can see the potential benefits of including this book in a reading list. However, instructors at public institutions would be hard-pressed to structure a class solely around this book. Detweiler’s work should be well supplemented with other texts as it provides a view of religion and technology that is limited specifically within Christian framework. As a social science researcher, the value of this book lies in its ability to clearly state a Christian theology of technology that provides a framework through which to analyze future studies within this particular community.


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 15:36

Reading religious Internet memes is not always as easy as it seems. The way memes are created, designed and distributed results in them both affirming and undermining religion — sometimes at the same time.

Internet memes are a popular way of communicating online, yet while they may seem playful, their messages are often quite serious. Memes are digital images that combine pictures with and succinct texts, to communicate playful yet pointed messages about politics, pop culture and religion.

A recent study of religious Internet memes, conducted at Texas A&M University, found that while many people have readily used this genre to spread religious beliefs and ideas, there may be consequences to doing so.

Researchers at Texas A&M University found two distinct communication strategies in their comparison of different religious-oriented meme genres. Some memes used religious icons and characters such as “Buddy Christ” or Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Other memes more generally targeted Christians, Muslims or Jews. Both frame religion in interesting, yet problematic, ways.

“This study shows how memes enable people to spread religious ideas, and at same time, critique religion.” said Ruth Tsuria, a PhD student at Texas A&M University and one of the authors of the report, “Reading Religion in Internet Memes” published 31 December 2013.

Memes using religious icons and people tend to spread generalized assumptions about religion through humor, often leaning on negative framings of religious values, practices and traditions.

For example “Advice God” memes use the Judeo-Christian God as depicted in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam—God is often depicted as a harsh, unethical or suspicious (i.e. “Thou shall not commit adultery / sorry Joseph”).

“Using religious symbols and ideals this way helps undermine dominant religious narratives or worldviews”, said Heidi Campbell, Associate Professor of Communication at Texas A&M University and project coordinator.

Memes focused on specific religious traditions or communities use humor to share their beliefs or rituals with others in respectful ways.

The Muslim Meme Facebook page, for example, presents an image of Aladdin from the Disney movie by the same name telling Princess Jasmine “I can show you the world/but first we have to do nikah” (nikah is “marriage” in Arabic)

Researchers observed this meme affirms Muslim values, yet also shows that such memes require certain levels of religious and cultural literacy to be fully understood and their humor and meaning may be lost for mainstream audiences.

Overall, the study shows that Internet memes often “essentialize religion,”—that is, they simplify complex ideas about religion into basic ideas that reinforce, and sometimes challenge, important notions of faith.

This can be a problem because a meme designed to promote positively a community’s religious identity can easily morph into a public critique.

Campbell says unpacking religious memes requires that audiences develop religious literacy to fully understand the intended meaning and develop an awareness of how a meme’s humor affects frames positively or negatively. Audiences should also consider how meme circulation and placement online shape meaning-making and discussions about specific faiths.

For the full text of “Reading Religion in Internet Memes” visit http://jrmdc.com/papers/2-2-bellar/. Study research diaries can be found online at COMM 663: Digital Religion: http://comm663tamu.blogspot.com.

This story has also been released with Religious News Service at: http://pressreleases.religionnews.com/2014/02/13/study-religious-memes-m...


Heidi Campbell - Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 17:38

Philosophy, Theory and Critique Division of the International Communication Association ICA is sponsoring a preconference at the upcoming meet in Seattle Washington entitle “Media and Religion”: Betwixt and Between. The event is to be held 22 May 2014, 9:00 AM - 5 PM
at the Husky Union Building on the campus of University of Washington.

This preconference bring into conversation a variety of approaches common within the study of media, religion and culture, in order to showcase the diverse perspectives scholars of Communication have taken in the study of this interrelationship. “Media and religion” is a phrase used to describe a growing cross-disciplinary field of research. Communication scholars have noted interesting social and cultural implications of the intersection of media and religion on several levels. Given the complexity of the relationship between media and religion, we advocate moving beyond the simple questions of “How is religion represented in the media?” and “How to religions use media to promote their cause?” to consider broader and deeper theoretical investigations of this evolving interplay. We suggest media may evoke and create a sense of wonder, transcendence, and flow, which in many ways approach experiences often assigned to the religious realm. To put it with Victor Turner’s classical essay on Liminality, religious media events, as well as media as a religious event, call into question simplistic social ontologies by being “betwixt and between” purely religious and purely media contexts.

The goal of the preconference is to spotlight current scholarly methods within media and religion studies in order to highlight key theoretical concepts and problems – both for those working in the field, and for those who wish to gain first-hand insight into this area of Communication research. Through papers, panel presentations and shared conversation amongst participants this event aims is to draw scholarly attention to the relationship between media, religion and culture in its multiple intersections.

The preconference will consist of a morning session featuring two keynote panels of recognized scholars whose work intersects with the field of media and religion. The afternoon will involve two parallel panels of papers selected from abstract submissions, and a closing summary panel. Invited and confirmed speakers/respondents include:

Menachem Blondheim, Hebrew University
Heidi A Campbell, Texas A&M University
Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths University of London
Stig Hjarvard, University of Copenhagen
Stewart M. Hoover, University of Colorado-Boulder
Elihu Katz, Hebrew University/Annenberg-East
Mia Lovheim, University of Uppsala
Knut Lundby, University of Oslo
Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan
Günter Thomas, Faculty for Protestant Theology-Ruhr-University Bochum

The preconference is supported by generous contributions from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, Routledge and the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies.

It is also supported by the Media and Religion Temporary Working Group of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) and The International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture.

Further details and registration information is found at http://www.icahdq.org/conf/2014/preconferences.asp


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