New book highlights importance of Digital Religion studies

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Media, Religion and Culture: an Introduction, visit:

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

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