Network Researcher studies Digital Media & Pastoral Authority

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.

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