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Annalise Ousley - Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 11:09

Digital Religion Publications, an imprint of the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies, announces the publication of its first eBook. “The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online” is an experiment in trying to create an accessible international dialogue between church leaders, theologians, and media scholars. The book is a collection of 30 essays in which pastors, professors, priests, and entrepreneurs explore the challenges and opportunities created for churches during the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past month, most churches around the world have been forced to close their doors due to the need for social distancing and local lockdowns in order to fight off the spread of the virus. The result has been an unplanned and swift transition towards technologically-driven forms of gathering. Many church leaders have felt out of their comfort zone while experimenting with doing church online. At the same time, scholars and theologians have been studying new trends in how churches are performing worship online. These experts have also found themselves in the spotlight recently, being asked to offer practical and theological advice to religious leaders on churches and technology during this time of transition.

“The Distanced Church” brings together these two groups in a format where they can offer lessons learned, answer questions that have been raised, and present insights gleaned from researching and doing religion online. Contributors come from ten different countries—within North America, Europe, and the Antipodes—and represent 12 different Christian denominations including Mainline, Catholic, and Nondenominational churches.

The project is spearheaded by Dr. Heidi A Campbell, professor of communication at Texas A&M University and director of the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies. She has studied religious groups’ use of technology for two and a half decades. Her goal was to collect key stories and research expertise reflecting on the response of churches to the pandemic, and to publish them in a quick and timely manner. The goal is to get this material out to those who will most benefit from a project of this nature—religious communities wrestling with the sudden move from offline to online ministry through digitally-mediated contexts.

Written, edited, and published within three weeks over March and April 2020, this edited collection is offered as a free eBook available in PDF, ePub, and a mobile-friendly version. The PDF version of “The Distanced Church” is available as of April 20, 2020 online. The ePub version will be released online on April 27, 2020. All versions can be downloaded freely via the OAKTrust Digital Repository at Texas A&M University: https://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/187891 AND https://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/handle/1969.1/187892

Heidi A Campbell is available for interviews related to this book and her research on Digital Religion studies. She can be contacted via email at heidic@tamu.edu.

EBook Citation: Heidi A Campbell, editor. (2020). The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online. Digital Religion Publications-Network for New Media, Religion & Digital Culture Studies. College Station, Texas.


Morgan Knobloch - Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 12:48

Growing up as an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem, Dr. Ruth Tsuria spent her childhood immersed in the historical roots of religion. “When I was a little girl, I actually wanted to be a rabbi,” Tsuria said. “But as I got older, I left religion from a personal place and became more interested in how it influences politics and society. I began to wonder why we need religion and decided to pursue that in my studies.”

Led by her curiosity, Tsuria began to explore the intersection of modern technology and religious practice. To recognize the significance of her findings, the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies named Tsuria the winner of the 2019 Digital Religion Research Award. “I feel so humbled and proud to receive this award,” Tsuria said. “It is truly an honor.”

Tsuria gave a presentation based on her award-winning article titled “Conservative Judaism in the Digital Age” at Texas A&M University on January 23, 2020. Her presentation examined the past, present and future of digital religion through the case of Conservative Judaism. Tsuria’s analysis of the interaction of Conservative Jews with new media notes how technology is changing the way people practice their faith. She found that neglecting the use of digital media actually correlated with the decline of regular synagogue attendance among Conservative Jews.

“In the past, the Internet was separate from our daily lives,” Tsuria said, “but now it is intrinsically intertwined in almost every aspect of our lives. It is changing the way we do friendships and dating, and it’s no wonder it’s changing the way we practice religion.”

Tsuria’s study of religion began in Jerusalem, where she completed her undergraduate degree in religious studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She then moved to Denmark to earn her master’s at Copenhagen University before coming to Texas A&M University for her doctorate.
Now, Tsuria continues her research as an assistant professor in the College of Communication and the Arts at Seton Hall University. She works to develop theoretical approaches to studying online discourse and the interaction between technology and society. In addition to the Digital Religion Research Award, Tsuria has earned several awards for her researching, including the “Emerging Scholar” award from the Religion in Society Research Network as well as a a dissertation writing fellowship from Texas A&M’s College of Liberal Arts.

“When I began studying media and religion, I thought the influence of new technology would lead to the breaking of religious traditions,” Tsuria said, “but I’ve found that is generally not the case. As I examine religious discourse online, the archiving power of the internet preserves what people are saying about their religious practices, thus further establishing religious norms for society and helping preserve tradition.”

Tsuria’s passion for technology and religion keep her curiosity brimming with new research questions. “I feel like a detective anytime I’m working on a project,” she said. “I absolutely love what I do, and I think that’s the key to success in anything.”

Through her research, Tsuria has found that society’s religious roots influence even what appears to be secular today. “In the last 20 years, we’ve seen that there is not any separation between religion and state or any aspect of life, really,” she said. “Even secular approaches can be traced to some type of religious thinking because people need a system to help them make sense of life. That’s why we need to study religion. If we ignore religion, we ignore a major aspect of what shapes society.”


Callie Burch - Monday, December 9, 2019 - 11:10

Call for Submissions for the 2020 Digital Religion Research Award

The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (NMRDC;
http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu) is pleased to announce the call for published works (an article or
book chapter) for consideration for the newly established Digital Religion Research Award.
This award is to recognize outstanding research in the area of Digital Religion studies, which
explores the intersection between religion, technology and digital, networked cultures.
Preference will be given to research engaging with the work of Heidi A Campbell, Director of
the Network, who is considered a pioneer in the field of Digital Religion Studies. As a Professor
of Communication at Texas A&M University Campbell has written numerous articles and books
exploring religious communities use of the Internet, as well as key theoretical works in the
study of digital religion.

The Award Committee is made up of members of the Advisory Board of the NMRDC Network.
To be considered for this award, submissions may explore themes related to the practice and
understanding of religion in online and offline spaces, rhetoric of digital technology, ethical
implications of network or mobile technologies, religious engagement with emerging media and
how forces of the secular and religious interact in digital cultures. Interdisciplinary works are
encouraged, as well as those addressing at least two of the following fields: Area Studies,
Communication, Ethics, Game Studies, Gender Studies, Information Science, Internet studies,
Philosophy of Technology, Media Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology of Religion and/or
Technology, and Theology.

Submissions will be evaluated based on the quality of their: (1) advancement of knowledge in
the area Digital Religion Studies (2) application of Campbell’s approaches and concepts, (3)
originality and creativity of research topic, and (4) clear organization and presentation of
overall argument.

The winner of the 2020 award will be given a plaque and be invited to give a talk at a special
session of the 2020 International Society of Media, Religion and Culture conference where the
award will be given. Travel expenses of up to $2000 (USD) to the conference site in Sweden,
along with conference fees and housing expenses will also be covered.

Only single authored works are accepted. Book chapters from a single authored book will also
be considered, however that work will be judged only on the basis of the specific chapter
submitted and should be further explained or contextualized in the submission narrative.
Applications and articles may only be submitted for award consideration once. Published
materials submitted must have appeared in print between Jan 2018 to Dec 2019, to be eligible
for the 2020 award. Please send a PDF or electronic copy of the article/chapter to
digitalreligion@tamu.edu along with a 1-2 page letter, addressed to the committee, which
provides an abstract of the work to be considered and a narrative that explains how your article
meets the stated evaluation criteria.

Submission deadline is February 25, 2020
Notification of the award will be sent out in April 2020.


Heidi Campbell - Monday, October 28, 2019 - 11:45

The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies is very pleased to announce Dr. Ruth Tsuria as the winner of 2019 Digital Religion Research Award. Dr Tsuria is Assistant Professor in the College of Communication and the Arts at Seton Hall University. She received the award for her article “Conservative Judaism in the Digital Age”, which highlights current tensions experienced by Conservative Jewish offline congregations as they seek to embrace innovative forms of online media, as well as create mediated and hybrid form of religious identity through digital media engagement. Her research advances the field of Digital Religion by applying existing approaches to an understudied community and employing established theories in new and innovative ways. Dr Tsuria is the first recipient on this newly established annual award that seeks to recognize outstanding research in the area of Digital Religion Studies, which explores a variety of aspects of religion and technology. Award decisions are made by members of the Advisory Board of the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies, who evaluate submissions on how well a scholar’s work extends current knowledge in Digital Religion Studies. Decisions are also based on an individual’s sophistication and application of approaches and concepts developed by Dr Heidi A Campbell, founder of the Network and pioneer in the field of Digital Religion research. Dr Tsuria will be awarded a plaque and honorarium at a lecture featuring her award winning work to be held at Texas A&M University on January 21, 2020. The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies, is the premier international research network for interdisciplinary scholars and students who study the intersection between emerging technologies, religion and digital cultures.

More information on the award or the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies see: http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu or contact digitalreligion@tamu.edu
A call for submissions for the 2020 Digital Religion Research Award will be released in December 2019.


Morgan Knobloch - Friday, August 23, 2019 - 13:26

With new media’s presence in people’s daily lives continually expanding, Dr. Angela Williams Gorrell explores its capacity to aid Christian leaders in the outreach of their ministries throughout her new book, Always On: Practicing Faith in a New Media Landscape. Acknowledging that while the media can have a negative impact on users, the former research scholar for the Yale Center for Faith and Culture argues that maintaining a reflective awareness of media usage actually fosters its potential to minister to those in need. Gorrell acknowledges that new media’s increasing foothold in people’s lives creates new opportunities for evangelization in modern society. While she does note that the media can often perpetuate brokenness through promoting racism, sexism and other hateful content, she counters by arguing that a mindful usage of media presents “glorious possibilities” for Christianity online.

To tap into the opportunities Always On promotes, church leaders must understand how to navigate the new media landscape in ways that spark fruitful conversation and illustrate the Christian life. Written for those who are hesitant to take their faith online, Gorrell encourages leaders to embrace new media use in their ministries, suggesting that refraining from using new media would be detrimental to their church’s outreach. Following her call for ministries to move into the world of new media, Gorrell provides readers with a guide to navigating the constantly evolving landscape of digital communities through her research.

In the first pages of her book, Gorrell states, “New media is always changing, and Christian communities need lasting Christian visions of true life that will guide them well into the future” (p. 4). Throughout her book, readers will find reflections and examples that illustrate what Gorrell calls “hybrid faithful living,” or a way of life that allows people to integrate media use into their daily experiences. She writes that this hybrid lifestyle is essential for leaders to establish a stable image of Christian living among digital communities.

Always On recognizes modern society’s continual movement toward online interactions and presents this reality to Christian leaders. If Christians fail to build an online presence, they forgo the possibilities new media offers to extend faithful living beyond the walls of their churches. Gorrell presents a challenge to Christian communities by highlighting the reality of the media’s influence in people’s daily lives and calling Christians to respond accordingly. While her research lends itself to observation and reflection, it does not necessarily demonstrate a strong foundation in concurrent research on how social media can shape an individual’s life.

Gorrell’s book does, however, provide readers with clear instructions and tools to establish their ministry’s presence in the media. Her research demonstrates the possibilities for connection online communities provide and expands upon methods to live out the hybrid lifestyle she describes. Overall, Always On explores new media’s impact on Christianity and equips leaders to practice their faith in a space that may seem altogether unfamiliar as they traverse the landscape of new media.


Heidi Campbell - Thursday, August 15, 2019 - 12:08

The International Society for Media, Religion and Culture is happy to announce a call for papers for their 2020 conference on Rethinking Media, Religion and Secularities. This conference will be held at the Sigtuna Foundation, Sigtuna, Sweden, 4-7 of August 2020. More information about conference abstract submission on the ISMRC webpage: https://www.ismrc.org The full CFP follows here...

Call for Papers: Rethinking Media, Religion and Secularities
Deadline for Paper proposals: 6 December 2019
Notification of acceptances: Mid February 2020

The globalization of our lifeworld has brought attention to how we think about religion and non-religious contexts. The existence of secularity in contemporary society and culture is contested in many fields in which scholars of media, religion and culture studies engage. Some strongly argue the secularization thesis is dead, as digital media and globalization help give rise to a post-secular condition that enables new forms of spirituality and religious sensibilities throughout networked cultures. Yet other thinkers contend secularization and secularism are actually on the rise, and argue scholars supporting post-secular views rely on overly simplistic definitions of religion.

The 2020 ISMRC conference theme “Rethinking Media, Religion and Secularities”, seeks to interrogate these assertions and debates and the role media plays in communicating and mediating secularity in contemporary society. We suggest there is not just one, but multiple forms and understandings of the secular at work within global society and culture. We encourage presentations that explore cross-societal, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary investigations of the concepts “secular”, “post-secular” and “non-secular”. For example, ideas of the post-secular need interrogation in the face of the decline of mainstream churches in North America and yet the rise of popular-folk religions in Nordic and European countries, which challenge the notion of European secular culture. Such trends give rise to contested definitions, and call for considering the very definition of “religion”, and the role various forms of media play in communicating, amplifying and/or shaping secular and post-secular manifestations.

The conference, which represents the biennial meeting of the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture, will explore these issues from a range of disciplinary perspectives. International participants from such disciplines as media studies, journalism, religious studies, anthropology and sociology of religion, as well as history, literature and public policy are welcome. Since its first meeting in 1996, the conference has become the leading international gathering for the discussion of research in religion, media and culture.

Confirmed key notes and speakers include:
Professor Linda Woodhead, Lancaster University;
Professor Marwan Kraidy, University of Pennsylvania;
Associate Professor Titus Hjelm, University of Helsinki

The conference invites proposals for panels and roundtable sessions as well as individual papers of up to 350 words. Panel and roundtable proposals should include paper titles, 150 word abstracts for each paper, and names and titles of up to four participants (a moderator/respondent might be added).

Please note that conference attendees are not allowed to make more than two presentations (i.e. present on a panel and offer a paper, take part in a panel and a roundtable, have their name listed on two papers). Paper and panel sessions conducted in other languages than English will be considered, however abstracts should be provided both in English and proposed language for such submissions.

Potential panel, workshop and paper proposals may address, but are not limited to the following themes:
• Media and the contested visibility of religion
• The role of media in framing and promoting various notions of the secular
• The role of media in the formation of post-secular tendencies and contexts
• Digital religion and the rise of secular religious-like practices
• Secular and post-secular themes in entertainment media
• Media and the politicization of the secular
• Rethinking media, religion and secularities in public theology
• Secular journalism and new religious and secular diversities
• Theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion, media and secularities
• Religious and secular (il)literacy among media audiences
• Media and varieties of non-religion
• Media, religion and secularities in a global perspective
• Material and symbolic mediations of sacred and secular

More information about conference abstract submission and registration will be available on the ISMRC webpage: https://www.ismrc.org
The conference will be held at the Sigtuna Foundation, Sigtuna, Sweden, see https://sigtunastiftelsen.se/en/

For information about the venue, housing and transportation see the conference page: https://www.ismrc.org/2020-conference/
We warmly welcome you to Sweden and ISMRC in 2020!

Johanna Sumiala, Associate Professor, University of Helsinki, President, International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture

Heidi A Campbell, Professor, Texas A&M University, Conference Program Planner and Vice President, International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture: heidic@tamu.edu

Local hosts:
Director Alf Linderman, Sigtuna Foundation, alf.linderman@sigtunastiftelsen.se Professor Mia Lövheim, Uppsala University: mia.lovheim@teol.uu.se


Callie Burch - Friday, March 15, 2019 - 12:15

The digitalization of religion has and continues to increase every day. It is believed that this increase in digital religious interaction creates an opportunity for seminary students to further understand the roles of ministry sites in teaching religion.

Kyle Oliver, Doctoral student studying digital storytelling in faith-adjacent settings in the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, along with many other accomplishments, discussed the pedagogical approach to training seminarians for faith leadership in the era of digital religion in the article, “Networked religion meets digital geographies: Pedagogical principles for exploring new spaces and roles in the seminary classroom.” Oliver explores various learning experiences that encourage active learning through various avenues, such as observation, immersion, simulation and role-playing.

Oliver’s interest is “digitally mediated meaning-making in religious and theological education, particularly in the context of teaching and learning in faith and faith-adjacent settings.” He uses Heidi Campbell’s “networked religion” model to conduct his research for the article. The main theme discussed in the article relates to the new opportunities in religious media and how it can be used for seminary instructors.

The article emphasizes four pedagogical principles that are essential for teaching purposes, such as “new media connect classrooms to authentic sites of ministry practice, digital geographies are navigated by embodied persons with human identities, communication practices shape our community spaces, and learners need orientation to spaces' structural, representational, and social dimensions.” Oliver believes that the strongest idea in the article is the idea that classrooms can become a bridge for digitalization and ministry.

In conclusion, this paper created an opportunity to merge the ideas of digital geographies and digital religion together, creating a pedagogical guideline for how “theological educators can think about convening new types of very practical student learning in seminary classrooms.”


Heidi Campbell - Friday, February 15, 2019 - 12:31

The Call for the 2019 Network Digital Religion Research Award submissions has been extended to June 15, 2019.

The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (NMRDC; http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu) is pleased to announce the call for published works (an article or book chapter) for consideration for the newly established Digital Religion Research Award. This award is to recognize outstanding research in the area of Digital Religion studies, which explores the intersection between religion, technology and digital, networked cultures. Preference will be given to research engaging with the work of Heidi A Campbell, Director of the Network, who is considered a pioneer in the field of Digital Religion Studies. As a Professor of Communication at Texas A&M University Campbell has written numerous articles and books exploring religious communities use of the Internet, as well as key theoretical works in the study of digital religion.

The Award Committee is made up of members of the Advisory Board of the NMRDC Network. To be considered for this award, submissions may explore themes related to the practice and understanding of religion in online and offline spaces, rhetoric of digital technology, ethical implications of network or mobile technologies, religious engagement with emerging media and how forces of the secular and religious interact in digital cultures. Interdisciplinary works are encouraged, as well as those addressing at least two of the following fields: Area Studies, Communication, Ethics, Game Studies, Gender Studies, Information Science, Internet studies, Philosophy of Technology, Media Studies, Religious Studies, Sociology of Religion and/or Technology, and Theology.

Submissions will be evaluated based on the quality of their: (1) advancement of knowledge in the area Digital Religion Studies (2) application of Campbell’s approaches and concepts, (3) originality and creativity of research topic, and (4) clear organization and presentation of overall argument.

Awardees will receive an honorarium, plaque and be invited to give a guest lecture at Texas A&M University where the award will be given. Reasonable travel expenses to the Award Ceremony and Lecture will also be covered.

Only single authored works are accepted. Applications and articles may only be submitted for award consideration once. Published materials submitted must have appeared in print between April 2017 to May 2019, to receive this year’s award. Please send a PDF or electronic copy of the article/chapter to digitalreligion@tamu.edu along with a 1-2 page letter, addressed to the committee, which provides an abstract of the work to be considered and a narrative that explains how your article meets the stated evaluation criteria.

NEW Application deadline is June 15, 2019
Notification of the award will be sent out in August 2019.


Callie Burch - Friday, February 8, 2019 - 17:08

Media and religion increasingly intersect in social, cultural, religious and political avenues. The ever changing contexts of communication play a large role, specifically in the Muslim faith.

Raoof Mir, Assistant Professor in Journalism at the Cluster Innovation Centre at the University of Delhi, discussed the relationship between religion and media in Kashmir, India in the research article, “Communicating Islam in Kashmir Intersection of Religion and Media.” The intent of this article is to ask the inhabits of Srinagar and Anantnag, two districts in Kashmir, about their relationship with media, in relation to religion. Both of these areas are very different, creating a great avenue for comparison. These studies are often characterized by in-depth interviews with the participants. According to Mir, “in these interviews people recount the pleasures, irritations, satisfactions, boredom, revulsions while describing media.”

This is the first study of its kind to be conducted on the theme of religion and media in Kashmir. This article examines different media types, such as orality, manuscript tradition, printing technology, radio, television, cassettes and more. Mir noted that one of the crucial findings of the study was the fact that there has always been a “unique relationship between various religious practices and the media that have mediated these practices.”

Through the study, Mir discovered that it is not feasible to fully comprehend the media and Islamic traditions in the regions without connecting each other. “Islam and media in Kashmir have never been two separate realms and therefore Islam in Kashmir cannot be defined outside the forms and practices of mediation that define it.”

In conclusion, the integration of approaches and theoretical frameworks, gave Mir’s study a feeling of uniqueness. This study pulled from history, philosophy, media studies, anthropology and political science. It can contribute to current research in religious studies by extending evaluations of individuals and organizations in religious studies in a holistic sense. Mir believes that this study, “criticizes the neglect of religion and media intersection so far in the South Asian contexts.”


Callie Burch - Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 15:54

For religious organizations, the implementation of digital media has greatly expanded their horizons, specifically for the Catholic Church. Through social media profiles of religious figures, such as the Pope, Catholicism has vastly stretched its reach around the world.

Miriam Diez Bosch, PhD, director at the Blanquerna Observatory on Media, Religion and Culture discussed how global Catholic organizations have used tools of digital media in the research article, “Open Wall Churches. Catholic Construction of Online Communities.” This article explores the shift from the past Catholic focuses on liturgical limitations, to its current emphasis on participation, social justice and avenues to reach new targets.

Bosch is a journalist, specialized in religion, as she has been covering the Vatican for 10 years. Her research focuses on 3 prominent areas: Leadership and Authority in Religion, Community Creation on the Catholic World in the Digital Age and Youth, Religion and Technology. This specific study analyzed how Catholic websites engage with audiences and “how they try to evangelize using the digital sphere.” However, the digital sphere has created difficulties including difficulties in authority and accessibility.

An important insight is that the biggest Catholic portals have 3 commonly shared sections, content, services and community. According to Bosch, this is “not a new community, but an offline community “put” into the Internet.” Because of this, there is not much interaction. Out of 19 websites observed, only 1 was digital and had a live policy regarding social media.

In conclusion, Bosch believes that their research brings insights in trends of Catholicism and highlights the websites observed in 5 different languages in the Catholic “web sphere.”


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