Thursday, December 20, 2007

Religious Communities Online: Heart & Soul Part 2

Till Saturday you can access part 2 of the BBC World's program Heart & Soul entitled "free to speak - free to worship". In it you can hear yours truly sharing reflections on my research on religious communities online, as well as how different group are using the internet to spread their faith online. I actually haven't heard the program yet as I am staying with relatives this week who only have dial-up access so the program won't download, but I have heard via others that it is interesting!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BBC on Religion and the Internet

Several weeks ago I was interviewed by Tim Jackson of the BBC world service on my research concerning online religious community. The BBC is doing a 2 part series on their weekly program Heart & Soul exploring religion online. Part one is now available and looks at how "virtual religion is changing the way people practise their faith". The program runs about 20 mins and has interviews with researchers Chris Helland and Brenda Brasher as well as reflection of Muslim , Jews & Christian who worship in spaces such as Second Life and the impact the internet on their spiritual practice. December 16th you can check out their next program on religious communities online and hear what I had to say about how the internet is impacting offline faith communities.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Saints on Cell Phones

A cell phone company in Italy has sparked controversy within the Catholic Church by offering download-able images of saints as cell phone screen savers. Concerns seems to be that these holy images are somehow being trivialized in this new form, and that sporting an image of Pope John Paul II on one's mobile might lead to a distorted understanding of sacred images. Check out the Reuters story Saints on cellphones spark controversy in Italy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

AAR looks at New Media and Religion

Hi from the AAR in San Diego!

I just spent 2 days in Chicago at the National Communication Association where I was part of preconference workshop on Communication Ethics. I gave a small piece on the questions" Does new media raise new ethical questions?". In summation I said, No and Yes. On the "no" side I stated to that new media just amplify old ethical questions such as : what does it meant to be human, communicative justice and respecting the other in our research. On the "yes" side I stated that these new technologies as give rise to corollary areas of exploration connected to the aforementioned questions areas such as: the myth of interactivity, networked individualism and the culturing of technology. For more detail... well you'll just have to wait as this present will become the basis of a chapter in my current book project.

Now I am at the AAR preconference on Religion and Media which is focused on New Media and Religion. I gave the opening talk on that brought together 3 research projects and touched on the rise of religion and the internet and religion online research, the question of community online and then gave a report on my recent research on religious authority in blogs. It seemed to go over well and I was also asked some challenging questions in relation to my findings which was great and thought provoking on my part.

Now Tracy Fullerton at USC is presenting on her work as a game designer and the role games have to play in rethinking about new ways of thinking, interaction. She showed us clips from several games including Cloud and flOw. I was especially impressed by the game which started as student project Darfur is Dying which instead of focusing on fightign and resiting, your are diesmpoered and struggle to survive. She also talked about the tendency to explort religious narrative and imagery onto games has been around since the first US produced board game in the 1800s called Mansion of Happiness that gamers sought to make the journey towards happiness. She also showed a variety of religious narrative based games from The Shiva to Bible Fight and Catechmen to show how religion become a platform for gaming thinking.

Will try to post more as the day goes on...

Monday, October 22, 2007

GodTube in the LA Times

David Sarno wrote an interesting piece appearing in yesterday's LA Times, called Linking into the market for ministry that questions the growing impact and development of the GodTube for the online Christian market. Yours truly is also quoted, though I would clarify that when I was interview I stated that SOME, but not all people, find that the internet offers "more sustained and satisfying personal interaction". At this point it is accurate and safe to say the internet still serves as a supplement rather than a substitute for offline religious engagement. However I still sense a fear amongst many religious practitioners about this fact. It seems GodTube is responding the idea by providing tools to consciously link religious users online with offline church interaction as well via GodCaster. The article also provides some interesting info and reflection on Muslim use of the internet.

Post AOIR

AOIR 8.0 is over, but much fun and learning occurred! On Friday afternoon I enjoyed getting to hear Henry Jenkins give a review of his work on Media Convergence and speculating on how online fandom is both informing web 2.0 corporate development as well as introducing some interesting forms of participatory knowledge making. Saturday I attended a great panel on the state of research into social networks (ala facebook, myspace, etc) and got to hear from key researchers such as Nancy Baym and danah boyd on the studies being done about users, coporations and media culturing for social purposes. There was even a fellow from Facebook there giving us his 2cents which was a greater insider perspective. It was also confirmed that not much research has been done on religion and social networking software, though I think I have prompted a friend and fellow colleague on the AOIR ethics committee Mark Johns to expand his own work on Facebook to look into religious construction of identity there. Also attended an interesting panel in the final afternoon on Blog research methodology and ethics. The Indiana University group still appear to be leaders in this are with Lois Ann Scheidt at the helm of doing interesting work on youth and blogs. All being well I plan to make it to AOIR 9.0 to be held in Copenhagen, especially since I have been elected to the executive committee of the Association!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Religion & Ritual Online (AOIR 8.0)

It's Friday and I am in blogging on the 2nd panel dealing with religion and the internet. This one is focused on Religion & Ritual Online. I came in late so missed bits but here are some of the highlights I did catch.

Nadja Micek from Heidelberg University presented on Exploring ritual action in Second Life and gave an interesting overview of the variety of online religious ritual being enacted in this virtual space. She provided a survey of the different Buddhist temples, Mosques and Christians churches which exist in second life. While some are online only entities many are also modeled after real world temples/mosques that exist in places such as Thailand & Morocco. She focus on two examples of the 10 Christian churches which hold weekly services online. The Koinonia church in Second Life is sponsored by United Church of Christ and uses voice chat so participants can to hear the service, participate in prayer, share blessings and listen to music. The ALM Cyber Church which is virtual pastor leads with an audio stream for participation in the service, and a worship animation package at the beginning of service for users to participate raising hands, dancing and singing. Her exploration of how the transfer of rituals online lead to change in process religious worship can be explore further at http://www.sl-research.de/.

Pauline Cheong presented on Playing God? Examining religious boundaries and authority online. The research is a study of epistemic authority of religious leaders and how religious leaders influence spiritual shaping of the internet. She and her colleague used observational analysis online and interviews with Christian & Buddhist religious leaders in the Toronto area. She had several interesting findings including: Most leader expressed concern about changing religious informational fields, there seems to be a changing hierarchical religious order in religious ‘place’ and response for ‘local congregation’, and an interesting Reconfiguration the geography of sacred places and instruction dynamic in wired religious campuses also seems to be going. For more details check out her forthcoming in Information, Communication & Society entitled: www.Faith.org (re) structuring communication and social capital building among religious organization.

Joon Lee presented on Cultivating the self in cyberspace, and his study of One Buddhism priest's who blog. While most said that they began blogging to attract converts to One Buddhism but but that it also served as an important tool for these priests to to construct their own religious identity online. Blogs became a way to monitor one’s level of self-enlightenment.The internet becomes a plane of consistency to work our self cultivation both inside and outside cyberspace to construct different technologies of the self.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Religion at Play on the Net: community, identity and authority (AOIR 8.0)

Way Hay, here we go...Here is my report on our panel.

Paul Teusner a PhD student from RMIT down under presented on Christianity 2.0, religion for a new web. His research focuses on the emerging church dialogue and community online and how the blogs have influence the identity of this conversation and growing global network. His work focuses on the Australian context by doing content analysis and f2f interviews with Aussie Bloggers. His initial hypothesis are (1) the emerging cyberchristian, noting they represent a new global christian perspective based on personal belief and passion, a collective memory of the self and their community; (2) authentic identity and virtual community; (3) a postmodern stance
and (4) nationalisation, globalisation and being "glocal". For more details on this talk to Paul online.

Mia Lovheim gave a virtual presentation (written by Mia, ready by Lynn) on Rethinking Cyberreligion? youth and the internet in Sweden. Her project is sponsored by the Church of Sweden of the concern that young people are going online rather than offline to learn and participate in religion. She found searching through Google was the dominant way young people searched out religion with searching out general info about religious, listening to religious music and asking religious questions being the most common uses. More teens may meet religion than through traditional context, if the do use it for religious purposes they are probably already active in religion online. The internet is use for gathering info on religion mostly for school and entertainment. The internet used for individual religious purpose than social interaction.

Of course there was me. I presented the findings from a recent study on religious (specifically Christian) bloggers and how they frame their religious identity online and how they treat different sources of religious authority online. The study is based a theoretical article I write for JCMC arguing that if we are we going to make claims that the internet is challenging or affirming traditional forms of authority we need to start with a more nuanced definition of the concept of authority to ground these claims. I argue that we need to differentiate between religious roles, texts, structures and ideologies/theologies when studying and making such claims. This detailed content analysis study basically attempts to investigate claims about which of these categories are most affirmed or challenged online and what type of authorities are most referred to.

Lynn Schofield Clark from DU presented on her current work on religious discourse with in Bloggers fans of the TV show Lost. She is interested in the connection of her work with Henry Jenkins work on convergence culture and its relation to fandom. “consumption as a collective process” collective intelligence as a source of media power. Lost is a key example of this, not only the show, but also how fans interpret and discuss the show online. Online fans found Christian themes mentioned in the series to be the most decipherable and the most problematic, Islam and Judaism being these least commented on and Buddhism were the most puzzling. She has a fascinating analysis of the fan's discourse about Christian narrative and interpretations online as well as the growing Buddhism of lost in the 2nd season. This paper should be out in print soon so contact Lynn if you are interested.

AOIR 8.0 Live

I am blogging from the 8th annual Association of International Researcher's conference held in Vancouver. This is an international gathering of scholars from a variety of fields (sociology, law, communication, gender studies, political science, etc.) who studied a variety of aspects of the internet and online culture. It is a great time for networking and hearing about the latest research trends.
For instance, this morning Keynote's was a fascinating look into Second Life with Pathfinder Linden (John Lester) who talked about this history, design and purpose this virtual environment. He showed us the virtual Sistine chapel built by people from Vasser and described the interesting socialization process which has emerged around people's interaction is this online space which many people describe as spiritual. Macro scripts have been built in by the designer to block people who says wear bikinis or use coarse language from the space. This change was done at the encouragement of other users who want to keep this a sacred virtual space.

Right now I am sitting in on the panel on blogging where a a Chinese PhD student has studied and international comparison of bloggers, she found the Spanish were the most chatty online where as Northern European were the least prolific bloggers. It seems culture, educational level and media freedom seem to be the prime indicators related to the variance of different international bloggers. Am also trying to put the last touches on mu own presenation which is n the next session...

I hope to blog on some of the session that are especially related to religion and new media, we'll see how it goes...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Selling Religion...

...with half-naked Mormons?! Okay this post is not about new media but one of my students (Thanks Nyomi!) sent me a link today to an interesting story from Rolling Stone that I had to comment on. It is about a young Mormon entrepreneur who has just published a calendar called "Men on a Mission" featuring bear chested "open minded" former Mormon missionaries. Talk about an interesting mix of religion, media and popular culture--a calendar that both generates interest in religion and challenges it by addressing stereotypes of people of faith. Also check out what the Dallas Morning News & MSNBC had to say. The proceeds are to be fed back to various charities where the young men did their mission work. I wonder if we would ever see one featuring evangelical hunks on outreach or sassy Jewish gals on shabbat...

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Muslim or Jewish YouTube?

And for those of you wondering if it was only Christians that are creating religion specific versions of YouTube online...the answer is No! MyMuslimTV offers "hallal broadcasting options" for vloggers and video podcasters and Mecca.com is also set to pattern with LinkTV – Mosaic to offer similar services. Jews may want to check out JewTube or the Jewish TV Network which also offers links to videoblogs and Jewish culture video clips.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Jesus 2.0 & GodTube

GodTube has been getting a lot of media attention (from Fox to ABC News & CNN)since it's official launch in April/May. It is back on the press radar with it's upcoming expansion and soon to be released "Godcaster". I was recently interview by the Anniston Star for an article called Christian alternative to YouTube offers salvation, silliness in equal bytes exploring different impressions of the GodTube phenomenon and potential implications for offline church and religious culture. Keep an eye out out for an upcoming article in the LA Times this coming Sunday on the soon-to-be expanding GodTube complete with live video webcasting capabilities!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Advertising and Ramadan


This week in a class I am teaching on Judaism, Islam and the Media we did a case study on advertising images during Ramadan. We discussed Armburst's article “The Riddle of Ramadan: Media, Consumer Culture and the ‘Christmasization’ of a Muslim Holiday" and I also brought in reflection froman interesting article from JMR called Ramadan Advertising in Egypt: A Content Analysis With Elaboration on Select Items. We also discussed some images we found at AdBlogArabia. It is interesting to see how some ad agencies and companies are using similar strategies that companies use in the USA during Christmas to re-frame this religious holiday in terms of consumption (or in the case of Ramadan highlighting the lack or control of consumption). This obviously has raised some concern within the Arab world about de-sacralizing of the holiday by possibly trivializing religious ritual practice. Anyways, it sparked some great conversation in class.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In the News: Doing Church Online

Last week I spent 40 min talking to Scott Andron from the Miami Herald talking about my research on christian community online. The result was an interesting article on how groups in Florida and across the USA are using the internet to do church and build community online that appeared last weekend. There's even a quote by yours truly at the end of the article. Check out: Every Sunday morning, while hundreds of South Floridians converge on...

One Web Day

As the subtitle to my book proclaims, "we are one in the network" and you too can join in the harmony & connection affored by the web on "One Web Day". Organizer hope to encourage people to think of themselves as responsible for the internet, and to take good and visible actions on Sept. 22 that (1) celebrate the positive impact of the internet on the world and (2) shed light on the problems of access and information flow. For more info check out this video at youtube.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Exploring New Media Worlds (CFP)


Exploring New Media Worlds:

Changing Technologies, Industries, Cultures, and Audiences
in Global and Historical Context


An international conference hosted by
Texas A&M University, February 29 to March 2, 2008

Integrating fields of study in a time of change; setting a new agenda for media studies.

Papers and proposals are invited on any aspect of the conference themes, offering reports of new research, position-taking conceptual essays, discussions of media and telecommunication policy, and both international and historical comparisons on changing technologies, industries, cultures, and audiences.

The program will include keynote speakers, roundtable discussions, thematic panels, prominent scholars as respondents, and time for interaction. A wide selection of papers from the conference will be published. Travel grants are available for student members of the National Communication Association (see our webpage for more information).

Send papers or proposals (abstracts or annotated outlines) with a 50 word professional biography by email attachment to mediaworlds@tamu.edu. Panel proposals are also acceptable. Deadline: November 20, 2007.

For more information see https://libarts.tamu.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://comm.tamu.edu/mediaworlds
email mediaworlds@libarts.tamu.edu or Rothenbuhler@tamu.edu.

Keynote speakers:
Larry Grossberg; Steve Jones; Vinny Mosco; and Ellen Seiter.

Confirmed participants:
Carole Blair, Sandra Braman, Celeste Condit, Bruce Gronbeck, Andrea Press, Ronald Rice, Paddy Scannell, Joseph Turow, Angharad Valdivia.

And the Texas A&M faculty:
Patrick Burkart, Heidi Campbell, Antonio La Pastina, Srivi Ramasubramanian, Eric Rothenbuhler, Michael Stephenson, Randy Sumpter, and Ian Weber plus strong faculty groups in Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Health Communication, and Organizational Communication.

The Exploring New Media Worlds conference is hosted and co-sponsored by the Department of Communication, the College of Liberal Arts, the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research, and the Program in Presidential Rhetoric, Texas A&M University, with support from the National Communication Association.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

GodBlogCon 2007



The 3rd annual GodBlogCon is coming up in Nov 8-9, 2007, to be held in Las Vegas held in conjunction with the Blog World Expo. The conference got it's start in 2005 at Biola University in CA, and recieved media attention as the first-ever Christian blogging conference. Thsi year's confrence promises sessions on "New Media Ministry to the Myspace- Facebook Generation" and "Developing a Pod & Vidcast Ministry". I can't make the conference myself because of my teaching schedule but sounds like a great opportunity to explore the thinking and motivations behind using new media for Christian outreach.

Friday, September 07, 2007

6th International Conference on Media, Religion and Culture

The conference web site for the 6th International Conference on Media, Religion and Culture is up and running. So if you are interested in interacting with other scholars from around the world on issues related to the intersection of media and religion, and also fancy a visit to São Paulo in August 2008, check out the details for Dialogues in Diversity.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Al-Quran for Your iPod


In my continuing search for the interesting intersections between religion and the Ipod, came across this video on you tube which shows interesting demonstration of "First and Only Completely Readable 'Arabic' version of Al-Quran for your iPod" provided by theonlyword.com. The download is complete with vocal reading, chanting of the chosen portion of the koran. Here we see the digitized word married with classic sung recitation made portable and readily available to Muslims on the move.


Grad Conference CFP:In Medias Religiones

In Medias Religiones
A Conference on Religion, Media, and Material Culture
Saturday, 02 February 2008
Duke University & UNC-Chapel Hill

Call for Papers
From oral history to sacred writing on papyrus to internet evangelism, religion has been tied closely with media that convey itsmessage. What roles do specific media play in religious activities?What roles do specific religions play in media? Who producesreligious media and what are their cultural affects? This undergraduate and graduate student conference explores how a varietyof media and religious formations interact. We investigate religionas a material process by tracing how religious subjectivities aremediated by culturally-specific objects, images, and artifacts.

We invite 100-word abstracts for 20-minute papers on any topic dealing with religion & media.
Please submit abstracts toinmediasreligiones@gmail.com by 01 November 2007.

Questions? Please visit www.unc.edu/~jdelam/inmediasreligiones/

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jewish Ipod: ShasPod


Picking up on search my recent theme of religious culturing of the Ipod I came across the Shaspod. Launched in 2005 the ShasPod comes pre-loaded 20GBs of Talmudic lessons and teachings. That is about 7.5 years worth of daf yomi (the practice of reading and studying one page of the Talmud a day) for the technologically "with it" religious Jew. This was the brainchild of Rabbi Dovid Grossman of Los Angels who also has a web site providing audio and visual dowloads of the video texts via his web site DafYomi.com. Version 1.o is currently sold out but it is said that 2.0 will soon be forthcoming.

Conference Call for Papers:Media, Spiritualities and Social Change

Conference Call for Papers
Media, Spiritualities and Social Change
June 4-7, 2008
Center for Media, Religion and Culture, School of Journalism and Mass Communication University of Colorado, Boulder;

This interdisciplinary conference seeks proposals for papers and panels exploring the ways in which media culture, civic engagement and spiritualities intersect to form practices, discourses and the material expressions of social change. In an era of globalization, the media age has introduced a new set of conditions and opportunities for the nature, practice and integration of spirituality and civic engagement. Increasingly, the concept of "spirituality" has become recontextualized, reinserted and reimagined within discourses about social and environmental change. Integral to this project are the media, which provide salient values and symbols to a synthesis of public and private identities, practices and beliefs. New spiritual sensibilities articulate with new imaginaries of the civic sphere through media culture. Key questions are how and where values, practices and beliefs are articulated as spiritual and socially transformational.

In the interest of bridging theory and practice, we welcome submissions from scholars, activists, NGOs and health, business, and media professionals who wish to engage in an intellectual discussion about the engines of social change and its expressions through media culture and spiritual life. Papers and panels may employ any of a number of perspectives, issues and methodologies including but not limited to the following:

… Economics; conscious capitalism; late capitalism
… Environmental, sustainable or "green" practices, products and beliefs
… Ethics; morality; truth; philosophy; religion and spirituality
… Media culture; media technologies and applications; media institutions/policy
… Popular culture; cultural studies; material culture
… Society; community; citizenship; public-private partnerships
… Activism; social justice; social movements; positive politics; philanthropy
… Globalization; public sphere; civil society; governance and control
… "New"/alternative spiritualities
… Gender; race; age; class; identities
… Methodologies and theory
… Ideology; power; discourse

Abstracts and panel proposals due: Dec. 1, 2007 to:
Dr. Monica Emerich, Monica.emerich@colorado.edu.
By mail: Monica Emerich, Center for Media, Religion and Culture, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado, 1511 University Ave., 478 UCB, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0478.

This conference is co-sponsored and presented in association with Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado; The Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno; and The Fred W. Smith Ethics Seminar Series with the financial support of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Las Vegas, NV, USA.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Jewish Google

My friend Oren (who recently wrapped up an interesting PhD at Hebrew University in Youth and the Internet) gave me a heads up to a new Jewish search engine known as jgog. While it looks similar to the Hebrew version of Google it is a unique Jewish focused search engine started by Israeli programmer Jossi Mor Josef. There has been some discussion online about the filtering mechanism in place in the software allowing some "unorthodox" words or searches to be blocked or re-defined, however most of these articles are in German and Hebrew. So if anyone runs across some more info in English on this site I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Muslim IPod

I figured if there were Jewish Ipod applications, there must be a Muslim version as well and my suspicions were correct. The PenMan IQRA'A could very well be called the Muslim IPod. It is the latest in Muslim specific digital technology. Described as a Quran Digital book" it is part digital library part MP3 and video player. It comes a preloaded series of Muslim resources including a recording of the entire Quran, recorded Hadith translations, a Quilba (Mecca) indicator and other Muslim related resources. So you can keep on time to prayers, study the Quran and jam to your fav Muslim Hip Hop artist (BTW--I am currently listening to Outlandish) all with the help of a small hand held device.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Introducing the J Phone

You could skip the Jesus Phone and go for a JPhone (from Jewlarious.com). This definitely made me smile!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

IPhone = Jesus Phone?!?



I've been doing some searching online for information on cell phones and religion and I came across an interesting trend...claims that the IPhone has been "dubbed the Jesus Phone by its more blindly faithful users". This metaphor was used by bloggers and then the media in news reports even before the phone was released in July. It evokes the image of Steve Jobs (the president of Apple) as Savior of all our technological needs and the IPhone as god. Some have argued that "Jesus Phone" users are like cult followers exhibiting religious like tendencies, i.e. the cult of Jesus Phone. In news reports religious language is often present, with reporters using phrase such as the "iPhone's divinity", "the messiah of all gadgets" and "the Messiah phone should find itself rich in disciples" are common and a few even provide images that suggest the the cult of mac who may "worship the Jesus phone". Even critiques of the IPhone use religious metaphor and images such as "shares many of the same handicaps that bedevil other U.S. cellular devices"


The IPod as Jesus Phone has arguably been fueled by the reviews and descriptions of the IPhone amongst the blogging community. One blogger has even set up a blog called IPhone Saviour dedicated to the culture and conversation emerging around the new phone using many religious images and heavily religious language. While the significance of this phenomenon is in need of further consideration, it does show the powerful currency religious imagery and language still hold in our media culture.

A Jewish IPod?


Check this out. You can buy the Chai Pod iPod T-shirt...and download IDaven (Jewish prayers for the IPod) and Jewish users can make their IPod experience "Qof-Dalet-Shin".
Update: On an unrelated note "JPod" is not the name for a Jewish IPod, but the name of a recent novel from Douglas Coupland.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The IPod "from a biblical perspective"


Stephen G in New Zealand has highlighted a new book relevant to my previous post. Produced by Scripture Union in the UK the book, "The IPod" written by Brian Draper seeks to "explores the impact of the iconic iPod from a biblical perspective, inviting readers to consider issues such as active and passive listening, music as commodity or communion, the fluidity of self expression and the art of silence". SU has a full series of bible studies books called Connect that aimed to encourage biblical reflection for young people on many facets of our contemporary media-techno culture including AI, Computer Animated Films and even Harry Potter. These are great examples of mixing reflection on technology with religious education

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

IPod Culture: Use it, Wear it, Brand It, Sacralize it



My university just announched the launch of the "Fightin' Texas Aggie Ipod", custom-engraved with the Texas A&M University logo. In the last year I have been noticing a lot of IPod related gear demonstrating how pervasive this little piece of technology is becoming in our culture. Marks & Spencers in the UK offers the Ipod suit, for the professionally tailoried tech geek amongst us so no unslightly wires or connector mess up one's dapper look. Of course there is the Nike/Ipod partnership producing running shoes that house a sensor in you shoe to help you monitor your distance and heart rate via you nano while you run. And is you want to "Tune in to God" you can clothe your Ipod in the appropriate religious cover. I am facinated by the fact that by trends in re-branding a popular brand to make them "our" own. But when it comes to religion and religious communities doing this what message does this send out? Are we tryine to sacralize, re-enchant or proselytize our technology? Does it infer that God has a master IPod? Or...what would Jesus have on his Ipod? (interesting...according to a Beleifnet poll 55% of people said JC would not even own one!)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Online Sarcasim: Motivational Posters for the Emerging Chaos




Some of you may have (or have not) seen these....Motivational Posters for the Emerging [Church] [Conversation] Chaos circulating on the web. These in-your-face images are meant to challenge some of the current discourse happening around the Emerging Church. Two weeks ago now I was able to take part in a podcast & online conversation hosted by Tall SkinnyKiwi, aka "Happy Hour with Andrew Jones" at Shapevine, where I and EC-ites debated the reality or not of these images. So I thought I would pass them on, especially for my other research colleagues exploring Emerging Conversation online, it is also a great example of how the web can be used a s a tool for critique and response. Below is an image created by two of the people involve "Happy Hour" as their response the these images...









Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One more thing from NZ...the Church in Second Life


Today is my last day in NZ. It has been a great visit personally & research wise. I also learned this past week that the NZ Anglican Church has just set up an Anglican Cathedral of Second Life. I ran out of time to meet up with the virtual vicar/coordinator Mark Brown to learn more about the thinking and planning behind this but we have already arranged to meet up for an interview in Second Life in the near future. I knew someone would eventually do this, who knew it would be the kiwis!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Live in Auckland: Who's got the Power Online?

For anyone who is in the Auckland (NZ) and is interested I will be presenting some of my current research on how religious bloggers frame and present religious authority online in a seminar at 4pm on Wednesday, July 25 at the Bible College of New Zealand in the Henderson area. For more details drop me an email!

I am also giving the opening talk at the New Perspective in Science & Theology Conference at BCNZ this Friday entitled--The Technologized Other: Considering the Posthuman & Prophetic Technorealism.

And if you are in Christchurch, NZ you can check me out live on Saturday at a Special Seminar entitled: Building Christian Community: What the Internet can teach Offline Church.

Media and Religious Authority Colloquium

Today I participated in an interesting colloquium organized by Tim Bulkley on Media and Religious Authority at Carey Baptist College. It brought together researchers from New Zealand and Australia (via a skype connection) interested in exploring together how the media may shape or influence various aspects of religious authority. We shared our overlapping interests and potential projects that we might bring together in a joint project. I spoke about the findings from one of my current projects on how religious bloggers portray different aspects of religious authority online. Paul Teusner is exploring how Emerging Church bloggers responded to technorati or google blog authority ranking system. Ann Hardy is beginning to work Exclusive Brethren role in attempting influencing the NZ National Election and how religious groups may use media to influence the public sphere. Peter Horsfield is interested in the interaction of new media and religious authority in Australia. Stephen Garner is considering how religious authority is manifested in comic books & graphic novels. Tim Bulkley is interested in the role of textual authority in different religious environments and authority in the Biblio-blogger community online. I am looking forward to seeing how this collaboration develops.

Monday, July 23, 2007

ELaunch: Voices of the Virtual World

Announcing the official launch of Voices of the Virtual World.

This ebook explores the growing influence of technology on the global Christian church. In this premier volume, we hear from more than forty voices, including technologists and theologians, entrepreneurs and pastors… from a progressive Episcopalian techno-monk to a leading Mennonite professor… from a tech-savvy mobile missionary to a corporate anthropologist whom Worth Magazine calls "one of Wall Street's 25 Smartest Players." Voices is a far reaching exploration of spiritual journey contextualized within a culture of increasingly immersive technology.

ABOUT WIKIKLESIA: Conceived and established in May 2007, the Wikiklesia Project is an experiment in on-line collaborative publishing. The format is virtual, self-organizing, participatory - from purpose to publication in just a few weeks. All proceeds from the Wikiklesia Project will be contributed to the Not For Sale campaign.

“The Wikiklesia Project has garnered some of the savviest writers and bloggers around in a daring attempt to radically democratize knowledge ­ and in the process unleash theological reflection where it matters most: the public sphere. This is not just some new way to self publish; it is a new and exciting form of collaborative theologizing on critical topics that concern us all. Welcome to your future.”

- Alan Hirsch, Author of The Forgotten Ways as well as The Shaping of Things To Come (with Mike Frost) and Founding Director of Forge Mission Training Network

The e-book is on sale for $15 on Lulu.com. For more information check out Wikklesia.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Intern at Intel & look at spirituality and technology

This announcement just got posted on the Association of Internet Researchers email list, which is an interesting opportunity to explore spirituality and technology at Intel.

As part of Domestic Designs and Technologies Research - the ethnographic and design research team within the Digital Home Group - you will work within a multidisciplinary team of anthropologists, design researchers and documentary film makers to explore and research 'love and spirituality' and its intersection with computers and technology, in and around the home. DDTR is a driving force within the Digital Home Group (DHG): our charter is to develop a clear & actionable understanding of daily life all over the world, identify opportunities for our platforms to enable experiences that consumers value, merge original insights with technology, market, platform and planning intelligence to define usage models & platform requirements, and seed future research & platform opportunities. DHG's vision is to make Intel the trusted foundation of your digital home. To that end, the Digital Home Group develops computing and communications oriented platforms that anticipate and satisfy the needs of consumers world-wide.

We will be offering 3 month paid internships starting in October '07 and, for graduate students in anthropology, design research or relatedsocial sciences. Interns must re-locate to the Portland, Oregon area to work closely with the research team during the entire length of the internship, and be eligible to work in the US.

We are looking for individuals with experience in designing andconducting both qualitative and/or quantitative user or design research studies, including analysis of the resulting data. Candidates should prepare a concise yet thorough 3-5 page proposal to explore some aspect of love and spirituality and its intersection with computers andtechnology in and around the home; inclusion of how the proposed research fits with the candidate's own research interests (broadly defined) is a plus. Exact responsibilities of the position will be defined with the successful applicant based on the proposal you submit.

Please submit your proposal (3-5 pages, including bibliographic references) describing the research you'd like to do in this area over the course of your internship to http://uk.f272.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=francoise.bourdonnec@intel.com&YY=28575&y5beta=yes&y5beta=yes&order=down&sort=date&pos=0&view=a&head=b.Applications (CV + proposal) must be received by July 31st for the October start date.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

PodBible: An experiment in MP3ing the Good Book

Tonight I got to meet Tim Bulkeley face-to-face. He is organizing a virtual theology colloquium while I am here in NZ on religion and authority which I am really looking forward. While chatting and getting acquainted I heard the story behind one of his many interesting projects, in this case the 'PodBible' project. In 2005 Tim gathered some 300 Kiwi volunteers who read portions of the Bible in shifts and over a weekend and provided a live streaming web cast of the whole Bible. The readings were also recorded and became the basis of the PodBible. The number of people downloading this recording continues to increase with the most frequent downloads coming from first the USA, then China and thirdly New Zealand. From antecedents he has been able to learn that reason for some of the Chinese downloads is due to users using the recordings to practice their English.

The PodBible recording is now being broken down into chapter segments, each being followed by recorded reflective "Think", "Share" & "Do" questions. The intentions is to provide a way for people to listen to the Bible over a year period through these podcasts.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

CFP: Religious Norms in Cyberspace

This conference may be of interest to for those doing work in religion online...

RELIGIOUS NORMS IN CYBERSPACE: CALL FOR PAPERS

We cordially invite you to actively participate in the workshop 'Religious Norms in Cyberspace' which will take place at the international conference Cyberspace 2007 held in Brno, Czech republic,November 30 – December 1, 2007.

Illustrative topics: religious normative frameworks in cyberspace,networking diasporas, religious collaborative environments, on-line counseling, on-line fatwas and cyber muftis, new religious movements,religious discourses in cyberspace, methodology of online-religion research, rituals in cyberspace etc.

Abstract submission deadline: July 31, 2007. For further information about the conference, please visit the conference website:http://www.cyberspace.muni.cz/

Please submit your abstracts via conference website at http://www.cyberspace.muni.cz/english/register.php

Participants with accepted papers will receive free conference pass and free access to conference meals and social events. Accepted papers will be published in fully reviewed Masaryk University Journal of Law and Technology.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Buddhism Online


I am trying to keep myself awake after a transalantic airport to New Zealand so am catching up on my email. One of the messages was from a PhD student in Religious Studies and friend from Edinburgh announcing her launch of a new web site. Louise Connelly is doing interesting work on Buddhist blogs and is also teaching a course on e-religion at the University of Edinburgh Extension Program and has set up an online resource space related to her research. It is definitely worth checking it out, as Asian religions are still one of the under-represented areas in Religion Online studies!


Monday, June 25, 2007

Work of the People

Recently, through the virtual introduction of Travis Reed, I have discovered an interesting new web site called The Work of the People,. This is a unique site that strives to be community of artists, storytellers, filmmakers, poets and theologians who have pooled their work online "to create tools for the Church to engage universal spiritual issues through progressive media". The sites house a great storehouse of images, video loops for use in liturgy along with books & CDs for sale, great resources abound for those wishing to use multi-media in a church context. They also host an interesting blog by the same name highlighting sacred images and films. This is a great example of resource sharing-commercial hybrid offering innovative multi-media items for those seeking to incorporate that language of new media culture into their expressions of church.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I've been tagged!

John La Grou just tagged me (and my blog) on his blog. But since I am trying to keep my research and personal blogging separate I have responded on my other blog Long way from Auld Reekie. Check it out to learn a bit more about the woman behind the blog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wikiklesia: Voices of the Virtual World

After a short hiatus--thanks to a wisdom teeth extraction and 5 days with broken A/C amidst the sweltering Texas heat--I'm back.

For those who haven't heard about it I wanted to point you to a forthcoming e-book sponsored by the Wikiklesia Project coordinated by John LaGrou and Len Hjalmarson who came up with the idea for a collaborative "ecclesial e-book - virtual, self-organizing" that seeks to facilitate a "conversation on how technology is changing the church". Book One is called "Voices of the Virtual World" and brings together an interesting cross section of bloggers, emerging church leaders and a few academic types like myself. I have written a piece called "Living as the Networked people of God" which will feature a summary of my thoughts on what online christian community has to teach offline churches about community, caring relationships and technology. Each chapter will also be downloaded as an MP3 file, read by each of the authors. All proceeds from the Wikiklesia Project will be contributed to the Not For Sale campaign. Coming soon...so check it out!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mediating Faiths: Religion, Media and Popular Culture

Call for papers: Mediating Faiths: Religion, Media and Popular Culture

Edited by Michael Bailey (Leeds Metropolitan University), Anthony McNicholas (University of Westminster) and Guy Redden (Lincoln University).

The place of religion in contemporary society is an issue of major importance. Yet it has too frequently been considered a ‘survival’, a residue of previous socio-cultural formations, rather than a significant dimension of the present. Even in modern liberal societies, such as Britain and the United States, religion continues to play a role in shaping political ideologies, alliances, institutional practices, public policy, communities of interest, ways of life and social identities. The socio-political context of religion has become even more salient in light of the recent dynamics of religious fundamentalism and religiously-legitimated conflict, e.g. the ‘clash of civilisations’ between a Christian or secular west and Islam. Such developments raise important questions about how best to mediate between the needs and/or demands of different religions, communities and competing belief systems, some of which are secular. The question of religious representation and recognition is particularly urgent in multicultural societies where there are a diversity of faiths and beliefs, each with their own distinct cultural values and traditions.Meanwhile, it is increasingly common for expressions of religiosity to take place outside conventional sacred spaces and, in contexts of mediated popular culture, where they can become imbricated with mundane interests and concerns of everyday life.

Most religious faiths have come to recognise the role the media and popular culture can play in extending, promoting, renewing, and re-embedding religious traditions in temporal and spatial contexts, in ways that were previously unimaginable. This is particularly true of some new religious movements for which spirituality is as much about personal development, experience, and lifestyle as it is belief. On the other hand, some religious groups are reluctant to engage with secular-based media, in case this challenges the authority of religious institutions in relation to their everyday embodiment of spiritual discipline, moral authority and pastoral guidance. At the same time, the media itself may be seen in quasi-religious terms. ‘Media rituals’ are just one example of the way in which popular media and their audiences can themselves be understood as imagined holy communions, far removed from official religious practices and forms of worship.

Given the recent growth in interest in contemporary religious issues, beyond specifically theological matters, and the intersections between religion, media and culture, it is timely to bring together scholars working across a range of disciplinary fields, including anthropology, cultural studies, media and film, history, sociology, cultural theory, among others, in an effort to facilitate greater understanding of religious beliefs, identities, and the changing nature of rituals and concepts of the sacred.

Proposals are welcomed on, but not limited to, the following topics and areas:

• Representations of religion across a variety of media forms, including film, television, the newspaper press, literature, popular music and new media
• Religion, popular culture and everyday life
• Religion, diversity and intercultural relations
• Religion, politics and social movements
• Religion, censorship and media policy
• Religious media, audiences and consumption
• Religion and media rituals
• Mediations between the sacred and the secular
• Virtual and imagined sacred spaces• New spiritualities and religious movements
• Religion, media and young people
• The privatisation and commodification of religion
• Religion and media/cultural/social theory

Proposals with an international focus are particularly welcome, as are those that are concerned with historical and cross-cultural analyses of religion.

Proposals of 200-250 words, accompanied by a brief biographical note, should be sent by 31st July 2007 to all three editors: Michael Bailey (m.bailey@leedsmet.ac.uk); Anthony McNicholas, (anthony.mcnicholas@bbc.co.uk); Guy Redden (gredden@lincoln.ac.uk).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Building the Bible Online: The Brick Testament

I continue to be a amazed at the diversity and creativity of online content produced around religion. For instance the web site The Brick Testament. This an entertaining and irreverent site featuring popular stories of the Old, and New Testament as told through the use of Legos. Note the warning rating guide for particular stories highligthing nudity, violence, sexual content, etc. This is a classic example of what might have been the silent hobby of one man becoming a publicized phenomenon by using the internet as a platform digital publication...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Building the Ancient Online


I am attending a conference on teaching called Wakonse and as part of the afternoon activities went on a nature hike where we learned about tracking animals, dune ecology and Native American Spirituality. The hike culminated in a visit to a Medicine wheel built on the camp grounds where we learned how meeting places were used such as these for tribal meetings and places of prayer as pattern constructed represented multiple meanings including the moon cycles/months of the years, different seasons of life and journeys towards growth. As I was unable to take notes and remember all of what our guide had said I was interested to see what I could find out online post the walk. The answer is a lot! ...from numerous articles to online spaces where you can create a digitial interactive medicine wheel.

If you are interested in Native American and non-institutionalized spiritualized practices and discourses—from ethical consumerism to the New Age to eco-spiritual tourism-- you might want to check out the upcoming conference: Media, Spiritualities and the Public Sphere to be held June 4-8, 2008 at the University of Colorado-Boulder and sponsored by the Center for Media, Religion and Culture. For more information contact Dr. Monica Emerich, Monica.emerich@colorado.edu

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Selling Church Online

I am multi-tasking during a conference I am attending on the Internet in China. Right now a Chinese scholar based in Arizona is presenting on chinese cybernationalism and activitism, and I am learning about chinese hackers, honkers and the sino-china online war of 1999-2001. While trying to find a web site the speaker was talking about I came across a web site that linked me to several interesting sites on church marketing.

You can experience technological conversion online at Fellowship one, a web site that offers church managment software to help you retain and cultivate contact with casual church visitors.

Other interesting Church marketing tools include: Parishsoft, church software and Church Community Software.

For those who feel that most Church Marketing Sucks, we have a blog for you. It offers insights in how to communicate the christian faith cleverly and with clarity, with the aim to frustrate, educate, and motivate those that need it. The blog is linked to the Center for Church Marketing.

There is also Eministry notes which includes as series of posts that feature tools and concepts for churches seeking to raise their profile and minstry online.

It seems "selling faith" is becoming even more of an industry, faciliated through the proliferation of online resources. Business models motivating and driving religious organizations have become increasingly accepted. since the launch of the Willow Creek phenomeon--a church started by Bill Hybles based on a marketing survey. Yet I wonder how the medium and these strategies might reshape the perception and reception of spiritual content.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cell Phones and Religion

Since I got my first cell phone in 2000 I have been interested in how religion may or may not shape mobile/cell phone use. I have written on text messaging, trends in religious uses of cell phones, and the rise of the "kosher" cell phone in Israel. The later is a unique example of the UltraOrthodox Jewish community culturing and innovating a technology so that its use is more in line with their moral codes and way of life. It is a case study in my current book project, and it has also just come out as a journal article.

‘What Hath God Wrought?’ Considering How Religious Communities Culture ( or Kosher ) the Cell Phone is appearing Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Volume 21 Issue 2, 191

My thoughts and research reflections are also featured today in an article in the Houston Chronicle entitled CUTTING THE CORD: The great disconnect. The article explores "The increasing use of cell phones has prompted a communication revolution that may eventually make land lines a thing of the past."


Friday, May 11, 2007

Doing Church online




Over the past 5 years I have been watching some of the creative thinking and examples coming out of the UK related to the possibility of doing church online.

There is I-Church started by the Oxford diocese of the Church of England back in 2003 that aimed to be the CoE's first cyberparish. I actually attended the dedication of the I-Church in Oxford back in summer of 2004. There of course was also the Church of Fools experiment, 3-D virtual church environment that got lots of international attention during its 3 month launch in 2004. I also had the opportunity to attend 2 services at that time. I mentioned in a previous post that a PhD in Durham is currently doing some interesting work on these 2 groups, and this week I reviewed an article on these two groups soon to come out in the journal Online. I also learned that another cyberchurch I came across recently St Pixels is a reincarnation of individuals previously active in and connected to the Church of Fools.

Today I learned of another manifestation of cyberchurch coming soon to a virtual space near you from a Cynthia Ware a new friend and connection who is also exploring how new media and Christianity may interconnect. She suggested I check out Church on the net which is an evangelistic project about to be launched and according to the project leader, Nicola David
"is designed to help bring the concepts of God and church into the comfort zones of people who are in no way currently engaged with either."

Church of the Net is connected to the UK 'fresh expression' of church" initiative which is a partnership of the CofE and Methodist Church which began in 2004 with the aim to resource mission through encouraging new and different expressions of church life. It is fascinating to see how these many different forms of e-church have been emerging on the other side of the pond.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Finding your religion online...via Belief-o-matic


The internet can not only help you in your spiritual journey it can also help you define the path you are already on. Check out the handy "Belief-o-matic" quiz at Beliefnet.com. It takes you through a series of questions and in the end gives you a break down with what religious groups or traditions some of your core beliefs align you with. I was surprised to learn that based on my results I am 100% Orthodox Quaker (and 52% Orthodox Jew).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Religion and Computer-Mediated Communication

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has just launched a special issue on "Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Religion and Computer-Mediated Communication". The issue provides an interesting collection of articles dealing with many cutting edge topics and features work on several under-represented religions in studies of religion online including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. As the editors Ess, Kawabata & Kurosaki surmise in their introduction:

"Indeed, as religion continues to foster and expand its role in the lives of the vast majority of the world's population, as that population increasingly accesses and makes use of CMC technologies....and as the majority of the world's religious traditions continue their migration online, religion on the Internet should become an increasingly important dimension of CMC research. We hope that this special issue will generate insights, foundations and, most of all, enthusiasm for a research field that is crucial, growing, and very much in its beginning stages."

I would especially recommend the pieces by Helland, Cheong & Kluver... and my own article "Who's Got the Power? Religious Authority and the Internet" which deals with my current work on authority and the internet. As a teaser see the abstract below...

While many themes have been explored in relation to religion online—ritual, identity construction, community—what happens to religious authority and power relationships within online environments is an area in need of more detailed investigation. In order to move discussions of authority from the broad or vague to the specific, this article argues for a more refined identification of the attributes of authority at play in the online context. This involves distinguishing between different layers of authority in terms of hierarchy, structure, ideology, and text. The article also explores how different religious traditions approach questions of authority in relation to the Internet. Through a qualitative analysis of three sets of interviews with Christians, Jews, and Muslims about the Internet, we see how authority is discussed and contextualized differently in each religious tradition in terms of these four layers of authority.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hail Mary...full of digital grace.


During a recent lenten retreat I learned how to make a set of prayer beads. As I was admiring my creation tonight I wondered whether or not the rosary had yet gone digital. Thanks to google I learned that my suspicions were indeed correct and several versions of the rosary can be found online.


For instance at the Philip Neri Newman Center web with the click of the mouse you are able move your way around the visual image of the rosary and corresponding prayers. If you want a flash version complete with Monks singing in Latin try the online rosary at The Fatima Network online.


For the spirtually mobile you might want to consider spending $29.95 to on the vista rosary, a hand held electronic hand held device that allows you to say the rosary without the hassle of carrying around a string of beads. Or check out this digital rosary liscenced by WIPO. And there are even tongue-n-cheek versions, like the one found at Instant Absolution online.


It seems these days almost every traditional religious artifact can be found re-imagined online in some form or fashion...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

That's Marshal...Marshall McLuhan

A colleague sent me this link this morning. So for those Marshall McLuhan fans out there, check out this ballad!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Coming soon...Internet Evangelism Day!


Q: Do you know what April 29th is?
A: It's Internet Evangelism Day!


"E-vangelism" has been a growing trend in religious online culture sine the late 199os. Generally speaking, the aim of "e-vangelism" is the presentation of a purposeful religious presence online, whether it be organizations creating web sites to inform people about their faith and religious community, or individuals visiting chat rooms or joining an e-mail list with intention of trying to make converts.


In my current research in this are I came across the Internet Evangelism Coalition (ICE) and one of their projects is to sponsor “Internet Evangelism Day” to “communicate the outreach potential of the Web to the worldwide church". Each year they encouraging bible schools, churches and Christian organization to take time to focus on trainings about the nature and potential of the Web or discussions about web evangelism. I find this a fascinating example of para-church collaboration for the purpose of embracing technology for religious witness!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Down with the JC...at God Tube

First there was God Casting and now there is God Tube! From Sermons, to clips from Christian videos to even Christian ads. I even found a few ads that combine tongue-in-check commedy with the intersection religion and new technology. Click on the picture above to see one of my favourites, a paradoy of the Mac vs. PC ads and an interesting message about Christian Music. If you liked this one, check out the one below as well, featuring the HSHD (Holy Spirit Hard Drive). [And thanks to my friend Matt, postmodern pilgrim in Oxford, whose blog initally pointed me to this site.]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

CFP: Media, Religion, and Politics in the Age of Globalization

This call for papers might be of interest to researchers of religion and new media...

The American Edition of Global Media Journal invites the submission of essays and research reports that focus on the intersections across media, religion, and politics in the context of globalization for the fall 2007 issue. The guest editors, Debra Merskin and Karin Gwinn Wilkins, are particularly interested in critical work that considers the way religious and political groups engage global media systems in order to advocate particular perspectives. Global media refer to transnational, regional, and global media systems. Articles might address, but not be limited to, such topics as:

- the participation of religious and/or political leaders in the production of global media
- advocacy efforts of religious and/or political leaders and agencies to influence the content of global media
- ideological positions relating to religious and political perspectives evidenced in global media
- how religious and/or political groups interpret and engage global media
- intersections across religious and political groups in reference to media production and distribution

This special issue will include a Graduate Research Section. Authors should be sure to indicate current student status if to be considered in this section.

All papers must be submitted as Microsoft Word attachments no later than July 15, 2007. For submission guidelines, please go to: http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/gmj/gmj_submission_guidelines.htm. All papers MUST follow the APA style manual and must include: (a) Author's address and contact information, (b) a brief abstract--less than 200 words, (c) five to ten keywords which reflect the contents for the paper, and (d) a brief biography of the author--less than 50 words. Articles that do not follow appropriate submission guidelines will not be considered.

Please direct inquiries regarding this special issue to Karin Gwinn Wilkins, University of Texas at Austin, kwilkins@mail.utexas.edu. Inquiries pertaining to the graduate research section should be directed to Debra Merskin, University of Oregon, dmerskin@uoregon.edu.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age

I am sitting in St Catherine's College in Oxford at the end of a 3 wonderful day conference called Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age which brought together sociologist, theologians and media scholars from the UK, Europe and the USA to discuss a variety of topics on the intersection of religion, media and culture. The papers ranged from religion in club culture and the spirituality of Harry Potter to studies of Muslim Identities in Europe and Religious Media in Turkey.

There were several conference highlights for me. Lynn Schofield Clark, author of From Angles to Aliens, gave a great keynote address on Religious Branding, highlighting the rise of Fashion Bibles like Revolve and Muslim Hip Hop artists such as Native Deen as examples of the growing trend towards religious lifestyle branding making faith both more accessible and marketable to wider audiences. Tom Beaudoin, author of Virtual Faith, made an through provoking plea to use fandom studies as a basis for academics to become more self-reflexive in their study of popular culture and made interesting observations of how the act of spiritual direction provides a model for critical guided reflection on religion and media.

My favourite paper session--besides my own of course, where I think Pete Ward and I did a fine job of talking about spirituality and youth and specifically what youth led prayer meetings have to teach us about Evangelical Identity construction--was today's session on religion and the internet (no surprise there, eh!) PhD student Tim Hutchins from Durham University did a great job providing insights into institutional born cyberchurces such as i-Church and the Church of Fools, as did Katharine Moody from Lancaster University introducing her research on theo(b)logy and the Emerging Church (and citing my now good friend Mr. tallskinnykiwi) . Both demonstrated in how the field of religion and internet studies is maturing through exhibiting a developed knowledge of the field and well thought out methodologies. I think these will be 2 young scholars worth watching as their research projects mature.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Emerging Church in Orkney

I just returned from the Orkney Islands and 3 wonderful days learning about all things emerging, emergent and organic church related by picking the brain of postmodern pilgrim Andrew Jones. Andrew is a dynamic walking encyclopedia of the history of the emerging church movement, and I learned much by peppering him with questions while following him about his routine...including how to build a chicken coop and how to brew beer from ancient Orcadian Barley. He also pointed me to some interesting web sites related to the emerging church including emergent village and next-wave.org. More information on emerging church to follow...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

UK Here I come...

Heidi has left the building...or the country as it were. I am off to the UK for a couple of weeks so will likely not be posting for a while due to sporadic email access while I am traveling. There are 2 aspects of my trip that directly relate to this blog.

First, I will venturing to the very north of the British Isles to the wind swept Orkney Islands to spend time with Andrew Jones, an avid blogger and expert on the emerging Church movement.

Second, I will be attending a conference in Oxford entitled Religion, Media and Culture: Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age which is co-sponsored by the the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion study group and the UK Research Network for Theology, Religion and Popular Culture. I will be co-presenting a paper with my friend and colleague Pete Ward from King's College-London on an ethnographic research project looking at the role music plays in Evangelical worship/prayer meetings. This paper is part of a larger project which Gordon Lynch is also a part of, studying the construction of Evangelical identity and discourse by Scottish youth within public prayer meetings.

Will let you know how things went when I return...

Hey, there's religion in my music?!

I'm continuing to search out new forms of religious expression popping up in popular culture. The last few weeks I have I spent a bit of time exploring emerging genres of religious music, especially related to Islam and Judaism. Contemporary Religious Music has facinated me since my stint as DJ at a Christian Radio station back in the early 1990s. Now I have discovered the wonders Muslim Hip Hop and Jewish Rock.

A great web site for a quick introduction to Muslim, Hip Hop and contemporary Nasheed is MuslimHipHop.com; I recommend checking out the music of Danish group Outlandish or New York native Miss Undastood. I am also anxiously awaiting the arrival of a recent CD purchase The So Called Seder: A Hip Hop Haggadah to add to my growing collection of Jewish pop music. For an introduction into Jewish Rockers, religious and not so religious, check out Jewsrock.org and for fun test your knowledge of with the "Jew or Not?".

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Christian Bloggers Survey

An interesting survey on Christian Bloggers has just released its results. The 2007 Christian Bloggers Survey was conducted by Cory Miller of ChurchCommunicationsPro
in partnership with Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox recieved much hype on a variety of Christian blog sites while the study was being conducted during January 2007. In some econversations with Miller he described the survey as an attempt to "at a rough estimate at the "Christian" blogosphere...and give some general observations " (personal communication, 1 March 2007).

The snowball sampling method counducted "word of mouth" via Miller's site and Rick Warren's pastors.com meant the population surveyed was somewhat self-selecting, which might account for the high percentage of Pastor and male respondents. Still it managed to offer important insights into the some dominant characteristics Christian blogging including the most popular platforms (Blogger & WordPress), primary age range (Gen Xers, 31-40) and lenght of blogging (most under 2 years, highlighting it as a recent trend). This exploratory study has helped me frame my own current project on how religious identity and authority is framed in religious blogs, a content analysis study I am currently overseeing here at TAMU.