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.

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