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.


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

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: (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 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!