Friday, November 21, 2008

Online Religion on PBS

PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly launched a cover story, episode 1212 today on Online Religion that features your truly. The story explores the impact and implication of doing religion online as it where. Here is and excert of what I had to say:
SEVERSON: Heidi Campbell is a professor at Texas A&M University and author of the book “Exploring Religious Community Online.” She says there are very tangible reasons why the religious experience through chat rooms and social networking sites has increased in popularity — online prayers, for example.

Dr. HEIDI CAMPBELL (Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Texas A&M University and Author, “Exploring Religious Community Online”): In fact, some of the people in my early research said that they felt more cared for and that people, when they said they were praying for them online, that they really meant it because there was some tangible artifact that they could see to really show that they were praying for them.

SEVERSON: She says the Internet extends the “global body of Christ” because someone or some prayer is always there, and she says for those too shy or introverted to speak up in church, the Internet offers anonymity.

Dr. CAMPBELL: That anonymous nature allows them to ask the questions, to get the feedback, to say things that they would never be able to say in a face-to-face environment.
For the full story check it out here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogging from GCIA

I am sitting in a room full of Christian internet innovators in the beautiful Texas hill country at the GCIA conference at Laity Lodge. It is beautiful remote location on the Frio River where there is not cell phone coverage, but they got wifi installed in the conference hall especially for this conference. I am learning lots about the creativity and diverse strategies and uses of the internet by different Christian groups around the world. Some of my favorite sites that I have seen so far include, created by Norwegians in an effort to offer a complete children’s Bible via computer games; based in France who are applying some interesting e-vangelism strategies via a number of sites and partnerships including; also a German web site that has launched "the Jesus experiment" as a sort of online alpha course to facilitate discovery about Christianity and many others. I have also had fascinating conversations with people from Brazil, Russia and Canada on their visions and work online.

Yesterday was a full day. We heard from the new CEO of GodTube yesterday which has grown in leaps and bounds in the last 14 months since it went public. News flash, GodTube is going through major re-branding and structuring and will be re-launching itself in January 2009 as "Tangle" as a global Christian SMS site. It will be a MySpace/Facebook hybrid that will provide options for individuals, ministries, churches groups, bands and artists and expand to include discussion forums, podcasting as well as host the prayer wall and a new feature an interactive "virtual bible' that will allow for tagging and commenting on individual verses. GodTube will still exist as the video sharing section of the site, so it sounds like interesting times are ahead for that group.

I gave a talk on my research on the rise of Christian community online and its implications for the Church and Christian ministries. I was also interviewed by the editor in chief of Alliance Presse from Switzerland for an article on how the internet is and will impact Evangelical Christianity in Europe. More ministry case studies and presentations today...It was a five hour drive from TAMU to here, but it has definitely been worth the trip.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Relfecting on Christianity online at the Global Christian Internet Alliance

On Monday I will be giving a presentation at the annual meeting of the Global Christian Internet Alliance in the Texas hill country. GCIA describes itself as "an international network of Christian ministries using the Internet to help fulfill the Great Commission". I am looking forward to hearing about Christian online innovation from around the world and especially learn about the latest happenings at GodTube. As part of my presentation--"When Religion Meets New Media"-- I am posting links to some of the most interesting studies I have come across on Christian use of the Internet here in the past 2 years as resources for the conference participants [and anyone else in the blogosphere that might be interested]. I will be highlighting some of these in my presentation summary on "where do we go from here..." on the next wave of religion and internet research.

Heidi Campbell, (2007). Who's got the power? Religious authority and the Internet. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3), article 14.
This article explores how the internet both powers and challenge online religious authority within Christian (as well as Jewish & Muslim) communities.

Pauline H Cheong, Alexander Halavais, Kyounghee Kwon, (2008). The Chronicles of Me: Understanding Blogging as a Religious Practice. Journal of Media and Religion, Vol. 7, No. 3. (2008), pp. 107-131.
Their content analysis study of 200 blogs with mentions of topics related to Christianity, suggests that blogs provide an integrative experience for the faithful, not a “third place,” but a melding of the personal and the communal, the sacred and the profane.

Nadja Miczek, (2008) Online Rituals in Virtual Worlds. Christian Online Service between Dynamics and Stability. Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet: Vol. 03.1
This article investigates online worship services and interpret them through a framework of ritual theory, to look at issues of religious invention, transformation and exclusion at different stages of ritual action. This is found in a special issue of Online - Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, entitled Being Virtually Real? Virtual Worlds from a Cultural Studies’ Perspective. Be sure to check out the other interesting articles on Christianity in virtual worlds, namely learn about St Pixels by Jenkins and Church of Fools by Kluver & Chen.

Paul Teusner. (2007). Christianity 2.0 - a new religion for a new web. Paper Presented at Association of Internet Researchers Conference, Vancouver, BC, Oct 2007.
Interesting reflection on interview research with emerging church bloggers, attempting to understand the Christian life via their use of media.

Studies in World Christianity, December 2007, Special Issue: In Search of Online Religion
This entire issues is a diverse and rich collection of a variety of Christian uses of the internet combined with theological reflection on religious innovation online.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How Internet Innovations Are Changing the Way We Do Church

If you are interested in learning more about the conversation that happened at the Alban Institute one days conference I was part of last April on the impact of the internet on Christian Churches and institutions, check out the following brief report How Internet Innovations Are Changing the Way We Do Church.