Monday, December 21, 2009

PhD scholarship in Popular Culture and Spiritual Development/Lifelong Learning

Clive Marsh at the University of Leicester has posted an opening for a PDA\MPhil in Popular Culture and Spiritual Development/Lifelong Learning. He is especially interested in students wishing to work in music reception with interest in Music fan sites. This looks like a great opportunity. The application deadline is 15 Feb 2010 with a projected start date of April 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Virtual Center on New Media, Religion & Digital Culture

Thanks to a small grant from my university's Digital Humanities program I am in the process of starting a Virtual Center for the Study of New Media, Religion and Culture. The aim is to create an online, interactive resource center for scholars and students working in this interdisciplinary area. In an effort to best meet the needs of researchers I have developed an online survey to gather thoughts on the design and development of this center. I would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to fill this out at: Click here to take survey.

Also in case you did not know I have started a facebook group as a precursor to this center, so if you are interested you can also check this out on facebook groups under "New Media, Religion and Digital Culture"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doctoral Research Fellowship: New Media in Asia and/or the Middle East

A doctoral research fellowship is being advertised at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages (IKOS), University of Oslo for an individual interested in studying new media in Asia and/or the Middle East, and an interested in religion is one of the possible areas of specialization they are looking for. Applications are due 15 Dec 2009. Here is the scoop:

The successful candidate is expected to study the use of new media and communication technologies (including the Internet, satellite TV, and mobile phones) in Asia and/or the Middle East and their impact in the social, political, religious and/or cultural domains. The fellowship is open to projects from a wide range of disciplinary and methodological approaches to the study of new media. Comparative and/or multidisciplinary projects will be considered positively. Projects grounded in fieldwork in the region will be considered favourably. It is expected that the candidate analyzes primarily data in one or several of the region's languages. Candidates must therefore demonstrate advanced active skills in at least one relevant Asian and/or Middle Eastern language.

For more info contact the Research director at IKOS: Rune Svarverud, tel: + 47 22 85 69 82, e-mail: Research administration IKOS: Cecilie Lilleheil, tel: + 47 22 84 40 47, e-mail:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SSRC Graduate Dissertation Workshop on Virtual Worlds

The Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship (DPDF) is designed to help early-stage graduate students in the humanities and social sciences formulate more effective doctoral dissertation proposals. One of this year's program is on the theme of Research in Virtual Worlds. So if you are in your 2nd or 3rd year of your PhD in the USA and interested in doing a project which deals with the concept of the virtual check out this interesting program.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One more chance to Hear Heidi in Kiwi-land

If you are in New Zealand you have one more chance to hear and meet me in the flesh at a public lecture entitled" Networked Religion: Towards a Theology of New Media" at the end of November.

The lecture to be given by yours truly (Heidi Campbell) as the Wednesday 25 November 7pm at Vaughan Park Anglican Retreat Centre. This will be a culmination of my musings and research as one of Vaughan Park's Distinguished Academic Visitors for 2009. While at Vaughan Park I have been working working on a book project about how new media technologies raise important theological and ethical issues and how different forms ofreligious authority are being re-shaped and influenced by Internet use, especially within the Anglican tradition. Here is the talk's description:

In the past two decades significant changes have occurred affecting relationships with technology. Subtle shifts have occurred in the way religion is practiced and perceived in the Western World. This presentation looks at:

• how these changes are reflected in the practice of religion online
• what they have to tell us about the future of religious culture
• what a theology of new media might look like in order to address these issues.

An indication of attendance is appreciated: phone 09 473 2600, email

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Attention all Kiwis...Open Lecture at University of Otago

For anyone who finds themselves in the South Island of New Zealand in mid November, you are cordially invited to an open lecture at University of Otago based on my forthcoming book.

Dr. Heidi Campbell, Texas A&M University, will deliver an Open Lecture for the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Otago. The talk is entitled 'When Religion Meets New Media: Considering the Religious-Social Shaping of Technology' and is based on work from her forthcoming book When Religion Meets New Media (Routledge, March 2010) on how religious communities negotiate their use of new. Please come along on Monday 16th November at 5.10pm. The lecture will be held in St David Seminar Room 2. Anyone who finds themselves in the South Island of NZ is most welcome to come along!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

PhD Fellowship new media in the Middle East and/or Asia

Here is the announcement for the PhD-position in new media (Asia/ME) at University of Oslo. For those interested you can find more information at the following link:
The deadline for applications is December 15, 2009.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Internet believers: Pastors open online churches

This is definitely not new news...the growth of online churches, but it is in the AP headlines today. Check the story Internet believers: Pastors open online churches which profiles established and recent online versions of church such as Life-tv, Flamingo Road Church, and Central Christian Church.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

CFP: Special Issue on Religion and the Internet: The Online-Offline Connection

Call for Papers for Special Issue of Information, Communication & Society on Religion and the Internet: The Online-Offline Connection

Guest Editors: Heidi Campbell & Mia Løvheim

Call Description:
In the initial waves of religion and internet research focus was often placed on how the internet would drastically change religious practice and ideology, due to growth of religious communities online and integration of religious rituals and practices into digital environments. Much attention was given to the novel uses and trends such as those seen in New Religious Movements online where once fringe or secretive religious groups were given a public platform making them more visible. Focus was also placed on how mainstream religions, such as Christianity and Islam, were appropriating to new media technologies or critiquing internet use and with a particular focus on the United states and Western Europe. As the internet has become increasingly embedded in the everyday lives of many researchers attention is now being drawn to the connection between online and offline religious practice, structures and belief. Furthermore, the rise of new software and models of internet communication, often referred to as Web 2.0, has created a heightened interest in issues of user lead content creation and web based social interaction. At the heart of these developments is an important issue, considering to what degree spiritual practices online are transformative or to what extent they reflect larger changes in religious culture and institutions offline. This special issue of Information, Communication and Society seeks to explore this area by considering what we think we know about the relationship between online and offline religion and what issues are still are in need of more detailed investigation.

Aims and Scope:
In particular this special issues aims to explore the relationship between online and offline forms of religious practice and community. Key questions include:

- What is truly unique about the performance of religion online?
- How is the practice and conception of religion online connected to offline practices, communities and institutions?
- In what ways does religion online reflect trends seen offline in religious culture and practice?
- How do these transformations connect with issues of globalization and glocalization?

Possible topics may include (but are not limited to):
- The interactions between online communities and offline religious institutions
- How participants in online religious activities frame their involvement in offline religious groups - Responses of offline religious authorities to religious manifestations and practices online from their community or tradition
- Religious organizations and/or denominations use of the internet, or debates regarding official policy towards and new media use
- Attempts of diasporic communities to connect with their faith tradition and sacred sites via the Internet
- Theoretical work that links research on contemporary religious practice to online religion, i.e. the relationship between internet use and everyday religion, the role of emotions in religious internet use
- How religious actors deal with questions of time, space and information management in online and offline society
- How Virtual worlds and computer games seek to present or re-present "sacred space"

Submission Details:
Please submit a 300-500 word abstract to the guest editors as an e-mail attachment to no later than 10 February 2010. The four best abstracts will also be submitted as a panel for consideration at the International Media, Religion and Culture Conference to be held in Toronto, Canada (9-13 August 2010). Please include full contact information and a biographical note (up to 75 words) on each of the authors and indicate whether you wish to be considered for the MRC panel submission.

Authors of accepted abstracts will be notified by 6 March 2010 and will then be invited to submit a full paper to the guest editors. Final manuscripts should be no more than 8,000 words, including notes and references, conform to APA style, and submitted by 20 August 2010. Please note all papers will be subject to anonymous peer review following submission.

Important dates:
10 February 2010: Deadline for abstract submission
6 March 2010: Announcement of results and full paper invitations
9-13 August: MRC Conference
20 August 2010: Submission of full papers
October 2011: Publication of special issue

For Inquiries, abstracts, or submission of full papers should be addressed to:

Heidi Campbell
Assistant Professor of Communication
Department of Communication
Texas A&M University
Bolton 102, 4234 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843
Email: or

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CFP: Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spiritualities

The 1st Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spiritualities was held at the University of Haifa in March, 2009. Topics included spiritual development, contemporary Kabbala, East and West, spirituality in business, spiritual teachers, spirituality in psychotherapy, Shamanism, spirituality in the media, and more. The conference included about 70 presenters from varied fields of study, aroused wide interest, drew 350 participants, and won vast media coverage.

The abundance of varied phenomena which reflect contemporary spiritualities worldwide and especially in Israel, is highly impressive. These phenomena draw increasing academic attention by a large number of researchers from various disciplines including, Religious studies, Philosophy, Judaism, Anthropology, Psychology, Social work, Sociology, and Political sciences.
A comparative and interdisciplinary consideration of the different facets of contemporary spiritualities can contribute to the understanding of these phenomena. This is the rationale for the 2nd Israeli Conference for the Study of Contemporary Spiritualities. We invite researchers and graduate students from different disciplines to submit proposals for papers or panels. The conference will include lectures both in Hebrew and in English.

Proposals for lectures should include: Name, academic status (Graduate Student, Assistant professor, etc.), academic institution (or a different affiliation), E-mail address, abstract (350-500 words) and a list of 10 references.

Proposals for Panels should include: Name, academic affiliation, 3-4 abstracts of lectures according to the format above, panel's rationale (50-100 words) and a proposed chair

Deadline for Submissions November 20, 2009 . Responses will be sent via E-mail until January 10, 2010. Send submissions via Email to: for Pninit Russo-Netzer, Conference Coordinator. Address inquiries to this email too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cyberspirituality and the Spirit of Things

According to Rachel Kohn from Australian ABC radio, "Spiritual surfing on the internet is bigger than Ben Hur and it's changing the way religion is created, delivered and experienced". Kohn on her weekly radio show The Spirit of Things explores Cyberspirituality with yours truly and
Julie Hamilton founder and editor-in-chief of Omigoddess!. In our interview we explored debates over the authenticity of religious community online and case studies from my forthcoming book about the similarities and difference in Jewish, Muslim and Christian uses of the internet. Let me know what you think about my observations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

WWJMB or What would Jesus Micro-Blog?

In recent discussions of religion in a Web 2.0 era (a term which btw gets my knickers in a twist, but that's another blog post...) speculations has been raised about the impact of Facebook and Twitters as modes of spreading religious content. In Finding religious community online in a Web 2.0 era journalist Joshunda Sanders for the Austin Statesman suggests that the current generation of Social media are becoming important tools for publicize church events to broader audiences and helping solidify prayer support. While interesting individual examples can be found I do wonder what the long range impact of these technologies, esp. on religious cultures. Microblogging has become a much talked about phenomenon and framed as a potential new news medium. However a recent study from professors at Rutgers have found that tweeting is really "all about me". Their analysis of Twitter found 80% of users we "me-formers", and rather than sharing information were all about providing personal status update. This is further fodder that the Internet is contributing to rise in networked individualism. I wonder if this trend is also mirrored among religious microbloggers. Interestingly Sanders also recently blogged about a study from professors at Gordon College that found Facebook might be bad for young Christians in that the compulsive me focus of Facebook might be a distraction to religious discipline. Interesting thoughts.

If there are others out there researching these issues let me know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Christian Century: Navigating New Media

I just got a head's up via Stewart Hoover FB status that The Christian Century published an article last month on: Navigating the new media. The article focuses on reflecting on the impact of new media on the production and circulation of news with some notable opinions shared by Mark Silk, Martin Marty and Stephen Prothero whose book American Jesus I recently read and found very provocative. I encourage you to check it out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

An evening with Heidi Campbell in OZ

I am taking a little trip across the pond, as it were, to Australia for the weekend to visit friends and colleagues. In honor of my first visit to OZ my mate Paul Teusner has organized a get together in Melbourne and I hear there is still space at the table so to speak if you are interested (but he needs to know by Friday). Below is what he wrote in the official invites he sent out:

Dr Campbell is an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University and one of the world's leading scholars in religion and online media. Her research has taken her from inner urban life in Glasgow through mainstream churches in Auckland to where religion, history and politics collide in Israel. Heidi's teaching and research centres on the social shaping of technology,rhetoric of new media, and themes related to the intersection of media, religion and culture, with a special interest in the internet and mobil ephones. She has written a book Exploring Religious Community Online: We are one in the network looking at how members of online religious communities connect their online and offline social-religious networks.

Her current research is an investigation of Jewish, Muslim & Christian communities 'historic perceptions and contemporary use of media technologies, forthcoming as a text When Religion Meets New Media.For those who have any interest in how online technology is shaping how people are seeing and interacting with the world, or want to know how creative uses of new technologies are making new opportunities for people to connect, grow and learn, this is a chance to have questions explored.

Heidi is also keen to hear stories of Australians who have tried out religion on the Internet, whether the experience is good or bad or somewhere in between. Come along and share with her what the 21st century Australian spirit sounds and smells like.

Date: Monday 12 October 2009. 7pm.

Venue: Pireaus Blues Restaurant, 310 Brunswick St Fitzroy (Melbourne).Sit-down dinner, a la carte (Main prices from $15 to $30).

RSVP: Friday 9 October to

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Religion and New Media Google Group

I was just invited to join a Religion and New Media Google Group a few days ago. I encourage you to check it out this endeavor to create an international group for the study of religion and new media. There was a plug today on it for my blog and even a link to info on my forthcoming book, for which this blog was named, that I myself did not know about yet.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Parsis use new technology to keep religion alive

A friend sent me a link to this article how India's Parsis are turning to new media in order to keep their ancient Zoroastrian religion alive. This compliments some of the reading I have been doing the past 2 weeks about how ethnic enclaves employ media to solidify and maintain their religious identities in a diffused network society.

If you are interested in this topic I recommend also checking out:

P.H. Cheong & J.P.H. Poon (2009) Weaving Webs of Faith: Examining Internet Use and Religious Communication Among Chinese Protestant Transmigrants, Journal of International & Intercultural Communication, 2(3), pp. 189-207.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Twitteleh: Twitter for your Jewish Mother

If Twitter is wearing on you why not try Twitteleh: Twitter for your Jewish Mother....enjoy this parody video!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Religion in Video Games

A research colleague sent me a request sources for a literature review on religion in Video Games. While I have started to do a little research in this area myself I am at a loss to recommend specific resources. There just doesn't seem to be much published on the topic yet?!

So far I have come up with an older article on the Theology of PacMan and an article on Religious education and the challenge of computer games. Also there is book forthcoming entitled Halos & Avatars: Playing (Video) Games with God to be published by Westminster John Knox, 2010) which to my knowledge will be the first collection of articles on religion and video games (though I am open to correction if someone else knows of another on the subject). The book looks at variety of issues related to theological and psychological issues of gaming for religious culture. I have also contributed a chapter offering a narrative analysis of different genre's of islamogaming.

So if others out there know of articles, chapters or books on Religion and Video Games I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is NO virtual ecclesia (?)

Stephen Garner just gave me a heads up on a provocative article entitled: There is NO virtual ecclesia. In it Bob Hyatt, an emerging church pastor from Oregon argues that failed claims that televangelism would create an electronic church that could reach the masses applies to much of the hype surrounding online church experiment.

While he argues some interesting and valid points about the limits of mediated church experiences and that online communities can not fully replace embodied care and interaction he seems to assume that offline churches always provide the social accountability and garner the spiritual investment of its members. He claims the virtual ecclesia is lacking because it is missing: the sacrament, discipline and accountability, service and equipping. However from my 13 years of research I would say that while it is not a given, that these aspects can be and are being integrated into many religious communities online. It is what people bring to the table and their level of creativity and investment online or offline that makes a gathering true ecclesia or not. The article is definitely worth a read and would like to hear others thoughts.

Also check out Shane Hipps interview at the National Pastor's Convention in San Diego (Feb 2009) discussing his views of "virtual community" and opinions on Second Life Church.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cowan's Reflections on Sacred Space and Sacred Visiion

Douglas Cowan at University of Waterloo and author of Cyberhendge:Modern Pagans of the Internet and co-editor of Religion Online has been interviewed by Theofantastique on his forthcoming book on myths in popular science fiction. While not primarily focused on new media he offers some interesting insights on cultural constructions of space and the sacred in a media-ted world. Check out the \interview here and his thoughts on transcendence.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Digital Faith

I spent the morning at Auckland University for a half day conference on Digital Faith. It was a good mix of discussion and interaction on practical and theoretical issues related to doing religion online (and an added plus were the fabulous scones during the tea break!) Another highlight was getting to meet the first presenter, Mark Brown of the NZ Bible Society, f2f after interacting with him for over 2 years online.

Mark spoke on the topic of Monitor Mediated Ministry: Being the Church in the Digital Space which explored his own experience in using Second Life and Facebook to do church. He argued that often offline church focuses on an invitational of trying to get people into the pews while in the online context there is a shift to an incarnational strategy that focuses on bringing faith into to where people are this case the internet.

Tim Bulkley spoke on Digital Audio and Reading the Bible Online and explored how digital and communication technology changes our engagement with text and information. He argued that digital culture changes our relationship with the Bible when it is presented in hypertext or especially new visual or oral mediums. He described his work with the PodBible project and his work developing Vernacular resources for church leaders so that new media technologies empower new methods of translation and engagement.

Yours truly spoke about the offline implications of online religious community as the rise of online community reflects changes in larger society's conception and practice of community. I also addressed how the internet challenges traditional institutions conceptions and practices of church as it offers alternative means of spiritual engagement and connection

Stephen Garner concluded the day talking about Who do you day I am? Digital authenticity, ethics and community. He spoke about the long tradition in Christianity of tension between spiritual and physical spaces and conceptions, and how the internet can highlight these supposed Gnostic tendency as it frees users from the constraints of the body. The result is a blurred space where question of what it means to be authentic online are debated. He raised some important ethical points summed up by a quoted from Ron Cole Turner: "Technology for all its good is constantly on the edge of sin, exploitation and greed, it is after human technology beset by our weakness".

So overall it was a great way to spend a morning in Auckland!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reflections on Worship 2.0

It is amazing what one will find when one Google's oneself. Today I found a link to an article from Worship Leader Magazine entitled: Worship 2.0 Leaders that features a number of pastors, online entrepreneurs and academics talking about web based approaches to Christian worship. Amongst them is an interview from yours truly.

[Note: the transcript of my interview is a bit rough with some mistakes, but for the most-part communicate my intent.]

Monday, August 31, 2009

Calling all Kiwi's: Day Conference on Digital Faith

If there are any kiwis out there you might want to check out the upcoming Digital Faith conference at University of Auckland this coming Saturday. I will be there in a jet lagged state of mind having just arrived the day before for a semester in kiwiland.

The event will cover the questions:

-How do the Christian faith and the Internet impact upon each other?

- What place might the Bible have in our digital world?

Come and join us as our panel of expert speakers engage with these topics and others relating to issues of faith in the digital world.


Mark Brown CEO, Bible Society New Zealand & founder Anglican Cathedral in Second Life.

Stephen Garner Lecturer in Theology and Popular Culture, School of Theology, University of Auckland.

Heidi Campbell Assistant Professor, Dept. of Communication, Texas A&M University & author of Exploring Religious Community Online.

Tim Bulkeley Lecturer in Old Testament, Carey Baptist College & developer of the Amos Hypertext Commentary & podBible projects.

Saturday 5 September 2009 9am-12pm OGGB4 Lecture Theatre, Level 0, Owen G Glenn Building, Grafton Road, The University of Auckland Please register your attendance by Wednesday 2 September, with Cost $5 (morning tea provided)

FYI--I will be spending the semester as Distinguished Academic Visitor in NZ at the Vaughn Park Retreat Center. For more details click here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Soul-Searching on Facebook

William Wan of the Washington Post has written an interesting article called Soul-Searching on Facebook which reviews how people feel about publishing their religious views and identities on the popular social networking site. It reveals some interesting insights into how young people feel about the presentation and negotiation of their religious selves online. Check it out.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Archbishop issues websites warning

UK Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols of the Catholic Church issued an official warning about the dangers of Facebook and Myspace especially regarding the impact of "transient relationships" on teens moral development. Check out the AP story I found at the Guardian online: Archbishop issues websites warning. Do you agree that SNS encourages a dehumanising of society?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tweet Prayers to the Western Wall

According to the Arutz Sheva web site (an interesting site in itself if you want to gain greater insights into the Migzar/Religious Zionist online presence) posted an interesting article today called The Western Wall Enters the Twitter Age. An enterprising young Jew from Tel Aviv has taken it upon himself to post the tweeted prayers in the western wall. This extends already present services that allow you to email or sms prayers to the wall. For more info check out Alon's twitter page at:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Special Issue on Religion and Technology

Vit Sisler--whom I that the pleasure to meet recently in Chicago while he is on Fulbright at NWU-- and Robert M. Geraci have edited a special issue of the MasarykUniversity Journal of Law and Technology on religion and technology. The articles deal with a range of topics on the production of Islamic knowledge for European Muslim minorities on the Internet, such as Sisler's examination of marriage and divorce fatwas online,to an article providing a view of Jewish Orthodox views of the web . Copies of the articles are hosted on the web site Digital Islam which is also a vital resource for those studying Islam online.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Changes brought about by New Media and the Walkman: Context, Indvidualization and Mobility

Yesterday I was contacted by a journalist about making some comments on the 30th anniversary of the release of the first SONY walkman. As I pondered what impact this specific technology has had on our media landscape from my readings and observations I ended up talking with him about three key factors or changes: Context, Individualization and Mobility.

First the walkman freed music listening from being engage with in a certain place or space, you could listen to music on the bus, while going for a jog as easily as sitting in front of a larger stereo system. This mean how we consume media has changed.

Second the walkman encouraged a new level of individualization, I can listen to my music when I want not matter what others around me are doing. This has marked a greater sense of empowerment in individuals being able to control the media messages they want to receive.

Third music consumption no longer became a static practice, it was now mobile. That means where media was consumed was freed to a new level. This also started a blurring of the public and private as media device allowed for personal engagement in public space. However, those individual, mobile practices have repercussions for the public. Early walkman were not necessarily personal as you could often hear the sounds being played seep through the head phones. Similar to how people get forced into transgressing the space of a private phone conversation when someone next to them is talking loudly into their cell phones.

So in my way of thinking the walkman in many ways set the stage for our new digital media landscape and media consumer current practices. It also raises some concerns of how our media devices are culturing human behavior.

For the official version of the story check out the interview online.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology

Here is an interesting example of offline religious authorities attempting control religious perception online and its fallout. It seems the Church of Scientology subtly infiltrated the editorial system of Wikipedia in order to influence and control information shared on the site about the church. The result of this has been that Wikipedia had now banned contributions from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates. For more details check out The Register's article: Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How Social Media is Like Ice Cream

Being a huge ice cream fan I just had to follow up a link sent out on the Association of Internet Researchers elist this morning about How Social Media is Like Ice Cream . What I found is a great video that explains in simple terms how social networks and media work (and a craving for mint chocolate brownie ice cream). Check it out:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

iMuslims is coming just sent me a notice that Gary Bunt's new book--iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam (Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks)-- will soon be out. Bunt is well known for his work on documenting the latest uses of the internet and digital technology in the Muslim world Virtually Islamic and Islam in the Digital Age. His new book iMuslims seeks to look at how not only the internet has shaped Islamic practices and society but perceptions of Islam in a globalized information society. His work describes how new SNS sites are being used within Islam and how his over ten years of research highlight certain trends with Muslim use of the Internet.

According to a review in Publishers's weekly Bunt suggests, "..that Muslims have an “open-source” educational legacy. This open-source nature of Islamic theology inclines Muslims, possible more than other faith adherents, towards an online “rewiring” of their faith." I haven't read the book yet myself but it promises to be an important contribution for those studying Islam online. Bunt's blog Virtually Islamic provides a great source for info on the book and other info about Islam online, and he also he has an online bibliography for his book which is well worth checking out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

State of Belief on Religion Online

I was interview this past week for the radio show "State of Belief" hosted by Rev C. Welton Gaddy which seeks to cover positive topics on religion. In a 15 min segment we discuss how faith communities are making use of the latest in new media - from Twitter masses to Jewish Blackberry ("Jewberry) prayer books. Check it out here.

Religion in Virtual Worlds Study Group

I learned about an interesting study group on religion online that meets in Second Life. Here are the details for researchers who might be interested in joining.

Time: May 22, 2009 from 8am to 9:30am

Location: Second Life

Organized By: Beth Davies-Stofka Event

Description:Religion in Virtual Worlds Study Group

The Religion in Virtual Worlds Study Group meets on the 3rd Friday of the month at 8:00 AM Second Life time.The May meeting will take place on May 22nd (in order to avoid overlap with end-of-semester duties). The agenda is Buddhist Death in Second Life

Dr. Beth Davies-Stofka presents the educational goals and strategies behind the Second Life Bardo Game. Designed by members of the Center for EduPunx, the Second Life Bardo Game creates the "in between" state of the dead person as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, challenging the player to find her way to enlightenment.There are a few design issues that we need help resolving, and we'll present those to the group.

Discussion: would you like to use this game in your classroom? What questions or considerations concern you? How can we help?Religion in Virtual Worlds Study Group meetings normally last an hour and a half, but feel free to come late and leave early!

All are welcome. All meetings are held on the Front Range Island. Front Range Island is private, so please RSVP in advance with your avatar name to

Thanks, and we look forward to seeing you on May 22nd!

Next meeting: June 19. Agenda will be set at the May meeting.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Patheo and Religion Online is a relatively new web site that seeks to be an interactive site devoted to the exploration and discussion of religious belief and experience. They have assembled an impressive list of experts and advisors for the site which offers on only info on different religious traditions but place for interaction, debate and special topics discussion. This week the topic in the Public Square forum is Religion on the Web. They offer an impressive range of article from why Catholic spiritual mentors need to take Facebook seriously to a reflection on what What Muhammad would advise Muslims to do about the internet. I was interview for one of three lead article in the section, one specifically titled Religion 2.0 that looks at the future of religion in an internet world. With so many interesting pieces the site and this week's public square discussion is especially worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Kid's morals in Virtual Worlds: online morals match offline

I recent came across an interesting research article which talks about kid's morals in virtual worlds. In the article, Gender, race and morality in the virtual world and its relationship to morality in the real world, researchers from Michigan state university argue that children’s offline moral behavior and attitudes is largely carried over in their behavior and beliefs online. The team's systematic interviews with over 500 young people found that morality online was related to morality offline, confirming the finding of many researchers that the online and offline social (and religious/moral) context are intimately interconnected. For more info check out the full article:

Jackson LA et al (2009). Gender, race and morality in the virtual world and its relationship to morality in the real world. Sex Roles DOI 10.1007/s11199-009-9589-5

Thursday, April 30, 2009

CFP: Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium

I just got an e-announcement for who looks like a very interesting conference coming up in 2010. The Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium conference seeks to bring together especially scholars from the Nordic context to discuss issues a variety of related to issues of ecclesiology, ecumenism and missiology. The participant includes some of my friends and research colleagues including LeRon Schults, Knut Lundby and Goran Larrson.

One of the core themes is the "Church in Cyberspace." In this section they welcomes papers examining the relationship between church, mission and the new media, especially the Internet. How do the new media affect the ways in which the church operates? What impact do secularization, globalization and multireligiosity have on the church in cyberspace? Does the Internet offer new alternatives to traditional approaches to mission? Can church and congregational communities be built in cyberspace? If you are interested in more information contact, Peter Fischer-Nielsen at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Science and Religion Primer Online

It is a bit of shameless self-promotion but I wanted to announce the website for my most recent book went live today. A Science and Religion Primer is an introductory guide to dialogues in science and religion and functions as a hybrid between a dictionary, encyclopedia and annotate bib. While this is only tangently relevant to the study of religion and new media it does have some interesting entries on topics such as technology and posthumanism (written by yours truly). If you are interested in the current debates on science and religion or are trying to get your head around such topics as the Duhem Quien Thesis or Mind-Body problems in science check it out!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Monasticism Online

I just learned of a new form of digital monasticism. describes itself as "ubiquitously digital spiritual community in which daily contact and familiarity are the rule" It seeks to create the sociological resemblance of monastic community in a networked form. Prayerbuddy helps member become part of a small online community (of about 8 members) that seek to they follow a simple rule of life in which they engage in classical practices (including daily prayer, lectio divina, spiritual journaling & spiritual direction) supported by technology. This digital monastic life also encourages new forms of interconnection such as "Perpetual, Wireless, Semantically Rich Presence To One Another" and "Semi Monthly Spiritual Conference Centered Around A Meal". So those who have always desired to fulfill their monastic inner calling of live as a contemplative, but can't live without your wireless no worries, prayerbuddy can help you marry the two!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4 days till Internet Evangelism day

This coming Sunday some evangelical churches will highlight the potential of the Internet , by holding an 'Internet Evangelism Day'. The organizers see that the Web is a God-given tool for outreach, and provides help for Christians to use it effectively. They encourage
churches to build a presentation into their services or other activities on or near that day. Their website also serves as a year-round online resource guide with many ideas for web outreach and strategy . Internet Evangelism Day also offers an online self-assessment questionnaire, enabling churches to enhance their websites to reach out into the community. "Your church website is a 'shop window' for your community," says IE Day coordinator Tony Whittaker. The questionnaire creates a free evaluation report to highlight areas of a site that can be developed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Networked Congregation Report

The Alban Institute has just released an interesting report entitled, Networked Congregations: Embracing the Spirit of Experimentation which seeks to analyze the challenges and possibilities being confronted by religious congregations in the digital age. The report is linked to an event I participated in a year ago at the Alban institute, but it is more than just a synopsis of the events topics. Rather Andrea Useem has woven together a number of interesting interview and in-depth personal narratives from people like Jeff Kivett and David Ambrose at, pastor-blogger Rick Lord, Lisa Colton of Darim Online, Greg Atkinson of Church 2.0 and others. If you are interested in exploring the question" What does the digital age mean for religious congregations?" I encourage you to check this out!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Chag Sameach & the Facebook Haggadah

Passover Blessings to you. It's the time of year when Jews ready their passover tables and pull out their haggadahs. The haggadah is the story of the Jewish exodus read by families during passover as a mark of communal rememberance and there are are multiple online versions of the haggadah such as the do-it-yourself open source haggadah. But this year a new and very playful one was brought to my attention called the the Facebook Haggadah which has to be one of the most creative versions I have seen recently. According to my friend Barry Wellman you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this, but he says it helps.

A Study of Christian participation in online communities.

I recently got an email from a student at the The University of Illinois at Chicago who is trying to survey Christians' opinion and participation in online communities. I volunteered to help him out by posting his call for survey respondents here. So...if the shoe fits, I encourage you to take time to respond to the call below...

Hello everyone.
I am heading up a research project at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The project measures Christian opinions and participation in online communities.We need your help.

We need respondents to the following survey:

The survey is hosted on a professional online survey service. The survey is anonymous, so your privacy is protected.Participating in the survey is completely voluntary. The benefits of completing the survey are data for present and future research, as well as personal satisfaction. You may also request a copy of the research report once the survey has been completed. Your participation would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time.--

Kyong James Cho
Department of Communication
University of Illinois at Chicago

Monday, April 06, 2009

CFP: Chapters on the Internet and Apocalyptic Belief

I saw this CFP and thought that this might be of interest to some readers...

Network Apocalypse: Visions of the End in an Age of Internet Media

This edited collection of work by international scholars would document how Internet communication is creating, adapting, and recreating beliefs about an imminent mass transformation resulting in the end of human history. How are ancient prophetic beliefs faring in our everyday lives as they have become technologized by network communication? How do religious communities sharing these beliefs use the Internet? Are everyday religious believers empowered or disempowered by Internet technologies? Are gender, ethic, and racial divisions being broken down or reinforced? How are text-based prophetic traditions adapting to the more dynamic and fluid understanding of the Word in our digital age?

The answers to these questions are important for scholars from a wide range of disciplines working on questions about how the Internet is changing some of our most powerful and recurring religious beliefs.Each chapter of this book will focus on a specific sample of discourse that features apocalyptic beliefs. Comparative and theoretical chapters are also welcomed. Methods may be quantitative, qualitative, or a combination of both.

Chapter topics might include by are not limited to:Christian, Islamic, Jewish, or other traditional apocalyptic expression online;specific apocalyptic groups using the Internet;online prophecy and/or prayer practices;apocalyptic games, gamers, or gaming;apocalyptic expression in virtual worlds;apocalyptic communication via mobile communication technologies;new apocalyptic religious movements using the Internet;apocalyptic ideas or discourses that rely on theories of technology including concepts of “Gaia-mind,” “singularity,” and etc.

Please submit the following documents via email to Rob Howard ( by May 1, 2009:
1) a preliminary title for the proposed chapter
2) a 100-250 word abstract of the proposed chapter
3) a current CV

The successful abstracts will form part of a book proposal submitted in response to a request from Sheffield Phoenix Press for a series titled “The Apocalypse in Popular Culture.” Full texts will be requested at a later date. Sheffield Phoenix Press is an academic press specializing in topics of religion that is seeking to expand its catalog on apocalyptic belief in contemporary society.

Robert Glenn Howard
University of Wisconsin -- Madison
Associate Professor, Department of Communication Arts
Associate Chair, Folklore Program

Friday, April 03, 2009

Getting Centered Online

We are now coming to the end of week 5 of Lent and I have found it a week where centering prayer has helped keep me sane during a hectic time. Center or Contemplative prayer is a form of christian meditation. While many sites provide detailed explanations of the practice I have only found one so far that offers a guided virtual experience. At Contemplative Prayer for Everyone run by the Trappist of St Benedict's monastery offer audio teachings, a short online course on lectio divina and a contemplative prayer chapel, which takes you through a 2o minute guided reflection intended to help you center down and still one's self in prayer. So if you are looking for a Monastic guide online to assist you in your prayer time check out this site.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It is finished...

After five long years of researching, reading and writing about Judaism, Islam and Christian engagment with new media the draft of "When Religion Meets New Media" is finished. It is now in the hands of the series editors of Routledge's media, religion and culture series for review and evaluation. I probably won't hear anything definitive for a few months so for the moment I am rejoicing that it is off my desk at long last and am hoping the editors will be as excited about it as I am. I will keep you posted as the book hopefully moves forward.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


The folks from University of Bremen, the University of Oldenburg and the Jacobs-University (Bremen) have put together an interesting summer school on "How Virtual is reality?" The school is aimed at Master students and PhD candidates interested in doing work and religion and the internet. The course will broach the issue of the relevance of new environments like "Second Life" or "World of Warcraft" for culture and social life with special focus on rituals and religions.

They state that Summer School participants will be able to design and perform research projects on religion in and within Virtual Worlds. I think this sounds like a great program for future religion and internet researchers and only wish something like this had been around when I was a PhD student.

Sacred Spaces online for Lent

For over a decade Sacred Space has offered opportunities to "spend ten minutes, praying here and now, as you sit at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance and scripture chosen specially every day". During the Lenten season the site run by the Irish Jesuits offers a number of features from participating in an online way of the cross, be led through reflective daily prayers, sign up for an guided lenten sacred space retreat, or even send a Lenten Ecard. Unlike some of daily prayers offered on web sites it combines bible reading with prayer and appears on the screen in small chunks at a time so that you have to hit a forward arrow to progress through it. The slow transisitions give a meditative rythmn to the prayer which is quieting. The site also offers other options and links including an opportunity to pray with the pope.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Kosher google

It was only a matter of time... Koogle is new religious big portal in Israel that contains an index of business is kosher comprehensive and facilities to the orthodox jews. It features news to religious information on religious products especially for rabbis and the general religious public. Also is you are looking for a kosher torah search engine check out recently launched as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CFP: Islam and the Media

I wanted to post this interesting Call for Papers for an upcoming conference on the Islam and the Media to be held January 7-10, 2010. It will be hosted by The Center for Media, Religion and Culture in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Here's the info...

The events of September 11, 2001 have unleashed an unprecedented period of global re-thinking of issues in media and religion. Islam has emerged as a major focus of inquiry and debate, but the interaction between contemporary Islam and the media has rarely been addressed.

This conference will thus engage a set of questions on the place of Islam within global, regional, national and local media.If we believe the torrent of popular headlines on Islam today, it seems that only Muslim extremists are talking about their religion, pursuing a project that claims to defend it from “secularized” Western culture. From Bin Laden’s call to jihad to the angry reaction of Muslims to the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Muslims are portrayed in the media as irrational followers of a religion adamantly out of step with modernity. In the face of this, and perhaps in order to balance their coverage of Islam, Western journalists, pundits, and others have been asking “where are the moderate Muslims?” But few true moderates have emerged. Instead, some Western media have turned to another extreme: Muslim secularists or “Muslim non-believers”--voices which deserve media attention, but which arguably stand at the opposite fringe, rather than nearer the center of how Islam is lived and understood today.Muslims, both in the Muslim world and in the diaspora, have found themselves compelled to speak for the ‘real’ Islam and explain its relevance in modernity both to themselves and to non-Muslims. This process is at the same time generating divergent discourses that arguably are already coming to challenge the religious authority of clerical Islam. Today, Muslim men and women, young and old, secularists and Islamists, Westerners and Easterners, gay and straight, rappers and comedians, journalists and scholars, bloggers and televangelists, are changing the conventional pathways of religious discourse and disintegrating the old centers of knowledge production within Islam. In fact, Muslims around the world are taking advantage of new media platforms like the Internet and other forms of conventional media like satellite television, music and film to articulate an arguably ‘pure’ or ‘modern’ Islam. These media have become prime discursive spaces in which Islamic knowledge is contested, reinterpreted, and popularly re-mediated.

Given the unprecedented amplification of this inner struggle within Islam, it is imperative to ask questions such as: who speaks for Islam today using what original platforms? Does the pluralization of Muslim voices lead necessarily to innovations in the core of Islamic teachings or is it merely a shift in method to reaffirm a message of orthodoxy? Are these new voices accessible to large numbers of Muslims? And how are contemporary media deployed to facilitate this shift in Islamic knowledge production? Thus, a range of questions dealing with the mediation of Islam and other religions are also coming to the fore.

This international conference will bring together scholars on Islam and contemporary media, media professionals, activists and NGOs to reflect on the implications of these developments.

Papers and panels may address, but should not be limited to, the following topics:

• The representation of Islam in global media
• Images of Islam in Western entertainment media
• Muslim voices in Western media
• Media and the “clash of civilizations”
• Contemporary Islamic media and the transformation of religious knowledge
• The impact of new Muslim media on patterns of religious learning and practice
• The proliferation of Islamic websites and Islamic discourse on the Internet
• The weakening of traditional Islamic institutions
• Articulations of Islam in popular culture
• The intersections of Islam and consumer culture
• The impact of mediated transnational Islam on the Ummah and nation
• The role of Muslim diasporas in the new Islam
• The role of women in shaping the teachings of new Islam
• Muslim minorities’ use of media globally, regionally, and locally
• The impact of new media on social and cultural patterns in Muslim societies
• Representations of contemporary Islam in Muslim and Western media
• New Muslim media, public sphere and democracy
• Islam, globalization, and religious identity
• Contemporary Islamic thought and new mediations of Islamic heritage
•Methodologies: how to study Islam in the media age
•Methodologies: social-scientific, humanistic, and “theological” analyses
• Media and the making of Islamic religious “celebrity”

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Charles Hirschkind: University of California, Berkeley- author of The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics.

Zarqa Nawaz: filmmaker and writer of the critically-acclaimed TV series A Little Mosque in the Prairie.

Deadline: Please send a 300-word abstract by May 15, 2009 to Nabil Echchaibi at nabil.echchaibi@colorado.eduA detailed conference Website will be available shortly.

For further information and comments please contact Nabil Echchaibi at or Stewart Hoover at

Lent Online: Say a Prayer, Light a Candle, Read an E-devotion...

Well, we are well into the 3rd week of lent and while I have explored many other lent options online I have been remiss at posting them. (This is partially because I have been keeping my head down working on the final edits on a draft of the book for which this blog is named...) So to play catch up, here are two interesting options I have discovered:

First, at the website of St Bernards Abbey of Cullman, Alabama you can visit one of six online prayer chapels. By clicking on an candle you can enter request for prayer for yourself or a friend. The name of the person being prayed for then appears under the candle which seems to be lighted and flicker in a virtual wind. It even time burns down over time. I lit one in Christ the King chapel and saw that others had lit candles for prayers for elderly parents, children and friends in distress. So if you feel the urge to light a candle as prayer, check this out.

Another options is a Lenten Online devotional which I signed up for on Ash Wednesday. The daily devotional is written by students, staff and faculty of Goshen College and emailed each morning to subscribers. Each e-devotion offer a short reflection on a scripture portion chosen by the individual author related to their own personal lenten journey which I find quite interesting. They offer this service each Lent and Advent season. For more information check out this year's Lenten devotions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent Online

Today is Ash Wednesday so one of my commitments during this lenten season is to see what online resources are available online and highlight some of the most interesting ones. I just got done listening to an online teaching on the purpose of lent found at Praying Lent, run by Creighton University. The site offers weekly audio teachings weekly, as well as a Full Audio Lenten Retreat. Or for those who are busy they offer the text of a short prayer for those on a tight schedule. This is just one of a number of sites I have come across in a search this morning and I am looking forward to exploring other options offered online during the next 40 days.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CFP: Religion and Spirituality in Cyberspace

I wanted to give people a heads up on CFP. The Australian Religion Studies Review has sent out a call for papers for a special issue on Religion and Spirituality in Cyberspace. The context for this issues is the belief that "religion online and online religion are now an integral part of Cyberspace. The intersection of religion and spirituality and the Internet is a new area of study (1990s onward) and will certainly become even more important in the future. The Internet will undoubtedly promote the emergence of new forms of spiritualities, religious expressions, experiences, identities, communities, and authorities. This thematic issue will explore some of the methodological and theoretical issues raised with the coming together of Internet with religion and spirituality and, hopefully, provide interesting case studies".

Guest Editor Roxanne Marcotte is looking for submission on topics such as cyber-theology, cyber-rituals, online religions, cyber-proselytization and cyber-polemics, cyber-pilgrimages, cyber-covens and sanghas, religious blogs, etc. Submission deadline is February 2010. For more information check out CFP or contact the editor directly.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Religion in Virtual Worlds

I am getting ready to head to Las Vegas this weekend for the Virtual Worlds and Interpretive Communities: Opportunities for Global Dialogue, host next week at UNLV. I am excited and honored to be the opening keynote at what looks to be a very interesting conference. My talk is titled"Offline Implications of Online Religious Community" and will look at the issues raised by performing Religion through Online communties in Virtual Worlds. The full skinny on my talk is that I hope to highlight the conditions within our information society that have given rises to the growth of online religious communities and the challenges this poses to offline religious groups and institutions. I will also address how the experience of community online may alter individual’s expectations of community and how authority structures are negotiated will be addressed through several case studies of different online religious communiteis including the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, Tangle and Kipa. Basically it is a synthesis of my first book Exploring Religious Community Online and a smattering of insights learned in my current book project When Religion Meets New Media.

As a warm-up for the conference I was interviewed on KNPR's State of Nevada radio program for a story on New Media and Religion. Much of the content focused on a conversation on several of my last few blog posts on Tangle/God Tube and my reaction to Bishop Katherine Jefferys Schori statements about disembodied religion via the internet. To hear my opinions check out the forthcoming audio files.

Friday, February 06, 2009

GodTube gets Tangle-d

GodTube has officially relaunched itself as Tangle, with a new vision and services. This new incarnation is kind of a Christian You Tube meets Facebook meets p2p/sns community. It promises to allow Christian to take their faith out of the Church and embed it more fully in their online activities, or have them get Tangled in their faith 24/4. Check out their promo:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Vatican launches YouTube Chanel

In an attempt to stay attune with today's information culture and also attempt to control its image online the Vatican has launched a special YouTube channel. The Vatican channel is updated daily and offers news coverage of the main activities of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and of relevant Vatican events. The Catholic church have long been innovators in embracing new forms of media for religious purpose, though not without concern and thoughtful reflection about its potential impact on society (something I will explore in my forthcoming book. For more details on the site and Catholic perceptions of the internet check out at AP story about its launch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can online communty be incarnational?

Today a friend sent me a link to a recent radio interview [News 88.9 KNPR-Nevada on 24 Dec 2008] with Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, leader of the Episcopal Church in the US. The focus of the interview was on the state of the Episcopal church due to the on-going tensions in the church over the election of an openly gay bishop. However in the middle of the interview she made some interesting comments on the her view's about online religious community.

BISHOP: The reality is Christian communities; faith communities of all sorts need physical proximity of humane being in order to discover each other, in order to grow individually and as a community. We do not do that as well with people who are not in our presence. It is hard to build a faith community in a deep sense on the internet. We deal with caricatures; we deal with perceptions and positions rather than full human beings sitting in our presence.

INTERVIEWER: Although many people point to the Obama campaign and the social networking and the impact it made, in drawing together millions of people in this country, mobilizing them, getting them to vote getting them to knock on doors throughout the country and that would be community engagement that is philosophical engagement.

BISHOP:It is. I think it is at a different level that what is normally though of as a faith community.


BISHOP: Because it doesn’t involve face-to-face encounter with a human being, individual whom you come to know over months and years with all that person’s gifts and warts. And learning to challenge one another in a faithful sense to grow up into all they can be.

...and later she went one to say...

"it is a hunger for intimate community of the kind that we were talking about the minute ago that is only possible in the physical proximity of other human beings. Some of it can be served on the internet but the incarnate piece is missing."

Upon reflection I both agree and disagree with the Bishop. I agree the in most case physical proximity is the ideal and may more easily facilitate the possibility for intimate community, however in my experience and research physical presence does not necessarily mean that intimacy and care will be achieved in community. I think the incarnational nature is also about what people bring to the table to create the environment and that this can be intentionally built and maintained in a "disembodied" context. I have both studied and experience this online my past 13 years of research.

But what do you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Research Wiki on the Move

I wanted to give you an update on the Studying Religion and New Media Wiki, designed for researcher looking to network on research questions or relevant resources about the study on religion and the internet. Currently there are over 45 members, representing scholars from all over the world looking at different aspects of religion online.

Due to different circumstance the wiki has been move do a new platform. This is a temporary move and I will be looking for another more permanent home for the wiki over this next semester. Just wanted to give you a heads up, hope you find the resources useful!