Editors: Pauline Hope Cheong, Peter Fischer-Nielsen, Stefan Gelfgren and Charles Ess
Background and Rationale
This book brings together, for the first time in five years, a collection of key articles in the area of religion and the Internet, particularly as new media relates to church, mission and interfaith dialogue. In light of the increasing mediation of everyday life in many parts of the world, this book approaches online religion with a fresh perspective, to account for contemporary developments in media and spirituality, with implications for faith and other civic organizations.
Arguably, as institutionalized religions and movements rush to leverage the Web to improve their reach, religious communication on the Internet takes an increasingly significant role alongside more traditional venues for such discourse. It may be, however, that religious use associated with new media problematizes established faith rituals, and religious community building in both its conception and operationalization. Changes in the Church can also
be conceived as intertwined with a range of other forms of social and political developments, such that new media acts as an agent and practice to challenge and transform the influence and authority of the Church. Furthermore, as ³new² media is a moving target, there may be past concepts that are more able to explain the nature of church life (such as evangelical
mission and systematic theology) or new concepts that are being developed that are better able to address the diversity and complexity of contemporary social and religious life (such as the ideas of social networking, viral marketing and church branding).
This edited collection aims to address and inform such issues and debates by offering new empirical, theoretical, and theological insights into how religious life continues to transform and be transformed by these new communication technologies. Current contributors, together with the editors, include Knut Lundby, Heidi Campbell, Mark Johns and Jørgen Straarup.
We hereby invite proposals for additional chapters (particularly in the historical and theological sections as explained below) that will complement and expand upon these contributions.
Section 1: Theoretical Approaches
This section maps the range of theoretical perspectives on religion and new media. A number of different theories have proven useful for researchers and scholars ¬ but new media also challenge our theoretical frameworks and categories. How far do current theories ³work² in helping us research and understand the complex interactions between religious life and new media ¬and how far are new theoretical understandings needed? And: what might these new theoretical understandings ³look like² ¬ i.e., are new theoretical frameworks and categories available that have yet to be fully explored by scholars and researchers that can be argued to be potentially fruitful?
Section II: Historical Perspectives
This section discusses the presence and significance of historical
perspectives in church and new media research. Transformations in communication media are deeply interwoven with the history and theology of Christianity. In light of this history, how do churches respond to the continued expansion of contemporary communication media? For example, given the close correlations between distinctive forms and modalities of communication ¬ including the broad categories of orality, literacy, print, and the secondary orality/literacy of electronic media ¬ and conceptions of self, community, and institutional authority, what does this history suggest regarding the possible implications and challenges of contemporary shifts
towards new media?
Section III: Empirical Investigations
This section reports on the empirical research studies that investigate emerging media and social media practices related to the Church. Disciplines represented include but are not restricted to: sociology of religion, ethnography and online ethnography, linguistics, and the social sciences and humanities more broadly as represented within the field of computer-mediated communication. Contributions may focus on, but not restricted to, contemporary uses (successful and not so successful) of new media in the life of religious communities (local, national, international). Guiding questions for such research and studies include: Do the possibilities and affordances of new media lead to genuinely new and demonstrable impacts on the life of congregations? What factors appear to accompany whether or not a given community or institution embraces or resists specific media? What factors are at work in both successes and failures for faith believers and organizations to adopt and adapt to new media? How does religiously related new media use interact or affect the offline practices of established religious organizations?
Section IV: Theological Reflections
The last section of the book provides theological reflections on the Internet, to forward the development of a theology of the Internet which is a budding field of research. Although practical perspectives and guidelines for Internet use have been published, a more thorough theological analysis of new media is missing. The need for theological clarification is apparent
since web-enabled applications challenge churches with a number of difficult questions.
Please submit a 500-700 word abstract (including important and initial references) to the editors as an email attachment to
April 15, 2010 Deadline for abstract submission
May 31, 2010 Announcement of results and full paper invitations
August 31, 2010 Submission of full papers
Inquiries should be addressed to:
Pauline Hope Cheong
Associate Professor of Communication
Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
P.O. Box 871205, Stauffer Hall 462 Tempe, AZ 85287-1205
Arizona State University