Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Announcing the Launch of the New Media, Religion & Digital Culture Studies Website

With an increased awareness that religion, rather than fading continues to play an important role in contemporary society, academics, futurist and religious practioners have become concerned about the impact new media are having in how people conceive of and practice religiosity in the 21st century. To this end the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies seeks to highlight this vibrant new interdisciplinary research area and provide scholars, students and independent researcher’s access to key findings and information in this important field of inquiry.  Key to this endeavor the Network has launched a resource web site found at http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu, to provide access to cutting edge studies about how religious groups are engaging new media and how new technologies highlight growing trends in lived religious practice online.

 With the support of a grant from the Evans/Glasscock Digital Humanities Project at Texas A&M University, the Network for New Media, Religion, and Digital Culture Studies was established in 2010. The central goal of the Network is to house and maintain a collaborative online resource for scholars, students and those interested in studying more extensively the unique dynamics of new media, religion, and digital culture. The Network website (http://digitalreligion.tamu.edu) features an interactive online bibliography highlighting key scholarly works in this growing research area. The site also features a “scholar’s index” listing key scholars in the field, a blog where guest bloggers highlight important research developments and studies, as well as a newsfeed to keep users up-to-date with upcoming events and publications related to religion and the digital. Seeking to broaden its scope of influence and interaction between scholars and the public Network maintains a Facebook page as well as a Twitterfeed where recent studies, news articles and calls for papers are highlighted . By highlighting the latest research as well as cataloguing the foundational studies in this field, the Network serves as an excellent resource for those seeking to contextualize their personal studies and narrow down their research questions.

 Not only is the Network abundant with resources, it has room for growth! Membership is open to any scholars, students or researchers actively working in these areas of study.  Apply for membership involves filling out an online application for a new account on the site, along with emailing a briefbiography statement describing the applicant’s reasons for wanting to join the network.Once a member, individuals will be able to add articles to the online bibliography, communicate with other members through the Network, and contribute to the news feed.  

Due to the launch of the website I will be moving my blogging energies to the new site as well as micro-blogging on the website Facebook page. I encourage you "like" and bookmark these pages to keep up-to-date on my work as well as this emerging field.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CFP for 2012 International Media, Religion & Culture Conference

The International Conference on Media, Religion, and Culture, organized every two years by the International Society for Media, Religion, and Culture, invites papers for its July 8-12, 2012 conference to be held in Eskisehir, Turkey (outside of Istanbul), at Anadolu University.
Deadline for paper, panel, workshop, and roundtable proposals: January 31, 2012

In contemporary societies, electronic media such as smart mobile phones, satellite television, radio, and laptop computers have become ubiquitous. Although historians point out that world religions have always been mediated by culture in some way, people have incorporated these electronic media into everyday practices, and industries and state organizations have arisen to profit from those practices, in ways that are unprecedented. Today's media can connect people and ideas with one another, but they also foster misunderstandings and reinforce societal divisions. They may provide the means for the centralization of religious authority, or the means to undermine it. Scholars of religion, as well as scholars of media and of culture, must consider how these various societal institutions of the media interact with one another and with systems of religion, governance, and cultural practices, as our societies demand better means by which to understand emergent concerns in an increasingly interconnected, globalized context.

The contemporary location of Turkey has long been the meeting place between Eastern and Western culture, religion, trade, and communication. This conference provides a crossroads for scholars, doctoral students, media professionals, and religious leaders from a variety of religious and secular traditions to meet and exchange ideas. Interdisciplinary scholarship is welcome, as is comparative work, theoretical development, and in-depth ethnographic studies that shed light on contemporary phenomena at the intersection of media, religion, and culture.

Papers, panels, workshops, and roundtable proposals could address, but should not be limited to:
* Global and Glocal Media and Religion(s)
* Mediation and Mediatization of Religion
* Media and The Boundaries of the Religious and the Secular
* Media, Power, Religion and Democracy
* Religion and Visual Expression
* Crossroads of Old/New Media and Religion
* Religion, Gender and Media
* Dialogue/Conflict: Media and Religion
* Islam and Media/ Islamic Media
* Social Media, Religion and Cultures
More Information about the International Media, Religion, and Culture Conferences can be found here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Surveying Our Understanding of Digital Religion

You are cordially invited to an engaging, upcoming panel entitled" Surveying Our Understanding of Digital Religion" at the upcoming American Academy of Religion  meeting in San Francisco.

This event will be held on Saturday, 19 Nov 2011 from 9:00 am-11:30 am, in the Telegraph Hill room at the Intercontinental Hotel. The panel is sponsored by the Media, Religion and Culture group.

This panel will together bring scholars to reflect on how digital and mobile technologies are changing the field of religious studies by altering and enhancing our understanding how people practice and interpret religion within contemporary culture. It will also feature the work of a forthcoming collection of essays, Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds (Routledge), which explore key issues and questions that arise from religious engagement online. Specifically, panel participants will address how online ritual practice challenge traditional notions of embodiment and spirituality, how the internet informs and challenges traditional notions of religious community/authority, how users construct religious identities in digital environments and how the digital realm is shaping our understanding of the very nature of religion.

Panelists Include:
Christopher Helland, Dalhousie University, talking about ritual online
Mia L√∂vheim,  University of Uppsala, taking about identity online
Heidi A Campbell, Texas A & M University, talking about community online
Gregory Grieve, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, talking about changing understandings of religion online
Stewart Hoover, University of Colorado-Boulder [Respondent]

Please come and join us! And feel free to pass on this information to anyone else you feel who might be interested.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Memorialization of Steve Jobs and Digital Religion

Today I am hosting a Symposium on Digital Religion at TAMU today.  Last night I went to bed to the news of Steve Jobs passing and awoke to the blogosphere, twitter-sphere and facebook a buzz with the event and the beginnings of his online memorilization taking shape. Macfans had already declared Oct 14th to be Steve Jobs Day  before hearing this news and it is now becoming a day tocommemorate the passing of their leader and prophet. The event's facebook page has already become a virtual shrine and memory book for people from all over the world. Of course online memorial are nothing new, virtual cemetaries have existed since the mid-1990s, and the internet has become an important tool for grieving fans to gather and create a communal experience around such events. As a scholar interested in the intersection between religion and new media I will be interested to see the religious themes and iconography that emerges in the hours and days ahead as the internet becomes a space to honor the Messianic and Revolutionary images of Jobs.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Symposium on Digital Religion at Texas A&M University

This is to announce an upcoming symposium and workshop being held on 6 Oct 2011 at Texas A&M University on new media, religion and digital culture. The Digital Religion Symposium & Workshop will explore how new media is shaping our understanding of religion in a networked society.

This event will feature presentations by recognized experts in this area:

Pauline Cheong, Associate Professor of Communication at Arizona State University, presenting her work on authority online especially as they related to Buddhist and Christian engagement with new media

Nabil Echchaibi, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at University of Colorado-Boulder, presenting on Islam and the Internet and related issues of religious identity negotiation online

Christopher Helland, Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at Dalhousie University (Canada), presenting on issues of ritual and authenticity related to Buddhist & Hindu online contexts

The symposium will be held 9am-1pm at 410 Rudder Tower on the campus of Texas A&M and will involve presentations by the 3 speakers followed by a panel discussion on what studying religion online has to teach us about social and religious life in an information society.

The event will also feature a workshop from 2:30-4pm at the Glasscock center library on Researching Digital Culture. This will be an opportunity for faculty and graduate students to learn and ask questions about methodological and ethical issues raised by doing online research in various internet and virtual world environments.

These events are free and open to the public, but reservations are required for the workshop and lunch.
RSVPs and inquiries related to this event can be directed to Heidi Campbell, Associate Professor of Communication-TAMU (heidic@tamu.edu).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recent Articles in Religion and New Media

Below are some recently published articles (and a PhD thesis) on a variety of topic related to religion and new media from interevangelists to cyberpilgrimage. Included is one by me on religious negotiations of Israeli rabbis and orthodox communities regarding the internet. Happy reading!

Denis Bekkering, From ‘Televangelist’ to ‘Intervangelist’: The Emergence of the Streaming Video Preacher, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture.

The present study begins by recovering the origins of the terms “televangelism” and “televangelist.” “Televangelism” first appeared in 1958 as the title of a proselytization project of the Southern Baptist Convention that combined dramatic television programs with efforts to engage viewers in person. “Televangelist” was introduced in 1975 to describe an emerging type of American television preacher, the most successful of whom built powerful parachurch organizations. The neologism “intervangelist” is then presented to label contemporary video preachers broadcasting online. A content analysis of video platforms on the site.

Heidi Campbell, Religion and the Internet in the Israeli Orthodox context, Israel Affairs.

This article provides an overview of research on religion and the Internet within the Israeli context, highlighting how Orthodox Jewish groups have appropriated and responded to the Internet. By surveying Orthodox use of the Internet, and giving special attention to the ultra Orthodox negotiations, a number of key challenges that the Internet poses to the Israeli religious sector are highlighted. Exploring these debates and negotiations demonstrates that while the Internet is readily utilized by many Orthodox groups, it is still viewed by some with suspicion. Fears expressed, primarily by ultra Orthodox groups, shows religious leaders often attempt to constrain Internet use to minimize its potential threat to religious social norms and the structure of authority. This article also highlights the need for research that addresses the concerns and strategies of different Orthodox groups in order to offer a broader understanding of Orthodox engagement with the Internet in Israel.

Connie Hill-Smith, Teaching & Learning Guide for: Cyberpilgrimage: The (Virtual) Reality of Online Pilgrimage Experience, Religion Compass.

Despite the profound and growing impact of the internet on contemporary ‘Western’ thought, rationalistic, physically orientated understandings of reality and experience continue to undermine notions that the internet might mediate religious experiences that are as ‘genuine’, meaningful, and transformative as offline ‘equivalents’. The absence of the physical body from cyberspace may be relatively unproblematic for some online religious practices; but ‘cyberpilgrimage’, the practice of undertaking pilgrimage online, is another matter. Interestingly, however, cyberpilgrimage can be viewed as continuing older traditions of semi-ratified virtual pilgrimage stretching back to medieval Europe, and perhaps beyond. The primacy in (terrestrial) pilgrimage experiences of imagination and mind is well-attested and recent years have, moreover, seen huge on-going leaps in technologies ‘linking’ mind and body to computerised systems. The challenge which cyberpilgrimage represents to theory and wider thought is not only great but increasing. This guide suggests an approach to teaching about cyberpilgrimage and the place of ‘the physical’ in cyberspace, especially within religious contexts, with the aim of fostering debate into this vital, compelling, and fast-evolving new field in Religious Studies.

Kevin Healey,The Spirit of Networks: New Media and the Changing Role of Religion in American Public Life [PhD Thesis-University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]

The Spirit of Networks examines the implications of new media for the future of American religious politics. I argue that we are at a critical juncture in both media and religion, similar to the early days of radio broadcasting. The outcome of that earlier juncture involved an increase in media commercialization and the proliferation of conservative evangelical broadcasters—developments which paved the way for the emergence of the Religious Right. Today, technological and generational shifts have the potential to alter the course of American religious politics. Younger people are more wary of political partisanship and religious hypocrisy, and are more likely to use new technologies as tools of political engagement. These shifts have led some journalists and researchers to pronounce the death of the Religious Right and the emergence of a new Religious Left. The research presented here assesses the potential outcome of this critical juncture by examining the impact of new media technologies on public discourse at the intersection of religion and politics. Through qualitative analysis of newspaper articles, cable news transcripts, and blog commentaries, I demonstrate how new media tend to generate debates about the authenticity and sincerity of public figures. Pundits and bloggers frequently claim to glimpse public figures’ “backstage” identity through video clips, instant messages, and e-mails. In this way, the new media environment generates competing “discourses of authenticity.” Occasionally this dynamic favors independent media sources and grassroots activists. For example the Republican sex scandals, which drove some evangelicals away from the GOP, erupted when liberal bloggers exposed the private messages of conservative congressmen. More often, though, established media industries and political organizations manage to exploit the dynamics of new media to their advantage, leading to what Charles Taylor calls shallow or “flat” debates about authenticity. The scandal that erupted in the summer of 2010 surrounding the firing of USDA official Shirley Sherrod exemplifies a trend that began during the 2008 election, as video clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright circulated between cable news and YouTube. Media coverage of Wright, and subsequently of Sarah Palin

Monday, July 11, 2011

CFP for Australian Journal of Communication Special Issue on Media & Religion

Call for papers

Australian Journal of Communication
Issue 39(1) 2012

Media and religion: The changing landscape

From a situation just a decade ago where it was considered religion had all but disappeared, religion is back as a significant social, political and economic force. This resurgence is more than just traditional institutions flexing their muscles or rejuvenating their media practices - it reflects a significant reworking of religion within the media marketplace. New religious entrepreneurs are using new media effectively to build global audiences with packages of branded religious and secular content that ignore old religious loyalties and sensibilities and cross previously defined boundaries of sacred and secular. Online networking is making possible de-institutionalised and eclectic experimentations with religious and spiritual themes that are producing new hybridisations of religious ideas and practices. Commercial media organisations are also realising the potential market for spiritual and metaphysical themes, and are producing commercial programs and products in competition with religious bodies to capitalise on this significant market. In the process, old frames of institution-based authority and management are giving way to market-defined religion based on charisma, the attraction and maintenance of audiences, the management of brand, and offering competitive material of consumer value - ideology, images, solutions and products. This special issue will examine this convergent media-religious-cultural landscape and contributions are sought that explore aspects or present research that maps the terrain.

Final date for submission of full papers 31 OCTOBER 2011

Send abstracts, any enquiries and completed submissions to the Special Issue Editor:
Professor Peter Horsfield
School of Media and Communication
RMIT University
GPO Box 2476V
Melbourne Vic 3001 Australia