Sunday, May 27, 2007

Building the Ancient Online

I am attending a conference on teaching called Wakonse and as part of the afternoon activities went on a nature hike where we learned about tracking animals, dune ecology and Native American Spirituality. The hike culminated in a visit to a Medicine wheel built on the camp grounds where we learned how meeting places were used such as these for tribal meetings and places of prayer as pattern constructed represented multiple meanings including the moon cycles/months of the years, different seasons of life and journeys towards growth. As I was unable to take notes and remember all of what our guide had said I was interested to see what I could find out online post the walk. The answer is a lot! ...from numerous articles to online spaces where you can create a digitial interactive medicine wheel.

If you are interested in Native American and non-institutionalized spiritualized practices and discourses—from ethical consumerism to the New Age to eco-spiritual tourism-- you might want to check out the upcoming conference: Media, Spiritualities and the Public Sphere to be held June 4-8, 2008 at the University of Colorado-Boulder and sponsored by the Center for Media, Religion and Culture. For more information contact Dr. Monica Emerich,

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Selling Church Online

I am multi-tasking during a conference I am attending on the Internet in China. Right now a Chinese scholar based in Arizona is presenting on chinese cybernationalism and activitism, and I am learning about chinese hackers, honkers and the sino-china online war of 1999-2001. While trying to find a web site the speaker was talking about I came across a web site that linked me to several interesting sites on church marketing.

You can experience technological conversion online at Fellowship one, a web site that offers church managment software to help you retain and cultivate contact with casual church visitors.

Other interesting Church marketing tools include: Parishsoft, church software and Church Community Software.

For those who feel that most Church Marketing Sucks, we have a blog for you. It offers insights in how to communicate the christian faith cleverly and with clarity, with the aim to frustrate, educate, and motivate those that need it. The blog is linked to the Center for Church Marketing.

There is also Eministry notes which includes as series of posts that feature tools and concepts for churches seeking to raise their profile and minstry online.

It seems "selling faith" is becoming even more of an industry, faciliated through the proliferation of online resources. Business models motivating and driving religious organizations have become increasingly accepted. since the launch of the Willow Creek phenomeon--a church started by Bill Hybles based on a marketing survey. Yet I wonder how the medium and these strategies might reshape the perception and reception of spiritual content.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cell Phones and Religion

Since I got my first cell phone in 2000 I have been interested in how religion may or may not shape mobile/cell phone use. I have written on text messaging, trends in religious uses of cell phones, and the rise of the "kosher" cell phone in Israel. The later is a unique example of the UltraOrthodox Jewish community culturing and innovating a technology so that its use is more in line with their moral codes and way of life. It is a case study in my current book project, and it has also just come out as a journal article.

‘What Hath God Wrought?’ Considering How Religious Communities Culture ( or Kosher ) the Cell Phone is appearing Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, Volume 21 Issue 2, 191

My thoughts and research reflections are also featured today in an article in the Houston Chronicle entitled CUTTING THE CORD: The great disconnect. The article explores "The increasing use of cell phones has prompted a communication revolution that may eventually make land lines a thing of the past."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Doing Church online

Over the past 5 years I have been watching some of the creative thinking and examples coming out of the UK related to the possibility of doing church online.

There is I-Church started by the Oxford diocese of the Church of England back in 2003 that aimed to be the CoE's first cyberparish. I actually attended the dedication of the I-Church in Oxford back in summer of 2004. There of course was also the Church of Fools experiment, 3-D virtual church environment that got lots of international attention during its 3 month launch in 2004. I also had the opportunity to attend 2 services at that time. I mentioned in a previous post that a PhD in Durham is currently doing some interesting work on these 2 groups, and this week I reviewed an article on these two groups soon to come out in the journal Online. I also learned that another cyberchurch I came across recently St Pixels is a reincarnation of individuals previously active in and connected to the Church of Fools.

Today I learned of another manifestation of cyberchurch coming soon to a virtual space near you from a Cynthia Ware a new friend and connection who is also exploring how new media and Christianity may interconnect. She suggested I check out Church on the net which is an evangelistic project about to be launched and according to the project leader, Nicola David
"is designed to help bring the concepts of God and church into the comfort zones of people who are in no way currently engaged with either."

Church of the Net is connected to the UK 'fresh expression' of church" initiative which is a partnership of the CofE and Methodist Church which began in 2004 with the aim to resource mission through encouraging new and different expressions of church life. It is fascinating to see how these many different forms of e-church have been emerging on the other side of the pond.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Finding your religion online...via Belief-o-matic

The internet can not only help you in your spiritual journey it can also help you define the path you are already on. Check out the handy "Belief-o-matic" quiz at It takes you through a series of questions and in the end gives you a break down with what religious groups or traditions some of your core beliefs align you with. I was surprised to learn that based on my results I am 100% Orthodox Quaker (and 52% Orthodox Jew).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Religion and Computer-Mediated Communication

The Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has just launched a special issue on "Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Religion and Computer-Mediated Communication". The issue provides an interesting collection of articles dealing with many cutting edge topics and features work on several under-represented religions in studies of religion online including Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. As the editors Ess, Kawabata & Kurosaki surmise in their introduction:

"Indeed, as religion continues to foster and expand its role in the lives of the vast majority of the world's population, as that population increasingly accesses and makes use of CMC technologies....and as the majority of the world's religious traditions continue their migration online, religion on the Internet should become an increasingly important dimension of CMC research. We hope that this special issue will generate insights, foundations and, most of all, enthusiasm for a research field that is crucial, growing, and very much in its beginning stages."

I would especially recommend the pieces by Helland, Cheong & Kluver... and my own article "Who's Got the Power? Religious Authority and the Internet" which deals with my current work on authority and the internet. As a teaser see the abstract below...

While many themes have been explored in relation to religion online—ritual, identity construction, community—what happens to religious authority and power relationships within online environments is an area in need of more detailed investigation. In order to move discussions of authority from the broad or vague to the specific, this article argues for a more refined identification of the attributes of authority at play in the online context. This involves distinguishing between different layers of authority in terms of hierarchy, structure, ideology, and text. The article also explores how different religious traditions approach questions of authority in relation to the Internet. Through a qualitative analysis of three sets of interviews with Christians, Jews, and Muslims about the Internet, we see how authority is discussed and contextualized differently in each religious tradition in terms of these four layers of authority.