Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What would Jesus blog?

According to Jeff Brumley of the Florida Times-Union Jesus might question some of the content and critique generated by religious bloggers... Check out his article on the dilema of how the the Internet may be seen to transform individual spirituality, congregations and, in some cases, the future of entire denominations - for good and bad. You might find a quote or two from yours truly... :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Online Religion on PBS

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogging from GCIA

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

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

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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Relfecting on Christianity online at the Global Christian Internet Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How Internet Innovations Are Changing the Way We Do Church

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

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still in Denmark: Learning about Mediatization in terms of Media, Religion & Culture

Hi, still from Copehnagen! After a day break after AoIR I am now involved in a facinating short conference sponsored by the Nordic Research Network on the Mediatization of Religion and Culture which is a facinating group of scholars who meet as part of a research grant to explore the interconnectedness between media, religious activities and beliefs, and broader cultural dynamics. This is the last of a series of event which is looking at Researching Media and Religion: Future Directions of Mediatization Theory and Analyses.

Today I have been learning a lot about the idea of mediatization, which is a contested term but generally describes the process which begins with a change in communication media and proceeds to subordination of the power of prevailing influential institutions .

Stig Hjarvard & Knut Lunby took different theoretical approaches to look at issues of how media transforms social networks of relations and the contrast between new and old media and how they may influence such discussions. I gave a talk on the how the iPhone has been framed as the Jesus phone as an example of the complexities of the circulations of meaning in mediatization.. My colleague Eric Rothenbuhler asserted that ifmediatization is a industrialized, technologization of the basic idea of human communication, designed for different purposes, outcomes and expectations-- then we maybe should expect media to be a generator of communicative forms
And Lynn Clark spoke about the need to consider how media contribute to an ongoing tranformaion of societal institions by thinking about how issues such as our understanding of time, space anf family may shape these. more facinating discussion to follow...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

AoIR Bof & the New Media & Religion Wiki

Today we are having the second annual meeting of AoIR research of religion and new media (Religion, Ritual & Internet culture). Birds of a Feather (Bof) is a chance for networking and last year was the first time we had a significant enough cohort to justify such a meeting. My first 2 AoIR conference I was often the only one or one of 2 presenters of religion online so this is definitely exciting for me.

I wanted to use the occasion to announce a results of our last years meeting, the Studying Religion and New Media Wiki. There was a recognition of a need for a networking space to share resources and connect with one another. After debating whether a blog or web site might be a possible forum I decided to jump start things with a more collaborative forum. It is space that lists who's who in the area of research, create a shared bibliography on different topic, gather online resource and announce conferences & grants & what not... If you are reading this, and are are a researcher in this area and want to be part of this wiki conversation just send an email to me at heidic@tamu.edu and I will help you get started.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Religion Online-part 2 at AoIR

I am sitting in on the second Religion Online panel at AoIR. We have three presenters.
Maria Beatrice Bittarello is speaking on Sacred Space vs. Sacred Place. She is basically is making the argument for differnetiating that Sacred Space denotes a sense of global, generic transcent space or a an arena in which one loose the sense of self--where as sacred place she says is defined as limited localised locations which are small and communal. These distinctions may become important when seeking to categorize different virtual space and how they are formed and one interacts with them.

Tim Hutchins is presenting (or presented as due to battery issue I am finishing this post 24 hrs later) on models of Church online. He draws on the work of .... (1999) who studies relations and conflict within offline congregations and developed 4 models to look at the relatiosnhips formed online in these church groups such as i-church & st pixels that be describes as: the family, the leader, the community or the worship center/space. Facinating study.

Nadja Miscjek from University of Heidlberg is doing work in the western esoteric tradition (i.e. new age religions) and how those who connect themselves to this tradition use the internet to present a distinctive religious identity. She spoke specifically about new ager practioners web page profile as a space to present their spiritual journeys.

So a lot of diversity of topics being covered at Aoir and I am glad I am no longer the lone voice of calling for attention to be paid to the online practice of religion and its potential offline implications.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Greetings from AoIRing in Copenhagen (and a long hiatus)

After a long hiatus I am back in the blogosphere. I never really left but was spending most of my time researching blogs rather than on writing them the past 6 month. Also am plowing my way through finishing the book after which this blogs has been titled, and after many days of 8+ hours of writing the last things I wanted to do was to blog. But I am now at Copenhagen at the 9th Annual Association of Internet Researchers Conference which seems like the perfect time return to the blogosphere.

Today I was on a very interesting panel entitled Rethinking Religion Online. It is one of 2 panels on religion at the conference and it is great to see the growing contingent of scholars working in this area. The panel consisted of Mark Johns from Iowa who reported on a study of religious groups operating on Facebook. Paul Teusner from RMIT-Australia presented work on religious podcasting in the emerging genres and motivations found. I presented a preliminary report on a comparative study of relgious identitiy presentation and construction by Jewish, Muslim & Christian bloggers. Mia Lovheim from Sweden/Norway shared a facinating study on religious web usage in Sweden and the challenges this poses to some of the previous assumptions about religious internet use. This was followed up by Knut Lunby who did a supurb job of summing up the presentation. Will try and add more detail here post-jetlag and a good night sleep. More to come...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Consultation on Technology and Spiritual Community

Greetings from WDC (Herndon, VA actually). I am getting ready for a day consultation of faith and technology sponsored by the Congregational Resource Guide--Alban Institute. I am going to be presenting on my research on religion and the internet and along with Brian Brunius going to be part of an interesting conversation on congregational use of new media. They have assembled an interesting group of participants from members of the clergy, media professionals, bloggers and members of a variety of Congregational group. I'll give an update tomorrow on the details of the days activities.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is SNS being used for discipleship and intentional church planting online?

I had a request for information from Lee Behar of The Maclellan Foundation. He is looking for examples of people who use SNS or web tech to do online evangelism in non-religious spaces on the internet with the intent of making converts and then building intentional churches online out of those relationships. In Lee's words: "I’m not looking for social networks that are meant to connect people to conventional churches, but rather those that may be doing church (especially the outreach part) through social networks."

I know of people doing e-vangelism in non-religious space online but not of any who did it with the direct intent of building an online church. Most of what I have seen in building online community has been more organic or when it has been intentional it has not been motivated by an initial e-vangelism focus.

I am wondering if anyone out there knows of any examples of Christian evangelism/discipleship, even church planting effort, that is using a social networking platform as its primary path for ministry? If you do both Lee and I would be grateful to hear more about these efforts!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Social Capital, Religion and the Internet

I want to recommend a recent article appearing in the journal Information, Communication and Society, check out: WWW.FAITH.ORG (Re)structuring communication and the social capital of religious organizations . In it Cheong & Poon examine the relationships between Internet and social capital building within religious organizations by looking at how Christian and Buddhist religious leaders in Toronto respond to Christian and Buddhist religious leaders in Toronto have found that their communicative norms, values, and practices are changing due to communal use of the internet and presentations of faith online.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Holy Week Online

In honor of Holy week I have gathered together some of the interesting online resource available that can help you celebrate this season of remembrance. There are numerous of version of stations of the cross: way of the cross with pictures of Jerusalem, via cruix, stations of the cross in flash and virtual pilgrimage to Rome for stations of the cross.You can find music of the Passion and the gallery of the passion for meditative images and music. To participate in a virtual Good Friday or Easter service check out the service options at the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life. (Their Palm Sunday service provided attendees with virtual Palm frond and the ambiance of donkeys hee-haw-ing). And finally for other resources you might desire related to Easter check out Easter in cyberspace.

Being Virtually Real?

Online - Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet has just launched it's third issue under the theme "Being Virtually Real? Virtual Worlds from a Cultural Studies' Perspective". This is the only journal dedicated to issues of religion and the internet and in previous issues they have covered topic of theory and methodology related to studies of religion online and on religious rituals on the internet. In the current issue I would especially commend to you "The Church of Fools: Virtual Ritual and Material Faith" by Randy Kluver & Yanli Chen, a detailed investigation of one of the first experiment in doing Church in a virtual environment as well as "Rituals and Pixels. Experiments in Online Church" by Simon Jenkins who provides an autoethnography of his experience in this online worship experiment. A number of other interesting articles can also be found on religion in Second Life, Technoshamanism and spirituality in video gaming.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The most recent edition on the Journal of Media and Religion has featured 2 very interesting articles concerning religion and the internet. Below are links to these articles with brief summaries:

1. "Nonprofit Religious Organization Web Sites: Underutilized Avenue of Communicating with Group Members", written by Melissa Smith. This article suggests that nonprofit religious organizations do not take full advantage of its website's capabilities. For example, Smith found that religious organizations do not hire marketing professionals to aide in the website creation/upkeep, they do not track the number of visitors to the website, and they do not use the website as a recruiting tool for the organization. Additionally, Smith writes that religious organizations use other forms of technology to contact members instead of websites.

2. "The Use of Internet Communication by Catholic Congregations: A Quantitative Study", written by Lorenzo Cantoni and Slawomir Zyga. This article is a result of a study which attempted to measure internet usage among all Catholic religious groups and autonomous organizations worldwide. Based on the answers received, Cantoni and Zyga assert that centralized institutions utilize the internet to a higher degree than autonomous institutions. Within centralized institutions, a difference is noted between male and female groups. The article also presents proposals for this trend.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Church Website Design Project

Hello, my name is Lauren Gross and I am currently working as Dr. Campbell's research assistant. I will be posting helpful sites/information from time to time on Dr. Campbell's blog, so I hope the following is of use to you!

The Church Website Design Project is a company with a target market of Christian groups. The role of an employee is to consult with a church representative, learn an individual church's needs, and produce effective web communication. The creators developed this service because "As Christians we are taught to believe in the importance of spreading the Word and the ministry of our Church. This is why we have established, with clergy and church members from across the UK providing a wealth of support, the Church Website Design Project. All of us who work on this Project have a variety of backgrounds in the world of work, and worldly experience, but we all share a common goal: celebrating and communicating the faith, ministry and Word of God." Please click here if you would like to visit the website.

To better understand the project, here are the vision and values listed on the website:

- Promoting the internet as a means to extend fellowship and ministry.
- Encourage clergy and church leaders to identify the potential in developing an online church community.
- Provide support and advice on ways that the internet can enhance the work of your church community.
- Identify opportunities for not only sharing your church with the global community, but also to develop a new way to communicate with the local community.
- Sustain and develop the fellowship that exists within your churches, parishes and church groups.
- Support clergy and church members to improve existing websites, offering advice and consultation.
- Share the love and word of God and the teachings of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Upcoming conference

After a long hiatus from posting I am back...

2008 looks set to be an interesting year for exploring religion and the media, with 3 international conference coming up.

July 10-12, 2008 the "New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa" conference will be hosted in Abuja, Nigeria. The main goal of this conference is to cast a critical look at Africa's rapidly evolving religious media scene. It is particularly interested in the challenges of balancing freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief in Africa’s fast-growing media sector. The conference is spearheaded by several international scholars including Rosalind Hackett from University of Tennessee & president of the International Association for the History of Religions, whom I have known for almost a decade as scholar doing interesting and important work on religion in Africa. Check out their Call for Papers. If my travel plans for the summer weren't so tight I think this would be a great conference to check out.

August 11-14, 2008 the Sixth International Conference on Media, Religion, and Culture on "Dialogues in Diversity" will be hosted in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have been to several of these previous conferences in Scotland, Sweden & the USA which aim to be international and interdisciplinary event engaging about critical questions of the interactions between religion and the media. The Call for Papers deadline is March 31st. I will defintely be at this one.

And in November 9-12, 2008 the Second International Conference on Religion and Media will be held in Iran. I do not know much about this conference but good friends Lynn S Clark & Stewart Hoover attended the first one as guest speakers and found it a facinating experience.

So get out your passport and consider joining one of these international gatherings!