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