When Religion Meets New Media
What does religion have to do with technology? Many people think that religious practitioners are inherently opposed to new technological developments. The reality of the situation is that religious communities have a very complex relationship with technology. Heidi Campbell, professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University, examines the intersection religion and technology in When Religion Meets New Media (Routledge, 2010). Her main query is what responses do Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities have to new forms of media.
Campbell pinpoints the various structural components of religious communities’ engagement with technologies through a number of case studies, including the Amr Khaled phenomenon, the Gulen Movement, Shabbat in an Orthodox Jewish home, the “Pause, its prayer time” ad campaign, the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, Islamic apps, and the kosher cellphone, among several others. In When Religion Meets New Media, she offers a comprehensive theoretical model for investigating religion in the digital world, the “Religious-social shaping” approach, which frames a study in a religious community’s core beliefs and patterns, history and tradition, negotiation process, and communal discursive framing. As one of the leading scholars in the area of religion, media, and digital culture, Campbell is well-suited for the task. In our conversation we discuss the history of religion online, religious authority, communal interactions with traditional texts, the media as a conduit, mode of knowing, and social institution, and the future of the study of digital religion. Campbell also gives us a sense of where the field is moving and topics that are gaining purchase among scholars. Her efforts with the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies are helping scholars across disciplines connect for collaborative research. We also briefly discussed one of the products of this network, Campbell’s edited collection Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media Worlds (Routledge, 2013). The chapters of this volume include theoretical and methodological introductions to themes in the study of digital religion (Ritual, Identity, Community, Authority, Authenticity, and Religion) with two corresponding case studies.