Thursday, November 10, 2011

Authority Online

The particular online context in which issues of religious authority is raised is the context of blogging. Blogging has become a form of media that has brought many users. Since the Internet and media has gotten more advanced, online context in which authority is raised has brought issues. Before the development of media authority has historically been marked
as having a contentious relationship with the development of newer communication
technologies (Cheong). Since blooging has became a way of expressing ideas online, it has brought up the issue of who has more authority, people who use online religion or offline. Based on Cheong reading the use of online religious activities has become problematic for the communities and it is being sustained and reframed by online practice, in ways that support traditional views and outcomes of authority (Cheong). The assumption that seems to ring true about online authority based on blogging is that it has become problematic to the communities. Based on the expressing of feeling and building relationships through blogging it has taken away from the traditional way of attending a service. Authority is said to arise from sacred tradition so therefore is becomes problematic to the communities (Cheong). Based on Cheong's reading authority has been framed in relation to the Internet.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Christians use of online church

The individual Christian involvement in online church will either
influence orrelate to how Christian identity is perceived. I will explore
the influencethat online church has on Christian identity and how users who
use the onlinechurch are perceived. I will also explore whether the use of
online church forChristians will have a negative effect, positive affect, or
possibly both ontheir Christian identity. The advancement of media has had a
huge impact on theway this society identify them. The Internet and the way
Christians use onlinechurch will have an effect on the way some people
perceive Christian as areligion. Some may say that using the online church
is not the same asattending a traditional service and people may not get the
same affect. Somepeople believe that attending a traditional a face-to-face
service is moreeffective then viewing an online service. Others believe that
using onlinechurch can help people in their everyday lives as far as
building relationshipswith people who believe in the same thing, praying for
others, and being ableto have a type of social network where many people can
get involved. Because ofthe way people may perceive Christian identity based
on the use of onlinechurch, it may influence Christian’s involvement in
using it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Authority Online

This week we are exploring how religious authority has been framed in relation to the Internet, and the debates regarding the extent to which the Internet facilitates new forms of religious authority or changes the relationship between traditional religious leaders and their community members. In class on Tuesday we discussed the complexities related to how authority is approached, understood and constituted in digital culture. It was noted that it is important to carefully consider what specific form of authority (i.e. role, structure, ideology or text) is being challenge or empowered in any given online context.

In considering the reading by Cheong we were introduced to two key assumptions about the nature of authority online. The first is that religious authority is being eroded by online religious activities and this is highly problematic for religious communities. The second assumption is that offline religious authority is be being sustained and reframed by online practice, in ways that support traditional views and outcomes of authority. In our discussion we also considered a third reality, the extent to which both assumptions are true and how one can evaluate this dialectic, in which mediated religious authority is affirmed and undermined simultaneously through online religious practice.

In this week's blogging assignment you are asked to describe a particular online context or medium in which issues of religious authority are raised.  Which of these assumptions seems to ring true or best related to this particular context and why? Draw from the Cheong's reading to back up your claims.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Idenity Online

This week we are exploring issues related to how religious identity is perceived and performed online. We started discussing identity from the perspective that it relates to the process by which an individual develops the ability to grasp meaning about the situations of everyday life and their relationship to those events. We also discussed how perceptions regarding how identity is constitute have changed over time from identity being seeing as an in-born or static construct to something we are socialized into to the post-modern notion of identity being fluid and fragmented.When discussing identity online we considered a number of issues and concerns scholars have had about the performance of identity online, including how issues of anonymity and disembodiment can lead both to deception and increased freedom of experimentation, as well as the nature of participatory culture creates new complexities for identifying and living out the "authentic self" online.

The Lovheim reading also raised two important questions:

- Does digital media strengthen or weaken individual's ability to construct or perform their religious identity?

-Does one's online religious identity have to be connected to a specific offline religious tradition or group to be seen as truly "authentic"?

Students should select one of these question to respond to in their blogs and should reflect on a concrete example on religious engagement online (in a specific forum, website or platform) to help illustrated your argument and supports your claims.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Community Online

This week we are exploring the question of what constitutes community online.  The argument was made in this week's chapter that in the last 50 years we have seen a change in the way community is understood an practiced. This has been a movement from people living in tightly bounded social structures, to interacting in loose social networks with varying levels of affiliation and commitment from its participants. This is exemplified in how many online communities form and function in various new media platforms.

This new understanding of community often challenges traditional religious communities, which frequently have rigid boundaries or strong hierarchical structures.  Therefore there is much debate about whether an email community, social media network or a church which exists in Second Life and truly be seen as religious community.  Key concerns include whether a disembodied community is problematic within certain theological context or is online gathering are disconnected from offline religion?

This week's blog should explore a specific example of a religious online community and address the following questions.

- How does this group define itself as a community?
- How do they structure or live out their form of online community?
- What might be the offline impact  of this online community on their particular religious tradition?

Happy blogging!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ritual Online

This week we are exploring how religious individuals and groups translate and adapt their  rituals online.  What constitutes a ritual and how ritual is conceived is notions debated by sociologists and religious studies scholars. In class we discussed two different approaches, investigating "what ritual is" or focusing on "what ritual does". In the Helland reading, he offers us the following base definition as "ritual is the purposeful engagement with the sacred, whatever the sacred may be for those involved".  We also discussed the tensions and debates regarding online verse offline rituals including questions of :

How do ritual work online?
Can they have supernatural efficacy?
Are there any benefits to online ritual activities?
What are the limits of online rituals? and
What needs do these rituals fulfill for individuals and communities?

This week's blog post should reflect on the assigned readings and address one or more of these questions and explore a concrete example of ritual online related to your blog's theme?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Class Blogging in COMM 460

In weeks 5-11 students will create and post on their own blogs related to course themes.  Students blogs should focus on digital media and a particular religious tradition (Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhisms, etc.) and/or one of the focused course themes for section 2 of the class (ritual, community, identity, authority, authenticity or digital religion). Each week you are to post a 200-300 word commentary on a particular research article or example related to your chosen theme with relevant links or images illustrating your discussion. Post must appear online by 5pm each Friday to receive credit for the relevant week. Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Although I haven't visited a mosque yet, there is a lot to be said by solely viewing the website of the "Islamic Community of Bryan College Station". Although the format is very simple asthetically, the content is sufficient to educate beleivers and nonbelievers alike on the type of organization Islam prides itself in being. The home page has three main links. One gives you the opportunity to learn more about islam by scheduling a meeting or even a visit to the mosque. The other option is for people who are new to the area, and the third option is a portal where you can go to donate to the mosque. Having researched the history and beliefs of the Islam religion, it is clear why these three categories are addressed immediately on their home page. Islam stresses the role of community and helping one another. It is no surprise that the they would want to teach their faith and help new comers, to better emerge them into the islam community. Another aspect of community that they hold high is "zakat" or the idea of giving money to help the common good of the community. These three links: donation, new comers, and informationals represent three fundamental values of the Islam community, and their simple but helpful website clearly represents that.

The Hindu Society of Brazos Valley

After attending the Annual Cultural Day at the Shri Omkarnarth Temple on Saturday, I was able to understand how important their Hindu history and tradition are. It was a large event that included dances, plays put on by the children, and a live band. They wore traditional Hindu attire known as the kurta for men and the sari for women. However, there was also a modern appeal to the temple as many were dressed in nice everyday clothes as well. Their main goal for the event was to demonstrate their Hindu values and customs. Their digital tools included microphones, projectors and screens, and sound amplifiers.

Rohr Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center

I attended an orthodox service at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center on a on a Friday night. Hanging on the walls in the building there were signs displaying social media information for the Rabbi to connect with Jewish students with. There was no use of new media used during the service only old media techniques were used, such as oral prayer. Once the service ended the Rabbi encouraged those at the service to connect with him through facebook and twitter, where he post information regarding the center.

Central Baptist Church

I attended Central Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas. From the beginning of my worship experience it was very clear to me that new media would play a major role in the delivering of their Sunday message. From the praise and worship time to the pastor's message, Central cultivated numerous forms of digital technology to execute their service. Many of the audio/visual techniques and instrumentation used during the corporate praise and worship time was similar to that of a secular concert. Along with this, the pastor utilized the projector screen to convey visual representations and guidelines of his sermon. All of these aspects I believe made for a more well-rounded and easily received worship service. I also explored Central's website and found an array of online resources that they use to spread their message. One of their great digital tools are weekly podcasts of the Sunday sermons. They also broadcast weekly messages on radio and television for those who cannot attend the service in person. All in all, I was very impressed with the multiple ways in which Central Baptist Church utilizes new media to convey and spread their Gospel message.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I attended A&M United Methodist Church with Pam Witte this past Sunday. Considering there were two different types of services offered, Contemporary and Traditional, we attended half of each service. As was expected, the traditional service had little to no use of media during the service. We sang out of hymnals, and there weren't any screens or references to media during the sermon. However, the contemporary service had a large projection screen for lyrics to worship music, announcements, and power points for the sermon. The pastor made a few references to twitter and facebook and mentioned his own facebook account. There was also an announcement concerning their "e-Prayer team" online, suggesting that the members submit their prayer requests online so that a prayer team can pray for them after receiving an e-mail. It was very clear that the church is trying to satisfy all generations and opinions on the use of new media in religion with the differences in the two services.

A&M United Methodist Church

    Sunday I was able to visit A&M United Methodist Church with Caitlin Mccoy. There were three service times, two of which were Traditional services and one Contemporary service. Caitlin and I went to half of each service to compare the two. While the traditional service lacked media, the Contemporary service contained a projector, loud music, and power points. The pastor also mentioned his Facebook account in this service. Paper bulletins always advertised the church website thus emphasizing their belief in a connected church body. The church services revealed a connection to historical roots as well as innovations for today's society.

Chabad Student Center

I attended the TAMU Chabad Student Center this past Friday night along with Mallory and Stephanie.  We interviewed Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff and learned that the center serves as an institution for education where Jewish students come to learn. This particular community would be defined as Orthodox, in that they follow the laws of the Torah. There was no social media used at all in the service as the Rabbi said, their “media” was the use of their mouth, in that this was the way they revealed thought.  Although the use of media is not used whatsoever in the service, this does not mean he discourages its use altogether.  Rabbi Yossi has a Facebok, Twiiter, Youtube, Website, and is a user of many more social media websites as he said this was his way to make himself “relevant.”  Reflecting back on the interview, he was one of the most knowledgeable people on social media I have ever met.   

Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M University

I had the opportunity to visit the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center in College Station one Friday evening. The Friday evening services are significant because they mark the beginning of Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath. This organization is part of a smaller sect of Judaism known as the Chabad Lubavitch movement. During the service, the congregation refrained from using any and all media resources in observance of Shabbat. The 45-minute service consisted of prayers spoken in Hebrew from the book of Psalms. Although media was absent from the service, I admired the Chabad Lubavitch traditions and culture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Media in LDS Worship

Sunday I attended Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with my two new friends, Elder Chang and Elder Stephens. Coming from a conservative, Reformed Christian background, this was a stark contrast to everything I know. The most surprising factor in my eyes was how ambiguous and bland the services were in a technological aspect. Virtually no information was provided prior to each one-hour segment in what we would be studying or learning about, or even really what we were doing apart from the titles of each event. For how accepting the LDS church is of technology, modernity was absent from weekly worship.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Looking at Local Religious Communities Engagement with Media

In week four you will be asked to do participant-observation in a local religious community and reflect on their engagement with media.  This also relates to section four of your first paper for COMM 460.  In order to complete this assignment you will need to take note of and respond to the following questions:
  • What forms of media do you see displayed or advertised in the worship building?
  • What media forms are used in the worship service?
  • How are attendees instructed/encouraged to interact with the media in certain way?
  • What seem to be the core beliefs/values of the community emphasized in the service?
  • What seems to be the relationship between the community and the larger world/culture and the media?
Based on this please post a 50-100 word summary as a comment to this post summarizing where you did you observation what you learned about the particular group's use and negotiation with media before class on 27 September.  Looking forward to hearing about what you learned!

Monday, September 5, 2011

What is Religion?

Religion is a term which evokes many ideas and images, meaning different things to different people.  Based on our class discussion up to this point how would you define the term "religion"? Finish this sentence, "Religion is...."  Write your answer as a comment to this post.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Welcome to 460-903, Fall 2011!

Howdy and welcome to Comm 460: Communication & Contemporary Issues, which wil explore Religion and Digital Culture.

This course will explore the relationship between new media, religion and digital culture by investigating religious communities use and response to digital media and how media digital media facilitate new understandings and expressions of lived religion. This will involve studying the nature of new media technologies (i.e. internet, social media, mobile phones, etc), religion, online culture and networked society.

Together we will investigate how religious communities approach, speak about, and utilize new media technologies. As well as how to critique the role digital media plays in contemporary religious meaning making. I look forward to learning together in about these issues.