Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Challenges and Possiblities to Religious 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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reflecting on the Implications of Constructing Religious Identity Online

This week  (March 19-23) we scheduled to explore issues related to how religious identity is perceived and performed online. This week's chapter by Mia Lovheim discusses identity in how it relates to the processes by which individuals develops the ability to grasp meaning about the situations of everyday life and their relationship to those events. The chapter 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 how identity is perceived and enacted online it is important to carefully consider a number of issues including how issues of anonymity and disembodiment online can lead to both opportunities for deception as well as increased freedom of experimentation with the presentation of one's identity. Lovheim also discusses how the nature of online participatory culture creates new complexities for identifying and living out the "authentic self" on the Internet.

After reading this chapter you will note that  two core questions are raised by the author:

- 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"?

For this week's blogging you should select one of these question to respond to in their blogs and reflect on a concrete example on religious engagement online (as demonstrated in a specific online forum, website or  discussion platform) to help illustrated your argument and supports your claims.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Approaching 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 century 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?

In this week's blog post you 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!