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.

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