Saturday, November 30, 2013

Facebook and Networked Community

For my case study I chose to answer the following question, “When using Facebook, what strategies or trends work best when trying to frame the Christian faith on a social media platform and promote its core beliefs and values?” During my research, one of the strategies that the three Christian pages I chose to study employed was the establishment of online communities in order to more easily evangelize and promote their core values and beliefs. After reading the networked religion article I began to understand why this trend was taking place.
One of the characteristics of networked religion fits in nicely with the findings of this case study. The concept of networked community works because the establishment of community is a trend that has been repeated throughout this study. A key component to networked community is that religious practice emerges within a distinctive social sphere constructed of networked interactions. Networked community is characterized by loose social networks with varying degrees of commitment. This commitment could range from only participating in the online community to using the online community as a supplement to their church home. This case study showed examples of networked community because the pages’ followers sought to establish these loose social networks by interacting with their fellow Facebookers. This was illustrated through the prayer requests, narratives, and responses that were typical of these Facebook pages.

The picture above is a prime example of networked community because a prayer request was made and the page’s creator as well as other followers responded to it. Prayer or intercession is typically reserved for those who are trusted or for someone you identify with. So the fact that she was able to ask for it on a public site such as this one just goes to show the shared identity and trust that has been established on these Facebook pages. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lived Religion in Memes

My case study was studying the question: how does Catholic Memes expresses lived religion through language and narratives and what is the purpose of reinterpreting these memes in a Catholic context? I observed the memes from the Catholic Memes website and looked at how they changed the usual narrative of the meme to fit a Catholic connotation.
The characteristic of networked religion most clearly seen in this case study is that of convergent practice, which is combining traditional religious rituals with outside sources to create a new form of spiritual practice. Catholic Memes uses convergent practice to mix “institutional religion with forms of popular piety, combining the sacred and the profane into personal forms of religious expression” (Campbell, 2011, pg 15). By taking a popular meme platform and combining it with a Catholic message, Catholic Memes is creating a new expression of lived religion and a new reinterpretation of social media to express faith. “Convergent practice highlights that the internet offers a tool box of new possibilities for religious expression and connectedness that enhance individuals’ religious lifestlyes…” (Campbell, 2011, pg. 16-17).
 For example, taking the bear from the meme Confession Bear and placing him in the confessional from the TV show The Simpsons with the priest checking his watch illustrates that even Confession Bear goes to confession, and since his meme is so popular, it would probably take a while! Combining a popular TV show, a known meme character, and the Catholic sacrament of confession, a humorous narrative is created and put forth to be enjoyed by the community
Another example of this is taking the popular meme platform of the "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling meme and having him suggest reading a Catholic teaching on love and marriage. By combining the idea that Ryan Gosling is the perfect man that the "Hey Girl" memes portray and editing it to fit a Catholic image the meme has now been transformed into that of the perfect Catholic man and is now a sign of religious expression.

Networked Religion--Twitter and Catholicism

My case study focused on lived religion within the realm of Twitter. The research question for this study was what is the role of religious narratives created on Twitter by Catholics?

The trait of networked religion that is seen most clearly in this study is storied identities. The concept of storied identities states that identity is enacted through personal process of self-identification and negotiation online. Twitter has provided an opportunity for Catholics to express their belief and faith online. This leads to highly personalized religion. This is seen most clearly in a tweet by Ennie Hickman that reads, “When we fail, God doesn’t call us out. He calls us to supper.” This tweet contains no doctrine of explicit theology from Catholicism. It is simply a personal reflection on the love and acceptance of God. This belief that Ennie is expressing contributes to his own Catholic identity. He sees God as forgiving and accepting. Through the religious narratives created on Twitter, Catholics are able to personalize their faith and more readily apply their religion to their own lives. Twitter has become a space for Catholics to express ideas and broadcast sundry interpretations and reflections on religion. Within this Twitter realm, Catholic identity is being shaped and enhanced in individuals. Twitter provides a space for the processing and negotiation of religious ideas. In order to compose tweets containing religious content, Twitter users must first reflect on their own religious beliefs and faith. They can choose what to say in their Tweets, and they can also choose which users they will follow. They can both compose religious tweets and read religious tweets of other Twitter users. Through this process of participating in religious discussion and communication on Twitter, these individuals create and reshape their own identities that begin in Catholicism in the real world. Their Catholic identity that was likely grown and shaped within a Catholic church is enhanced and possibly negotiated through the process of living out religion on Twitter.

Christianity && Instagram

My case study is exploring the answer to the following question: how do Christians create or act out religion in their daily lives in the context of Instagram through the use of symbols and images measured by examination of their posts and how others respond to them? More simply, it is observing how Christians use Instagram as a platform to act out their spirituality. 

This case study observing networked religion on Instagram demonstrates the characteristic of networked community.  It illustrates the apparent shift that has taken place from a very tightly bounded community found offline to a community online with looser boundaries and “various levels of religious affiliation and commitment” (Campbell, 2011, p. 6). This is demonstrated in the level of interaction that Instagram users have with certain posts reflected religious ideals. Followers can simply “like” a post, write comments and engage in conversation, or they can post their own and initiate conversation and interaction with their followers. The level of depth and involvement with religion through Instagram is up to the user, “fluid and highly personalized” (Campbell, 2011, p. 8). 

An example from my case study is found in a post by the user jesuscalling. This user posts a daily devotional from a book called Jesus Calling. As can also be seen in the photo (posted below), this post received 819 likes. Beneath the photo, users comment with words of encouragement and gratitude to the user for posting. Also in the comments, users tag other users thus furthering the number of users that see this photo, increasing the web of believers that are interacting through this post. The user gets to decide how much they want to commit to this post and, by default, associating with Christianity. A user does not have to follow Jesus Calling, like the post, comment on it, or tag others to see it. It is up to them how much involvement they want to have. 

My case study proves that Christianity online is connected to offline Christianity as followers practice the same traditional rituals but modify them to fit the context of social media. Users are still forming and  engaging in community, but they get to choose how much and what that looks like specifically for them. This concept of networked community supplies a framework for revealing the function of community in an offline and online context, especially within today’s technology-savvy society. People are no longer simply participating in and committing to one bound religious community but are living in dynamic networks of communities that they form and interact with to fit their personal religious needs.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Twitter and Convergent Practice

                  For my case study, I chose to answer the question, “How do prominent Christian authors construct their tweets in order to effectively evangelize to their online Twitter audience?” In my findings, I realized that most Christian authors are effective in evangelizing through their tweets, however the ways in which they choose to construct their tweets vary from tweeting direct Bible verses to sharing encouraging interpretive messages to asking thought-provoking religious questions. Overall, however, each author positively influenced their Twitter followers in that most tweets had over 100 re-tweets.
                  In relation to the concept of networked religion—a term illustrated in Dr. Heidi Campbell’s article Understanding the Relationship Between Religion Online and Offline in a Networked Society—the tweeting of religious messages online by Christian authors portrays the trait of “convergent practice” (2011, p. 13). Convergent practice is a form of networked religion that “allows and even encourages users to draw from traditional and new sources simultaneously” (Campbell, 2011, p. 13). Furthermore, it takes “traditional religious ritual[s]” and “adapt[s] [them] to fit within the technological structures and constraints of the Internet” (Campbell, 2011, p. 13).
                  This concept is most definitely seen in the tweeting of religious messages online in that tweeters—in this case, Christian authors—must take messages from their books, as well as the Bible, and converge them to fit within the 140 characters allowed by Twitter. For instance, in Jerry Jenkins book entitled I Saul, Jenkins writes about the life of a man who rejected and persecuted Christ, encountered a transformation, and became one of Christ’s disciples. To demonstrate this message through a concise tweet, Jenkins writes “Murder. Forgiveness. Redemption. Grace. #ISaul” (see Image 1). This tweet captures the premise of Jenkins’ book while also delivering a message of grace and redemption given through Christ. Jenkins takes the message portrayed through a traditional form of evangelism, book writing, and converges that message with the online medium of tweeting. This convergence with a form of modern-day interaction allows Jenkins to deliver his religious message to an audience that perhaps would not have the time or patience to purchase and read his 400-page book. Jenkins is not the only author or person using the online network to practice his religious beliefs, but this form of networked religion is instead seen through the tweets of many religious authors, pastors, and leaders today.

Campbell, H. (2011). Understanding the relationship between religion online and offline in a networked society. American Academy of Religion80(1), 64-93. Retrieved from
Image 1

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Twitter and Shifting Authority

There are five traits of networked religion.  The five are convergent practice: personalized blending of information and rituals; multi-site reality: embedded online-offline connections; networked community: loosely bounded social networks; storied identity: fluid and dynamic identity construction; shifting authority: simultaneous empowerment and challenge of authority (Networked Society).  
My case study was on the top 10 Christian leaders (Church Leaders).  I asked questions like: do the top 10 Christian leaders all tweet on the same topic?  Do they all tweet the same amount?  Are they all trying to tweet to a certain audience?  I believe that shifting authority best represents my case study.  Shifting authority focuses on the rise of new religious gatekeepers, spokespeople and authority structures online.  Twitter allows anyone to be a religious tweeter and to have authority online.  Shifting authority also says leaders seek to solidify their position in new sources like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest to legitimize and influence.  Twitter is a place that many people can put their beliefs about Christianity, or their religion online.   I think the best example of this is a tweet from Terry Storch on September 24th.  Storch tweeted, “The people you comfort determine the level of excellence you achieve.”@leadershipfreak - Removing the Lid on Your Org attached was a link to a lid.  Terry Storch is not very well known but is a top Twitter leader.  Like shifting authority says, Twitter can help bring a new religious gatekeeper.  Twitter can provide a place for people to tweet 140 characters to influence or legitimize people on their beliefs.  
Campbell, Heidi.  ( November 9, 2011).  Understanding the Relationship between Religion Online and Offline in a Networked Society.  Oxford Journal.  Retrieved: November 18, 2013.  

Church Top 100 Christian Leaders to Follow on Twitter.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Network Religion

Within religion being online, there are some traits called Network Religion that can be identified on every platform and every environment that the internet has provided for this religion to act on. For my study of prayer on Facebook there is one of the traits from Network Religion that really sticks out to me and that is Network Community. The Network Community is the 'idea of network religion... emerges within a distinctive social sphere constructed of networked interactions" and it forms an online community (Campbell, p. 5). This trait has the idea around it that members of a certain platform or website can come together to create an online community being involved and getting to know other people. Though it can go deeper to see how people function offline as well, but my study does not go as deep as that does. My study looking at people all over the world coming together online, I have no way to prove how it can affect them offline. We can see though that the loose social boundaries set up on both of my sites allow anyone to join the group as long as they follow the rules that are set up by the director of the page. Even though the site itself is has loose boundaries, people have made the site fit their needs and they have give a few rules to play by so the community if formed around a few basic rules. An example from my case study that I have been looking into is that when people post on the wall, non are left unlike or uncommented upon. They have been a support group for anyone who has posted on the wall. The people who also post feel open enough to give updates and reports on how their prayer request is turning out. The community of back and forth conversation is encouraging to people who see the post and want to feel welcomed into the group as well.
Storied Identity is another trait that I can see being played out in the group. It is not as strong, but people that post on this Facebook pages are finding who they are and finding themselves in a group that has supporters for them. People that feel alone need someone to talk to and the group being open to anyone posting about anything needing prayer, you can see that a person could find themselves at peace, togetherness and in some senses a family. This are just a few traits that are brought up in the Network Religion, and we could probably find a little of each of the 5 network religion theories in every platform. But Network Community and Storied Identity is two of the strongest ones that I can tell from my observations.