Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Networked Religion Through Devotional Twitters

My case study looked at daily devotions on Twitter. I wanted to learn what types of tweets were best received by the followers of the account for Our Daily Bread. In terms of Networked Religion, devotions on Twitter can be classified as Storied Identity. "The social sphere offers individuals various resources and meanings from which they can select, assemble, and present a sense of self" (Campbell, 2011, pg. 8). Our Daily bread offers a variety of tweets that cater to all of their followers. Followers choose which devotion best suits their life, and respond and react to those tweets; followers gain a sense of identity through the tweets they choose. Storied identity offers new possibilities for assembling a religious identity for those lacking opportunities offline. Interactions between Our Daily Bread and the account's followers not only provide a spiritual message, but also create a religious identity. As mentioned previously, Our Daily Bread provides a variety of tweets spanning from a broadcast type tweet to a more personal level tweet; "Here the self may be assembled through a variety of different resources that create a distinctive narrative" (Campbell, 2011, pg. 8). Followers are given the chance to not only live their religion online, but also create a religious identity. Storied identity is constructed and performed online and encourages a malleable self-presentation. The account's interactions with followers, most importantly the tweets they send out daily, have proven to be an influential performance of religion. The findings from this research proved that Twitter is a popular place for religion, and that it is being used for different meanings. The devotional Twitter accounts allow followers to express their religious views to their own followers, but even more so,use the religion to get through their own lives. Provided is an example of the various types of tweets I observed during the case study research; tweets included scripture based devotions, broadcast devotionals, and short inspirational messages (which proved to be the most effective and well received).

Monday, December 2, 2013

Storied Identity in Instagram

My case study was about the use of the hashtag, “blessed” on Instagram. This study was aimed at looking at the ways that individuals are expressing lived religion in their lives and whether or not they intended for religious meaning or secular meaning to be drawn from the ways they were posting. This case study revealed a heavy emphasis on “storied identity”, which Campbell identifies as acknowledging “that while identity construction is a process lived out online and offline and mirrors the understanding that while people often play with multiple identities, there is still often a push to unify them.” (Pg. 11). This shows that people have multiple aspects of their identities that can be very unique from each other. However, storied identity says that these forms of identity can be melded together to make the whole identity of the individual.  The people that I studied were using social media to construct an image of themselves through the picture and words that they posted. While one post can only reveal one part of the person’s identity, a lot can be gathered about what they think about certain things as well as what they value from one post. For example, one user posted “blessed” as well as the terms “cleaning” and “offday”. Through this, different parts of this man’s identity are revealed. He values the time off he has from his job, and enjoys the accomplishment that cleaning brings. These two terms add to his feeling of being blessed. However, that is only my interpretation of the post. Others could analyze it in a different way, which adds to the idea that use religious words, such as blessed, in a fluid way. They can mean that they feel happy or they can mean that they actually feel blessed. The bottom line is lived religion is growing through the various ways that a person can now express themselves.

Campbell, H. A. (2012). Understanding the Relationship between Religion Online and Offline in a Networked Society. Journal Of The American Academy Of Religion, 80(1), 64-93.

Networked Religion, Non-Denominational Churches, and Facebook

My case study looked at how non-denominational Christian churches used Facebook to spread their interpretation of the Christian message to their members and followers. I wanted to see how Facebook was used to spread these messages as well as how members responded to the Facebook posts. Non-denominational churches are very big into allowing their members to make their own interpretations of the message by allowing them the freedoms that are not offered to them through traditional christian churches.
       In lecture, we learned that "Networked religion represents a loosening or re-presentation of traditional boundaries of religious communities to reflect more dynamic and fluid forms of affiliation and practice". The way these non-denominational churches use their Facebook page reflect this idea in several ways.One way that these churches do this is they include their interpretation or what they believe the take away message from different media content about Christianity with their posts. This not only provides the traditional message, but it also offers these church's re-presentation of the content that is being presented so that followers can understand that their is different interpretations of the traditional content, and they are able to make their interpretations as well.
     Another aspect of Networked Religion that these non-denominational churches portray is that of Multi-site Reality or embedded online to offline connections. One church in particular that I observed was Riverpointe Church of Richmond, TX. This church uses media content to portray their message very often, and everything that they include in their sermon, they also post online in case some members were unable to make it to church on Sunday. This not only includes different youtube videos that they have either made themselves or have found online, but this also includes podcasts of the sermon that was presented that Sunday. This brings the sermon found offline at church on Sunday online for those members that may have been out of town that weekend or just weren't able to make it in time for the offline sermon.
    Another aspect of Networked Religion that these non-denominational churches have used is that of a Networked community, or loosely bounded social networks. This can be seen through the use of hashtags that encourage members to participate and discuss particular content that is posted, and allows these members to share their voice with each other. Through these hashtags, members are talking directly to each other, but they are still very loosely connected through the one linked hashtag. When you click on the hashtagged message, you are able to see all of the different messages that have been posted by members based off of the one message that was posted originally by the church.
       Facebook is one of the top social media sites for a reason, and these non-denominational churches have taken advantage of this in several ways. They have brought their message from offline to online, and have allowed members to connect with each other as well as with other christians by allowing them to share their own interpretations of the message posted by the church. This is only one way these churches have been using social media to communicate and build a network within their religion, and has technology continues to grow and evolve, I believe it is only a matter of time before we start seeing certain churches that operate solely online.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Networked religion: Storied Identities on Pinterest

Throughout this semester I have studied how religion is lived out through media. Specifically I have conducted a case study to answer the research question, “How Muslim women are utilizing the images on Pinterest to alter preexisting stereotypes about women within the Islamic religion”.

Muslim women have utilized the characteristic of networked religion termed as “storied identities” Campbell (2011). Campbell wrote, “Anthony Giddens (1991) argues that identity is a highly malleable form, rather than something that is fixed and simply accepted or rejected.” (p. 4) Much of the western society has created a “fixed” notion of the identity of a Muslim woman. The western perception of a Muslim woman is exactly what Muslim pinners have sought to alter. In a generalized sense, westerners tend to categorize Muslim women in three common misconceptions; one, Muslim women are forced to dress modestly and it is physically unattractive; Two, that Muslim women are oppressed and forced into the Islam faith; And finally, the mentality that Muslim women are incapable of participating in activities that non-Muslim women are. One specific example is the pin I previously analyzed of an image of three young women holding up poster boards that read, “Islam is my liberation, my source of empowerment, my equality.  So we won’t be needing any of that ‘white non-muslim-women-saving-muslim-women-from- muslim- men crap.’ http://www.pinterest.com/pin/131237776614566315/  Simple and straight forward, this is an example of how Muslim women are trying to collaboratively create their “true” identity while simultaneously counteracting preexisting ones. Using Pinterest as a medium, Muslim women have rejected these negative stereotypes and through their pins have attempted to re-mold their perceived identity. It is evident that Pinterest can be utilized as a tool for Muslim women to “select, assemble, and present a sense of self” (Campbell, p. 8) It is also evident that Pinterest is being used as a self-identity reconstruction tool by Muslim women, directed toward non-Muslims.

Networked Religion in Advocacy Groups

In my case study involving how Facebook Advocacy Groups use narratives such as comments in the form of posts to show spirituality, there was a distinct sub group of Networked Religion. Within the research of the case study I was able to see Networked Community within the sub group of Support and Prayer. This sub group was one that showed narratives of positivity and support within subjects such as needed prayer and dead. A particular group Christians for Christian was an Advocacy Group that followed the journey of a young boy diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The group and its followers were emotionally invested in the boy’s story, progress, and eventually death. When the young boy passed there were several posts offering condolences and prayers to the family of Christian.When talking about Networked Community you look at social media sites that can offer loosely-bound community. In a sense this group became a supportive community themselves, investing their time, words, and love to a family in a time of need. The comments seemed as though they were coming from a personal loss rather than just a loss of a boy whom they had never met in the real world. These types of Advocacy groups show that even when there are no person to person interactions there can still be a type of emotional community connection within the group.