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Digital Creatives and the Rethinking of Religious Authority

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... Third, we need to mention Heidi Campbell's research, which provided the ultimate inspiration. The American researcher specifically examined the role perceptions of religious content creators in the last decade (Campbell 2017(Campbell , 2020. ...
... Audience Approach-Service, Infotainment, and Civic role types (Mellado 2015) After Mellado's work, from the second half of the 2010s, we come across research that specifically analyzes the role perceptions of religious content producers. First of all, we should mention Campbell's studies (Campbell 2017(Campbell , 2020. During the nine years of her research, data were collected several times in connection with religious content creators. ...
... Our first source focuses on exploring the relationship between religious media and the public sphere in Hungary. Our second major source was research on journalistic role perceptions (Mellado 2015;Campbell 2020). The research was carried out in the autumn of 2019 in Budapest (Hungary) using a semi-structured interview composed of 15 questions. ...
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The research on the relationship between religion and the media has expanded in the past decades with many new directions, one of which is the examination of the creators of religious media content-more precisely, the exploration of their different role perceptions, commitment, motivations, and goals. Religious content creators are those media producers whose content appears on various media surfaces (printed press, radio, television, film, digital media), regardless of whether they perform their activities as employees of a media company or voluntarily. This study presents the research we conducted among Hungarian religious content creators between 2019 and 2020. The purpose of the study is to develop a well-founded role typology based on the defining features and modes of operation of different role types.
... For most churches, unless technology is adopted and adapted into its infrastructure and the congregants fully accept and embrace it, it can be difficult to achieve a full experience of community (Campbell 2020a(Campbell , b, 2021b. While many individuals were online before the pandemic, the potential benefits of embracing a networked life were not fully realized until it became a lived reality in 2020. ...
... Such a move has broad and far reaching theological and anthropological implications in need of greater exploration. The transition from offline to online church service highlights how many religious groups contemporary society treat the weekly worship as the central expression of faith (Campbell 2020a(Campbell , b, 2021b. Thus, it was demonstrated that traditional worship services could only be possible with the help of technology during pandemic restrictions. ...
Chapter
This conversation between Catherine Keller and Petar Jandrić explores the contemporary relevance of the concept of Apocalypse and inquires into ways of responsible reading of Biblical texts. It introduces the concept of dreamreading and positions it in relation to the concept of prophecy. It presents arguments for rejecting the notion of creatio ex nihilo and proposes a close examination of the theology concerning creatio ex profundis. The conversation outlines the basics of process theology and its complex links to postmodernism and feminism. It moves to the contradiction between universal morality expressed in Scripture and postmodernism’s rejection of universal morality. It outlines Keller’s understanding of theopoetics and explores the transdisciplinary nature of (process) theology. The conversation ends with an in-depth exploration of postdigital theology, addressing postdigital spatio-temporality, transhumanism, posthumanism, Trinity, eco-pedagogy, and the Kingdom of God.KeywordsPostdigitalProcess theologyTheopoeticsApocalypseDreamreadingHeresyCreationismFeminismSexualityPostmodernismWhiteheadLiberation theologySciencePoetryTransdisciplinarity Docta ignorancia Creatio ex nihilo Creatio ex profundis
... Using some insights from recent work on religion and the internet (Campbell 2012(Campbell , 2020Cheong 2013;Mannila and Zeiler 2019), I argue that these Assamese magical websites represent a series of important transformations in the modern history of Tantra. After a very brief background on Indian Tantra and the role of 1 "Tantra" is a category that is notoriously difficult to define. ...
... 8 For my understanding of authority, I primarily follow the lead of Lincoln, who defines authority as the "effect of a posited, perceived, or institutionally ascribed asymmetry between speaker and audience that permits certain speakers to command not just the attention but the confidence, respect, and trust of their audience, or-an important proviso-to make audience act as if this were so" (1994: 4; emphasis in the original). For discussions of the effects of the Internet on religious authority, see Cheong 2013; Mannila and Zeiler 2019;and Campbell 2020. "algorhythmic authority," which can supplant and displace traditional forms of authority through the sheer number of hits, views, or likes that an online source can accrue: ...
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This article examines the changing nature of Tantra in the digital era by focusing on three online tāntrik practitioners from Assam. The region of Assam has a long reputation as the quintessential “land of black magic,” and this reputation has continued in the realm of the internet and online tāntrik services. The article argues that these Assamese cyber-tāntrikas reflect at least three key transformations in the practice and representation Tantra. First, they represent a profound challenge to traditional forms of tāntrik authority and a new kind of digital authority—what Heidi A. Campbell calls “alogorhythmic authority”—whereby one gains status and reputation not through established religious institutions but rather through the amplifying power of social media platforms. Second, they reflect the ways in which Tantra in the popular imagination has been largely identified with black magic and also combined with a wide variety of other magical practices from around the globe, most commonly with a (highly stereotyped) version of Voodoo. Finally, they reflect a kind of “Americanized” version of Tantra, which is defined primarily in terms of sex, love, and romance—though also with a uniquely Indian twist and a special focus on the dynamics of marriage, family, and caste relations.
... From another perspective, mediatization of religion has put value on the new social conditions in which religious institutions and believers function. The idea is that the mediatization of religion touches upon the problems in people's everyday lives and upon religious institutions embedded in the context of digitization and algorithmization (Campbell, 2021;Campbell & Garner, 2016). ...
... (p. 5) Representatives of illiberal proposals, taking power in turn, violated the level of media differentiation they had found, to varying degrees, making them dependent on political power (Guzek & Grzesiok-Horosz, 2021;Surowiec, Kania-Lundholm, & Winiarska-Brodowska, 2020). The results of these strategies can be clearly seen in the decline in the rankings of press freedom levels of the countries in question (Reporters Without Borders, 2015, 2016, 2021. ...
... In her book Digital Creatives and the Rethinking of Religious Authority (2021), Heidi Campbell (2021) argues that religious authority is transformed by digital media and technology. This transformation is due not only to the transition of established religious authorities (like priests and pastors) from physical spaces into digital environments, but also to the occurrence of new actors (like technicians or social media ministers). ...
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The preaching event is a complex process of communication and interpretation. The aim of this study is to describe and discuss how the preaching event is affected when it is digitally mediated and involves so-called “religious digital creatives” (RDCs). This is achieved through a case study of the preaching event at two Church of Sweden (CoS) congregations that offered pre-recorded, digitally mediated worship services. The research questions guiding the study were: “When and how do the RDCs engage in the preaching event?” and “How can the effects of this engagement be understood in the light of homiletical theory drawing on the works of Mikhail Bakhtin?” The study found that RDCs engaged in the verbalization phase of the preaching event in several ways—including visualization, direction, editing, enhancement, and contextualization of the sermon—and thus contributed significantly to the preaching event. Furthermore, the RDCs exhibited notable relational authority—an authority based on negotiation, interdependence, and interaction. Employing homiletical theory that draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s work, I argue that the RDCs in this case study are best understood as co-preachers who contribute to expanding the polyphony of the preaching event.
... Online platforms such as social media and different websites are used to collect the most comprehensive form of data in Digital Marketing. Digital Marketing requires the tools of Artificial Intelligence to convert the data into the most proper readable format (Campbell, 2020). So, in Digital Marketing, the use of Artificial Intelligence is a modern way that enables firms to understand their target audience and to learn advanced consumer behavior. ...
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ornamental to the strategic decisions of consumers and its competitive nature and has rapidly transformed the dynamics of the emerging digital world. The evolution of predictive marketing has increased the understating of consumer decision-making. Moreover, AI has enabled many businesses to predict big consumer data to fulfill customer expectations and provide customized products and services. AI’s role has been increased in operational marketing, such as design and selection of ads, customer targeting and customer analysis. Nevertheless, the role in strategic decision-making by employing machine learning techniques, knowledge representation, and computational intelligence improves efficacy. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understating of the role of AI in digital marketing to understand their target audience better. Secondly, it also accentuates the role of AI and predictive marketing in understanding complex consumer behavior by highlighting several solutions to predict the expectations of consumers. Moreover, the contribution of AI in managing customer relationships with an active role of managers is also one of the study's aims. The current study also discusses the future of AI in marketing and managers' role in utilizing disruptive technology. This paper's managerial implications are pertinent because deploying AI in competitive businesses is key to improving decision-making.
... Technology has become the discovery of new sites in disseminating religious authority, where easy access and cheap information from technology are the reasons for making accusations through the media more attractive. 6 Indonesia has an acute interest in the internet. In 2017, internet users in Indonesia reached 143 million or as much as 54.68% of the total population. ...
Article
strong>Abstract : Smartphone technology has evolved into a new da ‘ wah platform in the contemporary era. The emergence of Islamic applications and social media seems to have created a new form of religious involvement in the public sphere in Indonesia recently. This article examines the ‘Aa Gym’ apps and @aagym as a da’wa media platform launched by a popular preacher, KH. Abdullah Gymnastiar. This study describes how the two platforms serve as media for Islamic da’wah with the jargon of iconic religious figures. Using the case study method, we interviewed 20 users of both platforms and Aa Gym as key informants. The results found that: (1) ‘Aa Gym’ apps had created a new form of religious involvement in the digital media landscape before Aa Gym experienced the destruction of itslife, while @aagym was more in demand by the public after practising polygamy as an effort to revive religious authority which had downfall. (2) these two platforms, as primary needs, consume religion without space and time limits. (3) these two platforms depend on the electability of religious figures in the public sphere. Keywords: Islamic applications, religious authorities, religious leaders, digitalization of da’wah, contemporary Abstrak: Teknologi smartphone telah berevolusi menjadi platform baru dakwah di era kontemporer. Munculnya aplikasi Islami dan media sosial rupanya menciptakan bentuk baru keterlibatan agama dalam ruang publik di Indonesia baru-baru ini. Artikel ini mengkaji ‘Aa Gym’ apps dan @aagym sebagai platform media dakwah yang diluncurkan dai populer, KH. Abdullah Gymnastiar. Studi ini memaparkan bagaimana kedua platform tersebut sebagai media dakwah Islam dengan jargon tokoh keagamaan yang ikonik. Menggunakan metode studi kasus, kami mewawancarai 20 orang pengguna kedua platform tersebut, dan Aa Gym sebagai informan kunci. Hasil penelitian ini menemukan bahwa: (1) ‘Aa Gym’ apps telah menciptakan bentuk baru pelibatan agama dalam lanskap media digital sebelum Aa Gym mengalami kejatuhan dalam kehidupannya, sedangkan @aagym lebih diminati publik pasca melakukan praktik poligami sebagai upaya bangkitnya otoritas keagamaan yang sempat runtuh. (2) kedua platform ini sebagai kebutuhan primer mengkonsumsi agama tanpa batas ruang dan waktu. (3)kedua platform ini bergantung pada elektabilitas tokoh agama di ruang publik. Kata Kunci : aplikasi Islam, otoritas agama, pemuka agama, digitalisasi dakwah, kontemporer
... The women the analyzed elites started following earned their reputation because of institutional political or mediatic positions, meaning they themselves where part of these elites, as they had an established role in relevant institutions (Wedel, 2017), being in the position to make decisions of social impact (Mills, 1956). Therefore, the most followed Spanish media directors on Twitter, as well as the media they manage, chose to follow women when they were in positions that make up the traditional elites, and not so much women for their online relevance or algorithmic authority (Cheong, 2013;Campbell, 2020), not giving the same space to citizen women voices as they gave to citizen men, following the media tradition of making a biased representation of women (Zoch and Van Slyke Turk, 1998;Tuchman, 2000;Armstrong, 2004;Armstrong and Nelson, 2005;Shor et al., 2015). However, we highlight that the Media Directors started to follow a balanced percentage of women and men, even taking into account that they were women in positions within the elites, considering that the sample itself is constituted by 90% men and 10% women, and previous studies had shown that male journalists tended to interact almost exclusively with other male journalists (Usher, Holcomb and Littman, 2018). ...
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Digital platforms have transformed the influence streams among media, journalists, politicians and the citizenship, as well as concerning gatekeeping and agenda setting (Guo and Vargo, 2017; Wallace, 2018; Casero-Ripollés, 2021). Nonetheless, homophilic tendencies among power groups continue to be reproduced online (McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook, 2001; Maares, Lind and Greussing, 2021). With the objective of contributing to the deepening of the understanding of the dynamics and influence flows online among power elites, we analyzed via a machine learning Software, the 50 accounts that the network of the most followed Media Directors in Spain began following and compared them with the accounts that the Media they manage started following. We categorized them in Types of accounts, Location and Gender, and analyzed the repetitions between the accounts they began to follow to subsequently work with data visualization methods in order to find trends and tendencies (Bail, 2014; Batrinca and Treleaven, 2015). The results of this research indicate that some patterns of behavior differ between both networks, such as the gender and types of accounts they began following, whereas the location presented similar trends. The year where we can see the highest similarities corresponds to 2018, an electoral year in Spain, where both networks started following a majority of Spanish male politicians.
... The themes of this research can also use a different approach, for example, Netnograhy (Kozinets, 2010;Kozinets & Gambetti, 2020), by analyzing the media platforms owned by pesantren. Numerous theories, such as Campbell's (2013) Digital Religion and Digital Creatives (H. A. Campbell, 2020), can also be employed to study the media coverage of pesantren, both in terms of learning and religious authority, as seen in Figure 5. First, the phenomenon of Virtual Pesantren that has emerged can be analyzed in depth. Will this threaten traditional pesantren or strengthen them?, second, women ulama (pious women) are an intriguing subject to examine in terms of their role in challenging male ulama's dominance in the struggle for religious authority. ...
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Academics have not quantified the quantity and quality of research conducted on pesantren (Islamic boarding school), particularly concerning the development of digital technology. Indeed, the current pesantren trend has accelerated as a response to the development of online media. This article will analyze emerging research trends, mentor academics involved in pesantren’s research, and direct researchers. Additionally, this article discusses the most influential authors and journals in the area. The research aims to evaluate pesantren's research trends indexed in Scopus using bibliometric analysis software Publish or Perish and VOS Viewer. The study discovered that pesantren's research has shifted during the last decade. According to the data, scholars continue to study pesantren's research themes infrequently, as indicated by the indexation of only 61 publications by Scopus. The majority of researchers use a conventional approach to pesantren. As such, it is critical to conduct future research on the relationship between pesantren and the advancement of digital technology. Specifically, in the form of Kiai (teacher) or santri-based learning (student-based learning) models and the process of pesantren adaptation, as indicated by the establishment of numerous pesantren media platforms as centers for religious knowledge production and dissemination. Thus, pesantren will keep being the source of religious knowledge by adapting to tradition and technology.
... When music refers to religion and authority, we naturally go in the direction of religious authority, which currently remains at the center of research on media, religion, and digital world. Here, a significant role is played by the dynamics of exercising religious authority (Campbell 2021), its contents (Campbell 2010;Guzek 2015;Evolvi 2019;Coman and Coman 2017), negotiating (Kołodziejska and Neumaier 2017;Kołodziejska 2018), and even contestation (Lundmark 2019). Studying the musical aspects in the context of religious authority is open to research. ...
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The article analyzes the role of music within antagonized visions of the contemporary papacy in film and television series productions by examining The Two Popes, The Young Pope, and The New Pope. Despite the growing body of literature analyzing the contemporary meeting between media and papal authority, little has been done to construct papal authority and music in films and television series. This study draws from film analyses and hermeneutics to investigate how the antagonized visions of the papal office are exposed through musical patterns. Referring to the two opposite approaches in exercising the papal office, one based on existential Catholicism and the second sourcing from the traditionally oriented God's Objective Law, we document and explore how music is marked by the dynamics and portraits of religious authority. We connect it with music's directness in understanding four distinct patterns of developing the antagonistic approach to portraying the papacy in films. These are as follows: dazzling pathos, exposing uncertainty, contrasting the element of life with the boredom of lifelessness, and contaminating popular music with a sacred or political context.
... Pensé dès avant la pandémie liée au Sars-COV-2 et ses régimes de distanciation, le présent dossier vise à investiguer les formes d'expression et de mise en visibilité digitales du religieux et les raisons de son expansion numérique. Ces formes de mise en visibilité peuvent être opérées par des dévots (Favret-Saada, 2017), des activistes, des acteurs religieux placés en position latérale ou marginale dans leur communauté (Campbell, 2021), ou mises en place par des institutions et des mouvements religieux de types différents. Il s'agit d'examiner à la fois les discours, les images (car le digital porte et enclot d'autres médias, que sont la langue, l'écriture, la parole et l'image, le son et la musique), les dispositifs numériques eux-mêmes et les ergonomies développant le service religieux proposé, mais d'examiner aussi les contextes économiques et socio-politiques qui peuvent motiver, expliquer ou fonder ces communications, dans le cadre d'une vision non pas sociologique mais centrée sur l'information et la communication, soit la production de sens dans une situation d'altérité, recourant à diverses médiations technosémiotiques. ...
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le présent dossier vise à investiguer les formes d’expression et de mise en visibilité digitales du religieux et les raisons de son expansion numérique. Ces formes de mise en visibilité peuvent être opérées par des dévots (Favret-Saada, 2017), des activistes, des acteurs religieux placés en position latérale ou marginale dans leur communauté (Campbell, 2021), ou mises en place par des institutions et des mouvements religieux de types différents. Il s’agit d’examiner à la fois les discours, les images (car le digital porte et enclot d’autres médias, que sont la langue, l’écriture, la parole et l’image, le son et la musique), les dispositifs numériques eux-mêmes et les ergonomies développant le service religieux proposé, mais d’examiner aussi les contextes économiques et socio-politiques qui peuvent motiver, expliquer ou fonder ces communications, dans le cadre d’une vision non pas sociologique mais centrée sur l’information et la communication, soit la production de sens dans une situation d’altérité, recourant à diverses médiations techno-sémiotiques. Il s’agit également de considérer les pratiques (Duteil-Ogata, Jonveaux, 2020) de production et de mobilisation de ces dispositifs, ainsi que leurs théorisations. Car le numérique religieux n’est pas seulement un ensemble de données rendues accessibles en réseau, c’est aussi le fruit d’une incitation, d’une pensée du public et du langage (Douyère, 2020, p. 49-50), une forme de continuation de la pratique, portés par une communauté, en conflit ou non sur ces questions.
... Rather than being based on assumed positions and statuses (i.e., being a pastor, a minister, etc.), it must incorporate various technical skills that pertain to using various devices, software, and communicating via various media, such as social media, communicators, etc. This development is particularly interesting in view of the concepts of "digital creatives" (Campbell 2016(Campbell , 2021 and "media pioneers" (Hepp 2016), which point to the digital skills themselves as sources of authority and unequal distribution of power. Both concepts also focus on the individuals, their personal agendas, goals, and know-how: although their qualities may contribute to the development of the organizations (including religious ones), they do not necessarily submit to the goals of these organizations. ...
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The aims of this paper are to investigate 1) how the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Poland has reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and lockdowns imposed nationwide, 2) how the pandemic context has influenced the Church’s digital media productions, and 3) how the Church has adapted to some of the trends and consequences of deep mediatization (Hepp et al. 2017, 2018). Based in the constructivist concept of deep mediatization (Hepp et al. 2017, 2018), the paper analyzes interviews with Seventh-Day Adventist media professionals from Poland within the framework of the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse. Additionally, selected official YouTube channels of local congregations in Poland are analyzed quantitatively to identify the changes in the number of uploads and views. The analyses show that as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, media production and use increased substantially in some digital media formats produced by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which was on the one hand a response to the pandemic context as such, and on the other hand, a reaction to the discriminatory laws which drastically limited the Church’s activities offline. The pandemic has opened up new possibilities of participation, but also increased the chances of digital divides and exclusions. The study concludes that to mitigate the risks related to digital divides during the pandemic, some Polish pastors took on the roles of media experts and educators, incorporating technical skills in their authority status. This suggests that transformations of religious authority may be another consequence of deep mediatization processes.
... Religious communities' agency in employing new technologies has also been explored by Campbell with the notion of "spiritualizing the Internet," an approach that frames the Internet as suitable for religious engagements (Campbell 2005, p. 2). This theoretical standpoint is further elaborated in analyzing how religious people create meaning through media narratives, in what Campbell defines "technological apologetic" (Campbell 2020b). ...
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This article offers theoretical reflections on the study of religion and the Internet by critically discussing the notion of “digital religion” (Campbell 2012). In particular, it stresses the importance of integrating material and spatial approaches to the study of digital religion. In doing so, it proposes the theory of “hypermediated religious spaces” to describe processes of religious mediation between online and offline environments by taking into account materiality and space. The article discusses theoretical perspectives by means of case studies: first, the importance of materiality within Internet practices is illustrated through the example of Neo-Pagan online rituals; second, the notion of space, and “third space” in particular, in relation to Internet practices is analyzed through the case of the hashtag #Nous-Sommes-Unis, circulated by French Muslims; third, the theory of hypermediated spaces is exemplified by the analysis of a live-streamed mass in the Italian city of Manerbio during the Covid-19 lockdown. The article aims at kindling scholarly reflections on terminologies and theories for the global and interdisciplinary study of digital religion.
... Early to mid-20th century 'crusaders' include Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Joel Osteen, who consolidated global empires through radio and television. More recently, as more religious communities have moved online, they have acquired global followings and produced their own set of influencers (Campbell 2020, Whitehead 2018, Hoover 2006). ...
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This article examines the unlikely ways that media celebrity enabled priests and nuns in Ireland to make gay and lesbian identities visible. Despite the fact that sex among men was criminalised in Ireland until 1993, Catholic priests and nuns during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s used their mass media celebrity to make same-sex desire and LGBTQIA+ identities visible in popular media, especially through the public service broadcaster RTÉ. The article examines three case studies in which priests and nuns 'queered the pulpit,' harnessing their public personas to affirm LGBTQIA+ identities across various Irish media platforms in ways that were surprisingly tolerant, given Catholic orthodoxy. The article speaks to the paucity of research regarding religious personalities as celebrities. The omission of religious figures from the celebrity studies literature is noteworthy, particularly in the Irish context, where broadcast media has been a potent site for cultivating clergy celebrity. The article's focus on religious celebrities who gave voice to LGBTQIA+ lives and concerns in the Irish context also reframes the traditional narrative of the relationship between media and Catholic clergy, which has often been characterised solely in terms of scandal. ARTICLE HISTORY
Chapter
Our chapter draws on evidence from a research study exploring pastors’ views of technology during the global Covid-19 pandemic. It explores the ways leaders framed their engagement with technology, which points towards larger shifts occurring within contemporary culture about popular views and language concerning technology. These discursive moves surfaced through investigating how church leaders talked about digital media as they transitioned from offline to online modes of worship services during the pandemic. We suggest that some common perceptions of digital media identified may point towards religious groups beginning to, or inadvertently accepting core, or grounding premises of a posthuman future, as discussed in the work of David Roden.KeywordsInternetCongregationsChurchCovid-19PandemicPosthumanTechnology
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In this article, I argue that Islamic authority is being made between online and offline environments used by young Muslims, between religious experts and ‘laymen’. Youngsters try to find their way and mosques try to direct and inform Muslims about and through online sources and strengthen their online presence. This article analyses four online discussions between young Dutch Muslims of Moroccan descent on the forum Marokko.nl . These discussions about Islamic ideologies, imams and mosques show how the participants try to convince each other of their points of view. I intend to contribute to the ongoing debates on the relationship between religion and cyberspace, and particularly on how the construct of religious authority is mediated and negotiated among youngsters by zooming into and analysing some excerpts from their online discussions.
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The Shambhala Facebook group created a space for individuals to reimagine their religious teachings and practices without the Tibetan Tantric Buddhist student-teacher relationship, which received much criticism after Shambhala’s spiritual leader, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, had been accused of sexual abuse by some of his students. This article examines how digital space contributes to Shambhala members’ negotiations of religious authorities through their communications and membership on the Shambhala Facebook group, for example, by establishing meditation groups that incorporate Shambhala teachings but not the student-teacher relationship. The collection of posts and comments on the Shambhala Facebook group show how the communication processes utilized by this online social group are an example of relational authority, or what Heidi A. Campbell describes as “a negotiation of reciprocity and agency between different parties.”
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Studies have highlighted the increased vulnerability of women during and after disasters. Thus, there has been a call for gender-aware disaster management—an approach which is certainly needed, especially when a patriarchal culture is embedded in a society. Unfortunately, studies on women as vulnerable agents are often not balanced against careful examinations of instances where women help women. Drawing on (digital) ethnography conducted between 2020 and 2022, this article focuses on analysing the voices and activities of gender-just ʿulamāʾ (Muslim scholars) in Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected traditional religious gathering practices, has led to creative solutions to social proximity restrictions. Many ʿulamāʾ have been “forced” by the situation to adjust to digital religion. This article analyses how female religious authorities who colour the daily daʿwa (proselytization) landscape in Indonesia deal with the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. The daʿwa scene in Indonesia has long been the site of contention among various competing ideological understandings. The pandemic and the proliferation of digital religion has led gender-just ʿulamāʾ to relegitimize their authority through an online presence so they can compete and counter the narratives of tech-savvy conservative Muslims.
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This introduction opens a collection of seven articles which investigate how religious communities negotiate demands for physical distance induced by governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in accord with their religious and spiritual aspirations to establish presence and togetherness. Grounded in ethnography and media analysis, our contributors offer studies on Pentecostal healing, Mormon eschatology, Hindu diasporic rituals, Chinese spirit mediums, the virtual Burning Man festival, Sufi sonic meditations, and televised Shia Muslim mourning. These studies collectively demonstrate that in pandemic rituals (1) Media are reflexive and enchanted; (2) The religious sensorium is sticky and lingers in embodied and mnemonic ways even under new circumstances of mediation; (3) Space and time emerge as modular, transposable, condensed, yet expanding. Ritual innovations can provoke new kinds of mediations, sensory engagements, and temporal-spatial arrangements, while revealing continuities with pre-pandemic cosmologies, theologies, liturgies, and social hierarchies, and relying on memories of previous ritual sensory experiences.
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This article aims to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the religious lifestyles of practicing female Roman Catholics in Belgium. I explore how these Catholic believers manage to stay in touch with their faith and faith community in times of crisis when physical and real-life contact is very limited. In this article, I draw on in-depth interviews conducted via Zoom, carried out in the framework of my current ethnographic research project. The empirical results show how Catholic women grappled with the multiple lockdowns during the last year and a half, and how the lockdowns led to severe changes in their religious practices and routines. Many believers had to find alternative possibilities and modalities in order to preserve continuity with their religious pre-COVID-19 lives. Throughout the article, I intend to map their practices and strategies. I will argue that inquiring how religion and religious practices are performed during a pandemic can contribute to the flourishing and timely scholarship on digital and online religion and it also provides us with further insights in the performativity, materiality, and embodiment of religion.
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This article provides an overview of contemporary research within the interdisciplinary arc of scholarship known as digital religion studies, in which scholars explore the intersection between emerging digital technologies, lived and material religious practices in contemporary culture, and the impact the structures of the network society have on understandings of spirituality and religiosity. Digital religion studies specifically investigates how online and offline religious spaces and practices have become bridged, blended, and blurred as religious groups and practitioners seek to integrate their religious lives with technology use within different aspects of digital culture.
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This article introduces a special issue on critical methods and theoretical lenses in Digital Religion studies, through contextualising them within research trajectories found in this emerging field. By starting from the assertion that current “fourth-wave of research on religion and the Internet,” is focused on how religious actors negotiate the relationships between multiple spheres of their online and offline lives, article authors spotlight key theoretical discussions and methodological approaches occurring within this interdisciplinary area of inquiry. It concludes with notable methodological and theoretical challenges in need of further exploration. Together it demonstrates how religion is practiced and reimagined within digital media spaces, and how such analysis can contribute to broader understanding of the social and cultural changes new media technologies are facilitating within society.
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This article provides a focused review of researches undertaken within Digital religion studies in the last three decades, specifically highlighting how religious communities have been studied and approached within this area. It highlights the dominant theoretical and methodological approaches employed by scholars during what is being described as the four stages of research on religious communities emerging over this period of time. Thus, this article presents the findings of key studies emerging during these stages to illuminate how the study of religious communities online has evolved over time. It also offers insights into how this evolution specifically relates to the study of Catholic community online. Finally, a theoretical analysis is given, assessing current research on religious communities within Digital Religion studies, and approaches for future research are proposed.
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This article provides an overview of the development of Digital Religion studies and the theoretical approaches frequently employed within this area. Through considering the ways and theories of mediatization, mediation of meaning, and the religious–social shaping of technology have been engaged and applied in studies of new media technologies, religion, and digital culture we see how Digital Religion studies has grown into a unique area of inquiry informed by both Internet studies and media, religion, and culture studies. Overall, it offers a concise summary of the current state of research inquiry within Digital Religion studies.
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This panel will explore algorithmic authority as it manifests and plays out across multiple domains. Algorithmic authority refers to the power of algorithms to manage human action and influence what information is accessible to users. Algorithms increasingly have the ability to affect everyday life, work practices, and economic systems through automated decision-making and interpretation of "big data". Cases of algorithmic authority include algorithmically curating news and social media feeds, evaluating job performance, matching dates, and hiring and firing employees. This panel will bring together researchers of quantified self, healthcare, digital labor, social media, and the sharing economy to deepen the emerging discourses on the ethics, politics, and economics of algorithmic authority in multiple domains.
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This article focuses on Pope Francis activities on Twitter and understanding the way of using this kind of social media by religious authorities. By examining Francis’s tweets from half a year of his pontificate (from September 13, 2013 to March 16, 2014), the author offers an in-depth overview of methods for studying the presence of religious authority in the digital world. In fact, he faces both the rapidly growing Heidi Campbell’s Religious Social-Shaping of Technology analytic frame and the grounded theory approach. Conducting the research the author shows that Pope Francis’s Twitter can be treated as a good example of ‘religion online’ based on a specific strategy to extend religious authority from the real to the virtual world.
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This article provides an overview of research on religion and the Internet within the Israeli context, highlighting how Orthodox Jewish groups have appropriated and responded to the Internet. By surveying Orthodox use of the Internet, and giving special attention to the ultra Orthodox negotiations, a number of key challenges that the Internet poses to the Israeli religious sector are highlighted. Exploring these debates and negotiations demonstrates that while the Internet is readily utilized by many Orthodox groups, it is still viewed by some with suspicion. Fears expressed, primarily by ultra Orthodox groups, shows religious leaders often attempt to constrain Internet use to minimize its potential threat to religious social norms and the structure of authority. This article also highlights the need for research that addresses the concerns and strategies of different Orthodox groups in order to offer a broader understanding of Orthodox engagement with the Internet in Israel.
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A theoretical essay laying out the argument for the Hoover/Echchaibi concept of "Third Spaces." Will appear soon in a book by the same name.
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It is becoming increasingly evident that technological innovation is not a matter only of production, and that consumption and use are essential components of the innovation process. It is also becoming increasingly evident that technological innovation is not a matter only of engineering, and that both new and old technologies are symbolic and aesthetic as well as material and functional objects. In this chapter we offer an account of the role of information and communication technologies in everyday life which addresses both of these concerns. In the first instance it takes a user's perspective. And in the second instance it focuses on the question of design. We will argue that innovation involves more than merely research and development, or product launch. Innovation requires to be seen as a process which involves both producers and consumers in a complex interweaving of activities, activities which are solely determined neither by the forces of technological change nor by the eccentricities of individual choice. We will propose a model of what we call the design/domestication interface in an attempt to make some sense of the dynamics of innovation, and in doing so we will privilege the role and perspective of the consumer. In doing so the intention is not that we should simply take a 'user's' perspective on innovation as if this was a magic wand that would resolve all problems of determinacy and indeterminacy in the innovation process. The aim is first of all to insert the particular characteristics of 'use' into that process in such a way as to highlight the activities of consumers who, within their distinctive and perplexing forms of rational and non-rational behaviour, both complete and rekindle the innovation cycle. And the second aim is to focus on the interrelationship of design and domestication in such a way as to identify the particular elements of the careers of information and communication technologies as they move through the spaces and times of innovation.
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This article suggests that religious practice online, rather than simply transforming religion, highlights shifts occurring within broader Western culture. The concept of "networked religion" is introduced as a way to encapsulate how religion functions online and suggests that online religion exemplifies several key social and cultural changes at work in religion in general society. Networked religion is defined by five key traits—networked community, storied identities, shifting authority, convergent practice, and a multisite reality—that highlight central research topics and questions explored within the study of religion and the internet. Studying religion on the internet provides insights not only into the common attributes of religious practice online, but helps explain current trends within the practice of religion and even social interactions in networked society.
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This article examines the motivation behind bounded groups’ creation of digital enclaves online. Through in-depth interviews with 19 webmasters and staff of selected Israeli Orthodox websites three critical areas of negotiation are explored: (1) social control; (2) sources of authority; and (3) community boundaries. Examining these tensions illuminates a detailed process of self-evaluation which leads religious stakeholders and internet entrepreneurs to form these digital enclaves in order to negotiate the core beliefs and constraints of their offline communities online. These offer spaces of safety for members within the risk-laden tracts of the internet. Examining the tensions accompanying the emergence of these religious websites elucidates community affordances as well as the challenges to the authority that integration of new media poses to closed groups and societies.
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This chapter focuses on one particular aspect of authoritativeness: voluntary compliance with the decisions of authorities. Social psychologists have long distinguished between obedience that is the result of coercion, and obedience that is the result of internal attitudes. Opinions describe “reward power” and “coercive power”, in which obedience is contingent on positive and negative outcomes, and distinguish both of these types of power from legitimate power, in which obedience flows from judgments about the legitimacy of the authority. Legitimate power depends on people taking the obligation on themselves to obey and voluntarily follow the decisions made by authorities. The chapter also focuses on legitimacy because it is important to recognize, that legitimacy is not the only attitudinal factor influencing effectiveness. It is also influenced by other cognitions about the authority, most notably judgments of his or her expertise with respect to the problem at hand. The willingness of group members to accept a leader's directives is only helpful when the leader knows what directives to issue.
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This paper examines the relationships between Internet and social capital building within religious organizations, which are relatively understudied foci. Building upon theoretical insights provided by new institutionalism and recent research on the Internet, social capital and religion, this article explores the ways in which religious organizations have (re)structured their norms, values, and practices of religious community in light of the incorporation of the Internet into their congregational life. Drawing from interviews conducted with Christian and Buddhist religious leaders in Toronto, this article discusses three major relationships in which the effects of the Internet on social capital may be understood, that is, complementary, transformative, and perverse relationships. Religious organizations are traditionally associated with relatively high stocks of social capital, yet findings here suggest that their communicative norms, values, and practices are changing to a varying extent. The results also indicate that the relationship between the Internet and social capital building is largely complementary; however, the Internet is perceived by some to be a ‘mixed blessing’, facilitating the potential transformation of organizational practices that affect community norms while leading to the dispersion of religious ties that could undermine community solidarity. Thus, contrary to earlier studies that have documented no evidence of innovations involving the reconfiguration of organizational practices and the adjustment of mission or services, findings here illustrate how some religious organizations have expanded the scope of their calling and restructured their communicative practices to spur administrative and operational effectiveness. Like other organizations, religious organizations are not insulated from technological changes including those associated with the Internet. This study clarifies and identifies key ways in which the distinct spirituality, cultural values, and institutional practices and norms of religious organizations influence communication processes that constitute bridging and bonding forms of social capital in this dot.org era of faith.
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In light of expanding epistemic resources online, the mediatization of religion poses questions about the possible changes, decline and reconstruction of clergy authority. Distinct from virtual Buddhism or cybersangha research which relies primarily on online observational data, this paper examines Buddhist clergy communication within the context of established religious organizations with an integrationist perspective on interpersonal communication and new and old media connections. Drawing on in-depth interviews with Buddhist leaders in Singapore, this paper illustrates ways in which priests are expanding their communicative competency, which we label ‘strategic arbitration’ to maintain their authority by restructuring multimodal representations and communicative influence. This study expands upon previous research by Cheong et al. (in press, Journal of Communication) and finds that constituting Buddhist religious epistemic authority in wired organizational contexts rests on coordinating online–offline communicative acts. Such concatenative coordination involves normalizing the aforementioned modality of authority through interpersonal acts that positively influences epistemic dependence. Communicative acts that privilege face-to-face mentoring and corporeal rituals are optimized in the presence of monks within perceived sacred spaces in temple grounds, thereby enabling clergy to perform ultimate arbitration. However, Buddhist leaders also increase bargaining power when heightened web presence and branding practices are enacted. The paper concludes with limitations and recommendations for future research in religious authority.
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While many themes have been explored in relation to religion online—ritual, identity construction, community—what happens to religious authority and power relationships within online environments is an area in need of more detailed investigation. In order to move discussions of authority from the broad or vague to the specific, this article argues for a more refined identification of the attributes of authority at play in the online context. This involves distinguishing between different layers of authority in terms of hierarchy, structure, ideology, and text. The article also explores how different religious traditions approach questions of authority in relation to the Internet. Through a qualitative analysis of three sets of interviews with Christians, Jews, and Muslims about the Internet, we see how authority is discussed and contextualized differently in each religious tradition in terms of these four layers of authority.
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This article explores the relationship between the recent growth of mass higher education in the Arab Muslim world, particularly in Oman and North Africa, religious activism, and the implications of the “objectified” religious knowledge and authority that modern education encourages. Study of the new ways of knowing and the emerging networks for communication and action produced by mass higher education and contemporary religious activism offers insight into the “political economy” of religious knowledge: the interplay of religion, politics, and national identity. [Islam, Middle East, authority, religion, education]
Chapter
The Mediatization approach is a general approach concerned with media change and the related transformations of everyday life, culture and society. It understands this as a long term meta process which is accompanying human development since ever. Mediatization studies thus describe and grasp theoretically the current upcoming of the computer and its consequences, but also historical developments, and it includes a critical perspective. The older concept of Media Logic came up in the 1970s and tried to understand how the relevant mass media television of that time contributed to a change of political thinking. Thus, Mediatization asks a broader question, but of course can learn from Media Logic, its research, and its results in specific cases. This is explained in more detail in this article.
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Museums make their collections available online to keep pace with developments in how people access and share information. While museums have traditionally understood the notion of public access as part of their institutional remit, in this paper I draw on policy documents and qualitative interviews with Australasian cultural professionals, to examine how the discourse of access might account for the museum’s transformation from a community space to a resource that is beneficial to marketers. I use Google Arts & Culture as a case study, to suggest the terms of public access have altered to adapt to the needs of commercial “digital enclosures.” When people engage with the museum in virtual spaces data are collected. Algorithms work as a set of instructions that make it possible to search, sort and organise the data, linking together people and their online practices in order to enact a form of algorithmic cultural recommendation.
Book
This informed theology of communication and media analyzes how we consume new media and technologies and discusses the impact on our social and religious lives. Combining expertise in religion online, theology, and technology, the authors synthesize scholarly work on religion and the internet for a nonspecialist audience. They show that both media studies and theology offer important resources for helping Christians engage in a thoughtful and faith-based critical evaluation of the effect of new media technologies on society, our lives, and the church.
Chapter
Among the most commonly overlooked set of insights offered by Erving Goffman is his commentary, comprised of both explicit and implicit elements, on the interrelationship among power, hierarchy, and status in everyday life. In fact, Goffman has been subject to criticism for his apparent failure to treat these sorts of stratification-related phenomena. To date the most detailed critique of Goffman along these lines is Alvin Gouldner’s analysis.1
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With the institutionalization of algorithms as content creators, professional journalism is facing transformation and novel ethical challenges. This article focuses on the concept of Algorithmic Journalism on the basis of natural language generation and provides a framework to identify and discuss ethical issues. The analysis builds on the moral theories of deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and contractualism, and remaps the ethical discussion for Algorithmic Journalism at the intersection of digital media ethics and cyber ethics. In order to capture the whole range of potential shifts and challenges in journalism ethics, the article combines the ethical multi-layer system of responsibility by Pürer with the classification of journalism by Weischenberg, Malik, and Scholl on an organizational, professional/individual, and social/audience sphere. This analytical framework is then complemented with attributes derived from the technical potential of Algorithmic Journalism. As a result, the analysis uncovers new ethical challenges and shifts of responsibility in news production for journalism practice and journalism research at the levels of objectivity, authority, transparency, and at the level of implicit or explicit values.
Book
'The Network Society stimulates the reader to think about the network society in an innovative way. Because of its analytical aims and a well-balanced presentation of empirical findings and theoretical insights coming from a remarkable variety of authors, this is a book that might become a model for collaborative research in the years to come, as well as an invaluable reference for teaching and research on networking as an organizational form.' - International Sociology - Review of Books.
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This lively book focuses on how different Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities engage with new media. Rather than simply reject or accept new media, religious communities negotiate complex relationships with these technologies in light of their history and beliefs. Heidi Campbell suggests a method for studying these processes she calls the "religious-social shaping of technology" and students are asked to consider four key areas: religious tradition and history; contemporary community values and priorities; negotiation and innovating technology in light of the community; communal discourses applied to justify use. A wealth of examples such as the Christian e-vangelism movement, Modern Islamic discourses about computers and the rise of the Jewish kosher cell phone, demonstrate the dominant strategies which emerge for religious media users, as well as the unique motivations that guide specific groups.
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While Max Weber formulated an "ideal" definition of charisma and its routinization, he did not fully address the question of charismatic origins. This paper proposes a theory of charismatic leadership which explores the social conditions under which charisma will emerge. Charismatic leaders are hypothesized to live in periods of radical social change or be cut off from the mainstream of society, perceive religious tradition as relative, and have innovative teachings if their religion is to be institutionalized. They are also not excluded from occupying an institutional office within a traditional religion. The theory is tentatively supported by an examination of biographical data for fifteen charismatic leaders and their successors from various periods of history and from different parts of the world.
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Authority and power are usually not conceptually distinct, but for clarification, they are considered extremes on a control continuum. Power is conceptualized as influence and social control, the former reducing and latter reinforcing authority. These constructs permit reexamination of authority and leadership.
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The editors believe this essay will help bridge the unfortunate gulf between Mormon and non-Mormon writers of Mormon history, which has allowed Mormons to be cut off from many useful insights and allowed non-Mormons to be blind to important elements such as the role of doctrine. Mario De Pillis teaches American social history and the American West at the University of Massachusetts. He has been trustee and historical consultant for the restor-ation of the Shaker community of Hancock, Massachusetts, and is presently the Roman Catholic member of a four-college ecumenical seminar of Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and laity. Both Mormon and non-Mormon re-sponses have been arranged for the next issue. IF THERE IS TO BE ANY HONEST DIALOGUE WHATSOEVER BETWEEN educated members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and outsiders, the question of the historical origins of Mormonism must ever remain central. And in a way it has remained central. Nevertheless, no serious student of writings on the origins of this central issue can deny that the controversial "dialogue" of the past hundred and thirty-five years has been less than candid. It has long been true, however unfortunate loyal Mormons may find it, that the historians who write our generally accepted social and intel-lectual history have rarely consulted such standard Mormon his-torians as B.
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This paper presents an exemplification and discussion of the contemporaneity of Erving Goffman’s work and of its applicability to the analysis of identity and presentation of self in the blogging and Second Life (SL) contexts. An analysis of online identity and interaction practices in 10 different cases of bloggers and SL inhabitants and of their online spaces is presented in terms of: expressions given; embellishment as a minor form of persona adoption; dividing the self; conforming and ‘fitting in’; and masking, anonymity and pseudonimity. The key finding of the research is that, contrary to engaging with the process of whole persona adoption, participants were keen to re-create their offline self online, but engaged in editing facets of self. This emphasizes the key premise in Goffman’s work that, when in ‘front stage’, people deliberately chose to project a given identity. It is concluded that Goffman’s original framework is of great usefulness as an explanatory framework for understanding identity through interaction and the presentation of self in the online world. Equally, the online environment, with its enhanced potential for editing the self, can offer opportunities to contribute to the further development of the Goffman framework.
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The transfer of religious rituals into computer-mediated environments (CMEs) has attracted the attention of scholars in recent years. This article aims to contribute to this field by analysing the ritual dynamics in Dutch and German chat rooms as well as Internet discussion forums popular among Muslims following the Salafiyya. Two questions stand in the centre of the analysis: How are rituals transferred to new CMEs? And what accounts for the varying success of transfer processes? Religious rituals are understood to be successful when they (a) reproduce the core values and norms of a community; (b) involve a significant number of believers; and (c) protect the sacred from the profane. The ritual landscape of a religion undergoes a transformation in the course of the transfer process with mixed results: some rituals like the Muslim conversion ritual migrate successfully while other transfer processes yield ambiguous results, as the discussion of the ritual acts of gender segregation shows. Furthermore, in the case of some rituals like the Muslim prayer, a migration is not even attempted, while, on the other hand, some religious practices can become increasingly ritualized in the new environment and enter the ritual repertoire of a community. This contribution argues that the diverse outcomes of ritual transfer processes are partly the result of the interplay between affordances of CMEs and the exigencies of ritual segments.
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This article develops a theory of relational authority in the most unpromising setting of international relations. Relational authority locates legitimacy in a social contract between a ruler, who provides a social order of value to the ruled, and the ruled, who comply with the ruler’s commands necessary to the production of that order. International politics are nearly universally assumed to be an anarchy devoid of authority. Through the lens of relational authority, however, one sees that relations between states are better described as a rich variety of hierarchies in which dominant states legitimately rule over greater or lesser domains of policy in subordinate states. After contrasting alternative approaches to authority, the article identifies international hierarchies and summarizes a suite of measures that capture variations between the United States and other states. The article then deduces a set of international behaviors that follows from relational authority and demonstrates that (a) the United States is more likely to join international disputes in which its subordinates are involved and (b) subordinates acknowledge the authority of the dominant state by engaging in actions of symbolic obeisance, of which the most costly and salient form is following the United States into war.
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Purpose – The emerging new influencer community is wielding significant power over the perceptions of brands and companies, largely driven by the rapid expansion of social media channels through which influencers communicate. The “nobodies” of the past are now the new “somebodies” demanding the attention of communication professionals who seek continuous engagement with targeted consumers throughout the various channels of the social web. The purpose of this paper is to present a means of identifying these new “somebodies”. Design/methodology/approach – This paper reviews a customizable valuation algorithm created to identify the “new somebodies” who are the influencers creating a revitalized level of brand awareness for companies. The index valuation algorithm measures a cross‐section of variables that numerically rate influencers in the social media conversation about a particular company, product or service. Findings – This information helps us understand how these “somebodies” influence traditional target audiences, and help communications professionals establish effective outreach strategies. Integrating the influencer index data into a holistic social media strategy provides a comprehensive social media approach for optimizing brand equity. Originality/value – The index identifies the “conversation points” that should guide engagement with each individual influencer, determining aspects such as subject and tone, and identifies these influencers.
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This article argues that Erving Goffman’s interactional sociology offers many useful insights into what power is and how it actually works, and that in addition to his other reputations we ought to think of Goffman as a significant theorist of power. A critical Goffmanian approach potentially allows us to comprehend the normal, diffuse ubiquity of power while according full recognition to the practices of individuals, whether self‐conscious or habitual, rule‐observant or improvisational. How Goffman’s understanding of power may help us to understand the contemporary realities of the early twenty‐first century is also discussed.
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The mass suicide of 39 members of Heaven's Gate in March of 1997 led to public fears about the presence of ‘spiritual predators’ on the world wide web. This paper describes and examines the nature of these fears, as reported in the media. It then sets these fears against what we know about the use of the Internet by new religions, about who joins new religious movements and why, and the social profile of Internet users. It is argued that the emergence of the Internet has yet to significantly change the nature of religious recruitment in contemporary society. The Internet as a medium of communication, however, may be having other largely unanticipated effects on the form and functioning of religion, both old and new, in the future. Some of the potential perils of the Internet are discussed with reference to the impact of this new medium on questions of religious freedom, community, social pluralism, and social control.
Article
A relational model of authority (Tyler & Lind, 1992) emphasizes the role of procedural justice (the fairness of methods used to achieve outcomes) in public support for and evaluation of the police. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, this study tested the model in the context of victim–police interactions. In-depth interviews were conducted with 110 people who had reported a crime (personal or property) to the police in the previous year. Quantitative findings supported the predictions that higher perceived antecedents of procedural justice would be associated with higher perceived legitimacy (obligation to obey the law), outcome fairness, and satisfaction with the contact. Antecedents of procedural justice were a stronger predictor of outcome fairness and satisfaction than the realization of a desired outcome, and a stronger predictor of legitimacy than criminal history. Qualitative findings supported these results. It appears that procedural justice has the potential for helping to motivate individuals with criminal history to obey the law. Implications for evaluation of police performance are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
‘Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: and then stop.’ The King of Hearts' advice is not as easy to follow as might seem on first hearing. It is not simply that I want to speak about the interrelation between two major subjects and there is a certain arbitrariness in choosing with which of the two to start. The problem is far more fundamental than that. Where for the theologian is ‘the beginning’? At whatever point he does begin he is always uneasily aware that way back behind the point that he has chosen there probably lie a number of unquestioned assumptions which have largely prejudged the kind of answer he will give to the very question he is setting out to investigate. This difficulty is not, of course, peculiar to the theologian. None of us, whatever the subject of our investigation, can ever really ‘begin at the beginning’. But if this is a difficulty which the Christian theologian shares with other scholars it is none the less real for that. One obvious and important feature of the tradition in which the Christian theologian stands is that it gives some kind of special authority to the Bible, to the Church and above all—though it is sometimes a little bit elusive to know exactly what is meant by saying this—to Christ himself.
Article
The mediation of communication has raised questions of authority shifts in key social institutions. This article examines how traditional sources of epistemic power that govern social relations in religious authority are being amplified or delegitimized by Internet use, drawing from in-depth interviews with protestant pastors in Singapore. Competition from Internet access is found to delocalize epistemic authority to some extent; however, it also reembeds authority by allowing pastors to acquire new competencies as strategic arbiters of religious expertise and knowledge. Our study indicates that although religious leaders are confronted with proletarianization, deprofessionalization, and potential delegitimization as epistemic threats, there is also an enhancement of epistemic warrant as they adopt mediated communication practices that include the social networks of their congregation.