UNI SP4 Study Period 4 2014

NET102 Faith and Spirituality Online

Internet Studies 102 : The Internet and Everyday Life
Topic 1.5: Faith and Spirituality Online

As with some of the other topics, religion is something that may touch the core of many peoples’ lives and belief systems, and, whatever their beliefs as individuals, scholars recognize the critical role played by religion in shaping culture and society is something that needs to be studied. This unit is not looking into the truth claims of any religion. Our broader concern is with the role religion plays in people’s daily lives, the way it organizes meanings, and our more specific interest is in the role the Internet has played in transforming the uptake, encounter with, and practice of, religion.

Religion is part of society that can be visible and hidden, visible in the buildings, public discourse and policy-making, schools and charities. Less visible are the privately-held and expressed beliefs of people, the social networks of people who share their faith and their daily rituals. It plays a critical role in shaping people’s view of reality and daily life; it is fair to say even people who do not consider themselves religious have their environment and lives shaped by one faith or other.

On the Internet, members of religious organizations and sects build up a following or extend upon their face to face work. Individuals set up blogs and write about their faith and present a perspective on the world and current affairs that is explicitly shaped by their belief. Often, these blogs step in between the personal and public, written like diaries, but clearly also building up a public following and addressing a broader audience. As your readings will indicate, there are many ways in which religion’s role in society has been affected by the advent of the Internet.

What you need to do to learn about this topic:


Dawson, L. L., & Cowan, D. E. (2004). Introduction. In Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet (pp. 1-16). New York: Routledge. In E-Reserve. This introductory chapter to the authors’ collation of studies of religion online opens with, “The Internet is changing the face of religion worldwide.” How do they support this argument through their chapter? What are the ways in which religion and the Internet intersect? What do the authors have to say about the distinction between “religion online” and “online religion”?


Fukui, Masako (producer) (2012). Worship 2.0 [radio series episode]. Encounter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National, 11 February. This is a recent edition of the Encounter program that explores issues around religion and the Internet. It is quite long (nearly an hour), but explores a number of interesting issues related to this topic if you want to follow up further.


How has the Internet been used to resist or counteract religious persecution and human rights abuse? As a start, navigate to the Falun Dafa Information Centre (you may use other examples).


The Internet is a threat to religious institutions. Discuss.


If you choose this topic for the essay, in addition to the above, you will also need to read:

van der Laan, J. (2009). How the Internet Shapes Religious Life, or the Medium Is Itself the Message. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 29(4), 272 -277. doi:10.1177/0270467609336309. Skim through most of this article–what we are most interested in is van der Laan’s main concerns about the impact of the Internet upon religion: what, according to van der Laan, is the problem with the increasing reliance of religious institutions on the Internet? Do you agree with his views?

Jenkins, S. (2008). Rituals and Pixels: Experiments in online church. Online - Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, 3.1, 95 - 115. archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/ojs/index.php/religions/article/download/390/365

Jacobs, S. (2007). Virtually Sacred: The performance of asynchronous cyber-rituals in online spaces. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(6), 1103 - 1121. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00365.x/pdf

Each of these six topics covered in Module 1 has a particular question for the Questions and Answers assignment, you will need to complete these questions and then submit the best three of them as part of your assignment. You may also choose this topic for your essay. Your participation in discussions and activities for this, and the other topics, contribute towards the body of work that you will select from for the Portfolio. Also, review the material in this topic for your final assignment, particularly paying attention to the role played by the Internet in terms of economics, power, identity, community, time and space (Module 2).

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