Friday, September 25, 2009
This article is particularly interesting because it helps explain the impact of new media on various religious groups. Before Campbell introduces the internet’s impact on religion, she first attempts to point out the overall trends that religion is taking. Personally, I did not realize how far religion attendance and the importance adults place on religion was declining. It is important to note that these trends were only reported in the United States. As noted in the previous weeks articles, in other regions of the world, religion is actually on the upturn. For this reason, it is difficult to make a general statement for all religions. As one religion is slowly declining, another could slowly be increasing to fill the spiritual gap.
Even if one chooses not to follow a particular religion, they can still be very religiously active. Campbell introduces the phrase “believing but not belonging”. Previously, I had always referred to those people as non practicing members of a specific religion. In a sense, this is not entirely correct. Those who choose to believe but not belong have often entirely shunned away the formal religious institutions. These people cannot be grouped in the same category as those who simply choose not to attend formal worships.
An alternative form of formal worship is one tied to the internet and electronic media. While it might seem like a lesser form, Campbell argues that this type of worship can be just as powerful as previous forms. The importance is not on the medium, but on the beliefs. While relatively small now, online worship will continue to increase. By the end of 2010 nearly 50 million Americans will use the internet for their religious experiences. With large numbers like that, it is important to follow this trend early in order to see where it heads.
Campbell, Heidi. "Challenges Created by Cnline Religious Networks." Journal of Media and Religion 3.2 (2004): 81-91
In “The Internet in the Arab World: Playground for Political Liberalization” by Albrecht Hofheinz, the effects of internet growth in the Arab world is explored and how it has affected change politically, socially, and religiously. In the Arab world, internet is still relatively sparse. The average person does not have consistent access to the internet on a daily basis. One of the reasons is that it is too expensive for the average person to afford. It is limited to the upper and some middle class people but it is becoming more and more available as time goes on. However, much of the internet in these countries has some form of censorship. There is filtering and banning of certain sites deemed inappropriate for moral or political reasons but there are a few countries that have unfiltered access.
The age of the old patriarchs is nearing its end. Hofheinz talks about what he calls the “Arab spring” which is the changes that are occurring in the Arab world due to the “new media” (satellite television, mobile phones, the Internet). There are arguments as to whether these changes are being brought about by external western influence or through internal Arab movements.
Politics, religion, and relations between the sexes have generally been viewed as taboo in the Arab world. The media, especially internet, has opened the doors for discussion in these areas and has allowed dissent to be voiced. Eight to ten percent of the 100-200 most frequently Arabic websites are religious in character. Even though there are extremist sites that promote terrorism, the most popular sites by far are those promoting a moral renewal of the individual, not the militant ones.
Islam embraced the internet in the early stages of its creation. Amr Khaled, an Islamic preacher, has founded a website that has developed a huge following. AmrKhaled.net is not only the leading Muslim site on the Internet, but is also the most popular religious site worldwide. The newest trend is the use of blogs to voice personal opinions about everything. Blogs have given the everyday Internet user the ability to speak their own minds for all to read. On these blogs people are starting to share their personal view on Islam and what they personally believe. The internet has opened the Arab world to the rest of the world and has allowed people all over the Arab world to project themselves onto the world stage.
Hofheinz A. 2005. The Internet in the Arab World: Playground for Political Liberalization, International Politics and Society, Via: http://www.fes.de/IPG/IPG3_2005/07HOFHEINZ.PDF
Thursday, September 24, 2009
“With God on Their Side”, a book edited by Tara Madgalinksi and Timothy J.L. Chandler, presents the framework for the various ways that religion and sport interconnect. Madgalinksi and Chandler argue that sport can be used as a cultural activity that can be utilized by religious groups to strengthen a religious community and enhance identity boundaries of the group. As a result, sport can act as either divisive or integrative of religious groups and the community.
In order to maintain a religious identity created on the basis of a personal dogma, a belief system, texts, traditions, and social structure, distinct boundaries must be established to differentiate between religious groups. This ‘us versus them’ concept is crucial in order to form a community and construct boundaries that unite the group under one common identity (2002: 3) Since rivalry and competition between teams and a sense of camaraderie among teams is central to sport, it can be used by religious groups to maintain these boundaries essential for upholding religious identity. Sporting clubs such as the Young Men’s Christian Association, or YMCA, for instance, serve to promote loyalty to the Christian community and faith through secular sporting events. In addition, sport aids in teaching moral discipline, attracting future converts, and supporting the muscular Christian ethos (2002: 5).
Based on its ability to unite religious groups, sport can act as an ‘agent of division’ by forming independent identities that are exclusive of other religious groups (2002: 9). Sport in Northern Ireland, for example, is not run by secular organizations and is divided on religious lines, which results in tension between Catholic and Protestant groups. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) promotes solely Catholic and Irish heritage through exclusive sports teams (2002: 10). Similarly, soccer teams in Northern Ireland have become a predominantly a Protestant played sport, with only two Catholic professional clubs present in Northern Ireland (2002: 10).
In contrast, sport can work to integrate and unite individuals into a larger community. Through sport, migrants can transition into a new culture, yet they can continue to maintain their own individual religious identity. The Croatian community in Australia uses soccer clubs to maintain their cultural identities and distinguish themselves from other Eastern European communities (2002: 11). Similarly, Croatians rely on Catholicism to differentiate themselves from their Yugoslavian descendents (2002: 11). Through sport, many Croatians amalgamated with the Australian population but were able to continue to maintain their own cultural religious and cultural identities.
Tara Magdalinski and Timothy J.L. Chandler, With God on Their Side, Routledge, 2002, ch. 1 ‘An introduction.’
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
In his article “The Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and the Potlatch of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Theoretical Models for the Study of Religion in American Popular Culture”, David Chidester considers the connectedness between religion and American popular culture. Particularly, by employing the archetypes of the Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and the Potlatch of Rock ’n’ Roll, Chidester demonstrates the manner in which popular culture can actually exist as religion in the United States (1996).
With regard to the model of the Church of Baseball, Chidester takes a functionalist approach to demonstrate how the American pastime of baseball acts as a church in the United States. In doing so, he draws on a number of shared purposes that the two institutions embody, such as providing its followers with continuity through tradition and heritage, or stability and consistency in an ever-changing world. The Church of Baseball further offers its faithful with the notion of conformity, or a deeply rooted sense of belonging and community (1996: 745). Fans of a particular baseball team, for instance, feel a great deal of solidarity amongst one another. Finally, both the Christian church and the Church of Baseball institute a sacred space of home and sacred time of ritual for their believers. By this, Chidester means that baseball both creates a familiar and safe space away form the chaos of the real world, and follows a sacred routine entwined with moments of astonishing excitement (1996: 746).
To corroborate his argument that the sport of baseball functions as a church for its followers, Chidester further draws on numerous structural and symbolic analogies between baseball and the church. Examples of this connectedness entail the involvement of organs, hymns and clapping, characteristic robes and vestments, and equality under God for participants (1996: 746). Additionally, Chidester cites the exaltation of players as superhuman, Annie Savoy’s connection between the 108 stitches on a baseball, and the 108 beads on a rosary, and journalist Thomas Boswell’s assertion that the base paths of the baseball diamond resemble the Christian cross (1996: 747). In utilizing the framework of the Church of Baseball, Chidester effectively proves that what constitutes as religion is highly contingent upon how religion is defined. For this reason, he is able to contest that forms of popular culture, such as baseball, can operate as religion in American popular culture.
Chidester, David. "The Church of Baseball, the Fetish of Coca-Cola, and the Potlatch of Rock ‘n’ Roll: Theoretical Models for the Study of Religion in American Popular Culture." Journal of the American Academy of Religion. LXIV.4 (1996): 743-765.
Monday, September 21, 2009
In Young People, Religious Identity and the Internet (Löveheim, 2004), Löveheim seeks to present ways in which online interaction may affect the emerging identities of teenagers, specifically with their development of a religious identity in mind. The article is concerned with presenting the results of the online interactions of a group of teenagers through a message board website (The Site) devoted to religious discussion and interaction.
The realisation of identity in teenagers is a crucial period of their development that includes the emergence of their distinct person, social identity and existential foundation. Teenagers particularly in the West are under great pressure from commercial media and tradition to adhere to established norms, and when online interaction is included into this development, this pressure becomes ever more apparent. Online interaction brings seemingly unlimited opportunities for interaction with people beyond the immediate geographical location, cultural disposition and religious persuasion.
As well as the development of identity as a result of online interaction, there is also a development of an online identity. Teenagers who interacted on The Site not only challenged popular religious notions but also developed a social community beyond the mere software that demanded constant reassessment of personal belief. As a result, those who engaged more fully in religious discussions became known as “insiders”. Insiders attained their online status by zealously contributing to the community discussions and by being seen by other users as ones with knowledge and expertise. Interestingly, The Site was more popular among males; females preferring instant messaging programs for religious discussions as a level of one-on-one intimacy can be upheld, rather than proclaiming to many.
Löveheim shows that when teenagers interact online they expose themselves to a myriad of ideas and cultures. These ideas combine with their surrounding culture to create a pressured, multi-faceted environment for which seeking identity is made ever more challenging. With online communities, teens find an exponential broadening of possibilities regarding their selves, yet despite this challenge they manage and can benefit greatly.
Löveheim M, 2004, ‘Young People, Religious Identity and the Internet’, In L Dawson and D Cowan, Eds., Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet, New York, Routledge, ch5, 59-73, Via library catalogue.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Woodbury’s attitude is summarised by this statement in her article regarding the pigeon-holing of Judaism and Jewish individuals:
“The goal is to heighten awareness of the unconscious assumptions we may hold about Jewish people and to learn where these inner images clash with reality.”
Several key points discussed were used to demonstrate and explain the nature of the Jewish image:
• An explanation of Woodbury’s account of the persistence of the Jewish stereotype through history, and reasons for the particular stereotype’s existence.
• The effect that the nation of Israel has had on the perception of Judaism, particularly the consequences of the media’s portrayal of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
• Popular Jews in the media today, how they’re portrayed, and how they deal with their ‘Jewishness’.
According to Woodbury, the situation in Israel, and the media’s subsequent coverage, has led to the stigmatisation of individual Jews around the globe. There is evidence that this has resulted in a violent reaction against Jewish targets such as synagogues, even in traditionally tolerant societies.
The presentation given offered context and suggested a contemplation of the use of the typically ‘Jewish’ character. Other Jewish actors and characters in the media industry, such as Lenny Bruce, Jon Stewart and Larry David all gave themselves particularly non-Jewish sounding stage names. This would suggest that they have found it simply easier to not be perceived as Jewish.
The conclusion that was reached in the presentation is that Woodbury’s discussion is pertinent to the Jewish situation, and while many other forms of intolerance and racism exist, the historical and modern context surrounding Judaism indicates that the issue is particularly ubiquitous and relevant in the modern world.
Woodbury M, 2003, ‘Jewish Images that Injure’, in PM Lester and EE Dennis, Eds., Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media, 2nd edition, Praeger, London.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
While the popular belief in Australia may be that racism is not an issue, it’s hard to ignore the fact that a majority of newscasters are white and that a bulk of television advertisements do not portray people of color. It’s time consumers take a closer look at the media’s almost invisible social and political consequences—primarily, the upholding of institutional racism towards racial minorities.
Two recent studies suggest that the media is actually contributing to the maintenance of racism in Australian society. A study of 195 hours of product advertisements in the Sydney media, for instance, found that only 127 ads out of 2,771 included any minority characters, while only one nine-second image of Aboriginal people appeared a mere three times (Collins 2000:34). The overpowering message in this example is that Australia is a monocultural society. “Their racism and ethnocentrism lay in the exclusion of non-Anglo-populations, and not in the manner of their inclusion...the overwhelming majority of ads representing Australia exclude anyone of non-Anglo descent” (Collins 2000:34). An unbalanced representation such as this example not only affects the minds of white people but also the underrepresented, who undoubtedly begin to see themselves as ‘the other.’
An interesting aspect about the media is that a majority of it seems to ignore race and see racism as not an issue today. Racism has become both invisible and normative to viewers; no one thinks to question a nearly all white cast on TV (case in point, Seven’s Home and Away). Moreover, today’s “discourses which vilify racism are more than amply countered by the many other discourses through which racism is made invisible, normative, and even virtuous” (Downing 2005:1). The media is responsible for both blatant and inferential forms of racism. Much of today’s society, however, lives in a “color-blind” era, where racism conveniently is nonexistent (2009:109). Much of what people learn and perceive of today’s world is through the media they consume, and if race and racism are ignored, then it is reasonable to believe that racism is no longer an issue (Korgen and White 2009:109-110).
As renowned sociologist Stuart Hall explains, the media is both a producer and transformer of ideologies, or “those images, concepts and premises which provide the frameworks through which we represent, interpret, understand, and ‘make sense’ of some aspect of social existence” (Hall 2000:271). The media’s perpetuation of racist ideologies directly highlights the problem of ideology. Consumers unknowingly digest the racist ideologies produced by the media due to its alibility to naturalise racial disparities.
In failing to fairly cover both race and racism, the media does not reflect the dynamic and complex nature of race. Race is a social construction, and one that is continuously constructed by today’s media. The media is often called the fourth institution, meaning that it both acts and serves as an institution on behalf of the people. Those behind the media construct race hegemonically, allowing their ideologies to be the ruling ones viewed and processed by viewers. Thus, the inequality racial minority’s face in the media is a perfect example of modern-day institutional racism.
Collins, Jock, et al. Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime: Youth, Ethnicity and Crime. Annandale,NSW: Pluto Press, 2000.
Downing, John, and Charles Husband. Representing ‘Race:’ Racisms, Ethnicities and Media. London: Sage Publications, 2005
Hall, Stuart. “Racist Ideologies and the Media.” Media Studies: A Reader. Eds. P. Marris and S. Thornham. Second Edition. New York: New York University Press, 2000. 271-282.
Korgen, Kathleen Odell, and Jonathon M. White. The Engaged Sociologist: Connecting the Classroom to the Community. Second Edition. Los Angeles: Pine Forge Press, 2009.
In the article Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Mate: A Cultural Examination of a Virtual Community of Single Mormons David W. Scott examines the dating profiles of 18-29 year old Mormons on the website ldssingles.com. In his research Scott is looks to answer the questions of how single Mormons use the internet to meet others, if the profiles reveal anything about what the Mormon community expects of single members and if gender plays a role. Scott also limited the profiles he was looking at by excluding anyone that didn’t live within ten miles of Provo Utah or hadn’t logged on within a week.
One of the areas in which Scott noticed a difference between men and women is in the type of profile picture that they used for their page. He found that 17% of men submitted pictures of themselves interacting with others and another 17% had pictures that displayed them doing strenuous outdoor activities. Scott theorized that these pictures were meant to emphasize their social and physical skills, which might be called into question as a member of an internet dating site. A smaller percentage of men had religious pictures or pictures that displayed them doing missionary work, which Scott wrote could serve as a signal of their being ready for marriage. Alternatively, approximately 24% of women submitted professional photographs of themselves and the majority of women submitted photos that were cropped to only include themselves. Scott used this trend amongst the women as evidence that despite the lack of emphasis on physical appearance in the Church, women still thought their appearance was the most important characteristic when trying to meet someone. However, similar trends in profile pictures, with the exception of the religiously themed pictures, would probably be observed on any social networking site, even one such as Facebook that is not usually joined with the intention of finding a partner.
Scott also found that the profiles of both men and women tended to express negative sentiments about internet dating. Many members insisted that they were only members of the site in order to check it out or out of curiosity. Members also cited pressure from others to join as reasons for being on the site, although women were more likely to say they joined because of pressure from relatives or member of the clergy, reflecting the pressure on women in Mormon society to marry. Other members of the site tried to dispel the stigma of online dating through humor, by either joking about the site or about their status as a single Mormon. Despite the apparent aversion to traditional Morman ideas about marriage, as Scott points out, the LDS Singles Online website is still a religious community that is sustained on the internet. Although Scott does not bring this point up again in his conclusion, the profiles he selected for the study were all members that had been on within the last week. Whether they really did only join the site out of curiosity, or were just trying to mask their expectations, by returning to the site on a regular basis these members were choosing to be a part of an online community. As the success story currently on the webpage demonstrates, after making the choice to join the community, even those that only joined because a friend “suggested [they] create a profile” and that “didn’t think that meeting girls on the internet was much of an idea” can end up surprising themselves.
Scott DW, 2002, ‘Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find Me a Mate: A Cultural Examination of a Virtual Community of Single Mormons’, Journal of Media and Religion, 1, 4, 201 – 216
Friday, September 11, 2009
Rituals and Pixels: Experiments in Online Church
In this article, Simon Jenkins describes how Church of Fools, an online church service and community, came into existence.
The idea for Church of Fools stemmed from two separate projects. The first was Ship of Fools, a net magazine run by theology graduate students (Jenkins 2008). What started as a magazine meant to satirize and ask questions of the Christian faith quickly turned into a tight-knit community. The readers of the magazine were able to post threads on a virtual bulletin board. Jenkins began to question whether Ship of Fools would translate as an online church, but ended up deciding that there needed to be a visible “space” in which to meet (2008).
In 2003, The Ark, an internet reality gameshow, was launched. The project brought together 12 contestants, each assigned a role of a biblical character. They lived on a virtual ark for 40 days and nights and had to solve problems, complete tasks, play games, and overcome crises (Jenkins 2008). As time went on, the contestants became emotionally attached to their online avatar. Each Sunday, the characters took their avatars to a virtual Chapel. In 2004, the chapel was detached from The Ark and renamed Church of Fools (Jenkins 2008).
Church of Fools was originally a three-month experiment. The creators wanted to “find out if online church [was] a viable way to ‘do church…’ create moments of genuine depth and spirituality, helping people feel they were connecting with God, themselves and others… [and] break down the barriers people have about going to church” (Jenkins 2008).
People were able to attend the weekly online church services as an online character. Avatars were able to gesture and exude body language during sermons, such as shaking hands, pulling out hair, blessing themselves and clapping. They communicated with each other through text bubbles (Jenkins 2008).
One of the most powerful experiences of Church of Fools occurred during the Lord’s Prayer. People were able to simultaneously type their version of the prayer. A BBC journalist wrote, “these people are praying together, and that is as real as if they were standing in the same room. That they are in a dozen different towns and countries seems a trifling matter” (Jenkins 2008).
Overall, Church of Fools was a very successful experiment, with people from around the world coming together to praise Christ. Even people who had previously caused trouble within Church of Fools came to respect the church. Many people wrote in with positive experiences, such as a visitor from North Carolina. “I have a friend who had a crisis this week. No way would he ever go to a real church. But he went to yours and said his first prayer in many years. You are providing a valuable site for him and others who might never go to a traditional house of worship” (Jenkins 2008).
Jenkins S, 2008, ‘Rituals and Pixels. Experiments in Online Church,’ Online - Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/archiv/8291/
Religion is a large part of our society and culture whether you’re religious or not. With the constant advances in technology religion has had to make some changes of its own in the form of E-religion. Facebook, an online networking site, supports a wide range of religious groups and pages. Unsurprisingly, Christianity holds the largest numbers of fans and members with 117 000 groups, the largest of which supports 793 757 (4 September 2009). Brasher, in her studies, has found over 1 million religion websites (6). Brasher also sums up what is so important about the online religion phenomenon, “cyberspace diminishes the relevance of location for religious identity.” (6). People no longer need to make their way to church or temple and specific times to practice their religion. It is now possible to attend an online church, making religious practice more convenient. There are arguments for and against religious practise online. It can be seen as detached and depersonalised, as well as not creating the same sensory or spiritual effect, but many people would disagree with these points. It is entirely up to the individual whether or not online religion can meet the spiritual and religious needs. A benefit of online religion is the community. While there is, of course, a very strong sense of community in ‘real world’ religious groups, it is localised rather than globalised. Attending online churches or religious forums gives people the opportunity to communicate with people of the same faith from around the world, opening people up to ne experiences, ideas and opinions. Brasher suggests that “online religion is crucial to and positive for the future for religion.” (11). Perhaps this is true, As the world changes so must the way we experience it, and like the news and many other elements of society, perhaps religion will have to depend upon the internet to keep it alive.
Brasher, Brenda. Give Me That Online Religion, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc, 2001.
Facebook. 4 September 2009. <http://www.facebook.com/> .
Monday, September 7, 2009
By: Jack Weingart
Stuart Hall’s article, “Racist Ideologies and the Media,” discusses the concept of ideology while exploring the mainstream media’s role of naturalising racial and social inequalities such that the public comes to accept differential treatment of people within society as the way things are, or common sense.
Hall uses the term ideology to refer “to those images, concepts and premises which provide the frameworks through which we represent, interpret, understand, and ‘make sense’ of some aspect of social existence” (Hall 2000:271). Hall argues that the portrayal and perpetuation of race/racism in the media, which is a key producer and transformer of ideologies, touches directly the problem of ideology. According to Hall, ideologies produce different forms of social consciousness and work best when people do not realize that the way in which they formulate and construct their worldviews are underpinned by ideological premises. Rather than seeing their views as guided and constructed by society’s ruling ideologies, people tend to believe that their views are uniquely their own and sensible.
Hall explains how the media constructs a definition of what race is for viewers, what meaning the imagery of race carries, and how “the problem of race” should be understood. In simpler terms, the media classifies out the world in terms of categories of race, setting people a part based upon their appearance and preconceived notions that have been socially constructed over time. The media articulates, works on, transforms, and elaborates on these ideas of race, and consequently, shapes viewers thoughts about race and perpetuates racism in today’s so-called “multi-cultural” world.
There are two forms of racism perpetuated through the media today—overt racism and inferential racism. Overt racism is explained as the coverage granted to openly racist arguments, positions, or spokespersons. Inferential racism, on the other hand, is the “apparently naturalised representations of events and situations relating to race, whether ‘factual’ or ‘fictional,’ which have racist premises and propositions inscribed in them as a set of unquestioned assumptions” (Hall 2000:273). According to Hall, inferential racism is more widespread and in many ways, more insidious, because it is largely invisible.
Hall, Stuart. “Racist Ideologies and the Media.” Media Studies: A Reader. Eds. P. Marris and S. Thornham. 2nd Edition. New York: New York University Press, 2000. Ch22, 271-282.
Word count: 347 words
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The article investigates stereotypes of Asian Americans in the media, especially in the U.S. magazine advertisements, by surveying several magazines and enumerating statistically how Asian Americans and other minorities such as African Americans and Latinos are portrayed in the magazine advertising. Before analyzing, the article provides background knowledge about racial ideology, Asian Americans, and the model minority stereotypes. Ideology means “a system of beliefs that blend various discourses to reinforce and reproduce assumptions about individuals.” Ideology of a dominant group is usually transmitted through the mass media and it also contributes to set the images of a race. Racial ideology represents notions and beliefs about a race. Model minority images stand for a number of good things of the Asian American such as academic excellence, proficiency in technology, and affluence. Both statistical and textual methods are used for the analysis.
In the statistical analysis, the samples were drawn from the mainstream news magazines that target the general public. Out of randomly selected 526 ads, 10.3% include Asian American models, 17.7% African Americans, 8.0% Latinos. African Americans and Latino models tend to play a minor or background role (66.7% and 75.7% each). On the other hand, less Asian American models tend to play that kind of role (57.1%). When it comes to occupation, the difference is much clearer. Asian models are usually professionals, technicians, and business people (Top3 frequency). African and Latino models are businessmen and technicians as well, but they are often represented as athletes and blue-collar workers.
In the textual analysis, the article analyses some examples and aspects of the Asian American stereotyping from actual advertisements of various magazines. The aspects can be abbreviated like follows: Financial success, technologically savvy, academic excellence, gender dynamics, racial hierarchy, exceptions to model minority, identity crisis, glass ceilings and exploitation and exacerbating social conflicts in racial relations. Then the article concludes that it would be possible to get better understanding of how the mass media perpetuates the stereotype of minority groups by demonstrating how the racial ideology is depicted in the media.
Paek H.J. & Shah H., 2003, 'Racial Ideology, Model Minorities, and the "Not-So-Silent Partner:" Stereotyping of Asian Americans in U.S. Magazine advertising', Howard Journal of Communications, 14:4, 225 — 243