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Accepted Paper:

Religious Apps: Constructing Pious Communities through Technologies-of-the-Self  

Authors:

Oren Golan (University of Haifa)
Michele Martini (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

Given the emergence of religious apps, we ask, how are these tools designed to facilitate, trigger or modify users' religious experience? Ethnographic study reveals a convergence between a religious and techno-scientific logic, as well as a sanctification of apps through symbolic aesthetics.

Paper long abstract:

The past decade has witnessed a surge in smartphone applications ("apps") to propel religious movements, proselytize ideals and expand devotional practice. Complementing and challenging the materiality of religion (books, icons, talismans, ritual almanacs and sacred places of worship), religious apps have transformed mobile phones and tablets into technologies-of-the-self that integrate sacred activities into profane artifacts. Given this tension, we inquire: How are devotional apps designed to facilitate, trigger or modify users' religious experience? Findings were gleaned from ethnographic work in the app industry environments, 30 in-depth interviews with app developers and semiotic investigations of 40 Jewish/Catholic apps. The study reveals a fervent religious field that is nurtured through a capitalist-led environment. Within this logic, we identify a convergence between religious thought and a techno-scientific logic, as well as a sanctification of mobile platforms through symbolic aesthetics. Findings shed light on the growth of globalized and standardized religious practice, and on its implications with regard to native forms of communal religious identity.

Panel P064
Ethnography of Sacred Communities: Shifting Horizons of Online Religiosity