Accepted Paper:

jw.org and the Publisher Aesthetic: The global Watch Tower Society and social 'republication'  

Author:

Danny Cardoza (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

Publishing is central to the Watch Tower Society so much so that votaries often call themselves 'Publishers', creating a 'publisher aesthetic'. This aesthetic changed in 2013 to be centered around digital technologies and the internet rather than traditional printing. This paper explores this shift.

Paper long abstract:

The Watch Tower Society, now commonly known as Jehovah's Witnesses, was originally founded around print media produced for the dissemination of their ideas to the public. The various technologies used to create these media have become the cornerstone of the central aesthetic in the Society, which can be thought of as the 'publisher aesthetic'. Witnesses qua Publishers—something Witnesses call themselves—has been central to how the Society organizes itself around the world and to how they represent themselves in their own publications. What it means to be a Publisher has dramatically shifted since the publisher aesthetic underwent a major 'rebranding' in 2013, introducing the now ubiquitous 'jw.org' logo as part of a digital-technocentric overhauling of how Publishers represent themselves in Watch Tower media (both digital and print). With the pervasive presentation of this new publisher aesthetic, Jehovah's Witnesses around the world seek to reckon themselves part of the global collectivity by adopting the aesthetic, recreating themselves and their meetinghouses in the process, something that could be called social 'republication'. By tethering themselves to broader religious community, Jehovah's Witnesses continue to reify the boundary between themselves and the rest of the world. This paper explores the role of the 'jw.org' motif in the recent shift of the publisher aesthetic by an analysis of Watch Tower media, an exhibition at the Society's visitor center in New York commemorating the centenary of The Photo-Drama of Creation, and ethnographic research with Witnesses who find themselves in the borderlands of the global religious collectivity.

Panel P007
Aesthetics and the making of religious collectivities