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Online Inform Seminar: New Media and New Religiosity – Possibilities and Pitfalls?


Online Event

Picture: Diego PH / Unsplash

How has technology changed how we understand and perceive the world? How we connect with each other and manage ourselves as individuals? As a global society, we are only beginning to get to grips with tentative answers to these questions – and figuring out what the most useful questions are to ask …    

Religious movements have taken a variety of approaches to new media, sometimes being ‘early adopters of technology’ and using the media to great effect. Some social movements, which are based almost entirely in online social networking spaces, have been identified as ‘cultic groups’ and ‘new religions’ in themselves.  

Imagery has an important role to play in the most recent forms of new media and new religiosity. Younger generations have claimed TikTok and Instagram as ways to self-represent new forms of their own self-understanding and religiosity, fostering an environment of support and positivity. Meanwhile some groups displaced by identity politics have embraced images of edgy ‘cool’ encompassing a visual identification with white supremacist and esoteric religious symbols, while not necessarily interacting with established religious organisations.  

Imagery plays a key factor for all these internet representations, as it is known to have an impact and interpretive power over the viewer. Along with language, imagery is noted as the most important sign-mediating instrument of representation, interpretation, and appropriation of the world. Yet, the academic study of the relationship between imagery, new media and new forms of religiosity is only just beginning. This seminar will bring new and established researchers together with practitioners and those helping survivors of ‘spiritual abuse’ to address the following questions:  

  • What role does the visual have on contemporary religious identification and practice?  
  • What can we learn about new media and new religiosity from studying the imagery they employ?
  • How does the imagery in virtual forums relate to embodied and material experiences, protests, activism and ‘real world’ choices?

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