Religion – Digitality – Confessionality

Printed books, radio, television, and the internet – in the past, Christians have often innovatively used new media to spread their message as widely as possible. Today, at least since the COVID-19 pandemic, many believers are increasingly practising their religion online. Social media offers believers the opportunity not only to consume but also to interact with and create content. Religious influencers, for example, share insights into their religious practice, give advice on Christian living, or take a stance in theological discussions. Some of these accounts have tens of thousands of followers.

The three-year research project REDiCON – Religion, Digitality, Confessionality, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), explores the connections between religious influencing on German-language social media and Christian confessionality. Confessional or denominational differences have lost importance within Christianity in recent decades. Religious affiliation is no longer self-evident but must be negotiated. This also raises questions about the marking of religious authority on social media and about practices of self-thematisation and self-presentation.

The research project understands social media as an important place for such negotiations and theorizes confessionality from a praxeological perspective. In their search for an audience online, influencers are faced with the question of how to communicate themselves and their religious affiliation in their posts and self-presentation, especially if they do not represent an institution. Users have access to posts and accounts from a wide range of religious and denominational backgrounds on their smartphones and can compile their online experience from them. On the one hand, their consumption of different content is itself an expression of their religious affiliation and, on the other hand, it transcends and possibly shifts denominational or confessional boundaries.

Three different sub-projects will analyze the negotiation and communication of confessionality on social media, focusing on YouTube as a case study. While colleagues from the Universities of Frankfurt (Prof. Dr Viera Pirker) and Rostock (Prof. Dr Manuel Stetter) and the Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen (Dr Bernhard Lauxmann) will look at the perspectives of influencers and the content of their videos, the sub-project based at CERES will focus on the recipients and approach their perspectives through qualitative interviews.

Funding time period:

1.1.2024 – 31.12.2026

Funded by: 

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Prof. Dr. Anna Neumaier

Prof. Dr. Anna Neumaier

Project Leader

Universitätsstraße 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.13
+49 (0) 234 32-24698

Ariane Kovac

Research Associate

Universitätsstraße 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 1.14
+49 (0) 234 32-21975