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Call for Papers: Special Issue of Journal ‘Religions’ – “Religion and Ethics in Digital Culture”

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2020.

The study of media, religion, and culture has emerged as an important subfield in communication, media studies, and religious studies. The study of digital religion is an especially active area of research. While many studies show how traditional religious institutions adapt to online environments, or how new religious movements emerge organically through social media, fewer studies focus on the religious and ethical dimensions of putatively secular institutions, brands, and products that define digital culture: Google, Apple, Facebook, etc. Yet the headquarters and retail spaces of such institutions arguably serve as churches for congregations of employees and customers; developers and users relate to devices like the iPhone as sacred or magical objects; video game players look to tournament champions as moral or spiritual exemplars.

This Special Issue will explore the religious, spiritual, and ethical dimensions of digital culture in its more popular and ostensibly secular forms. Articles will examine manifestations of religion in institutions, devices, and content generally regarded as non-religious in design, intent, or purpose. These manifestations can be discursive, appearing in news interviews with CEOs or YouTube parodies of tech enthusiasts. They can be material, appearing in the design of branded devices and the architecture of commercial spaces. They can be intentional and explicit, as in marketing strategies that aim to mimic “successful” religions or employee workplace programs that integrate Buddhist mindfulness practices; or they may be unintentional or implicit, as in the devotional and ritualistic behavior of customers searching for their favorite product’s latest release.

Articles for this Special Issue may focus on one or more of the following aspects of digital culture: First, they may identify specific case studies (businesses, product design or content, marketing campaigns), demonstrating the presence of beliefs and practices that broadly qualify as religious in nature. Second, they may examine the cultural, historical, or economic implications of the religious and ethical dimensions of digital culture (impact on consumer behavior, citizenship, and other forms of social engagement). Third, articles may offer critical moral, ethical, or theological evaluations of digital culture, outlining strategies for transformation (more sustainable business practices and product designs, attention to the integrity of spiritual practices adapted in the workplace, etc.).

Through these explorations, this Special Issue will draw attention to, and deepen our understanding of, the often surprising ways religion, spirituality, and ethics appear in contemporary digital culture.

Dr. Kevin Healey
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
University of New Hampshire