The Valorization of Religion by Media

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 22 July 2024 | Viewed by 4386

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, 20122 Milano, Italy
Interests: cultural sociology; media studies; marketing and religion; religion and social change; social theory; content analysis

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Religion has moved well outside its traditional boundaries, becoming widely used in a variety of communication technologies and forms that can be consumed by religious and nonreligious audiences alike, from newspaper stories to books, television shows, films, dramatic serials and advertisements. In increasingly radical ways, religious institutions and leaders have displayed considerable business acumen in using these media products to secure legitimacy, followers, and financial contributions. Furthermore, secular actors have employed religious symbols and tropes as a means of serving their own interests and generating important interrogations of the substantive relations between religion and media.

For scholars who have been researching the new evolving relations between religion and media in a series of key social sectors spread across not only traditional communication technologies but also digital, ranging from politics to marketing, entertainment and news, an issue of critical relevance is the changing “value” of religion, which, being expressed in a variety of registers and contexts, provides potent symbolic resources that can be put to political, economic or other social purpose by both religious and non-religious actors, whether collective or individual (e.g., religious organizations and leaders, political parties, movements and candidates, corporations and marketers, journalists and book authors, screen writers and directors, webmasters, app designers and other Internet producers). Among the most intriguing but least discussed questions are those surrounding the role of religion and of media in these developments, more specifically how religions—with their largely recognizable sets of symbols, narratives and values—are deployed as a form of symbolic currency in the production of media content and products that can respond to a broad range of both religious and nonreligious interests, why this is valued in today’s media marketplace, how we got here, and in which ways media and systems of mediation make these different types of “valorizations”—ascriptions of value—of religions possible.

This Special Issue seeks to address these questions with the aim of contributing to advancing the understanding of the role of religion in today’s culture and society, its virtually inextricable link with the media and its public presence, which is now apparent. It will do so by providing a forum for presenting and discussing recent empirical research carried out by scholars in the field of social sciences and religious studies who have a special interest and expertise in addressing this issue.

Relevant proposals that address the following suggested (but not exclusive) topics will be welcomed:

- Religious communities and leaderships that make use of media—old and new—to perpetuate themselves within a commercial culture;

- The spread of religious symbols, claims and appeals in various types of media products, including newspapers, films, books, TV shows, advertisements and even computer games, that are intended to satisfy nonreligious purposes and interests;

- The “religious” functions (or dimensions) of media technologies themselves, by virtue of which media become locations of constructed realities that mediate and define social relationships.

Abstracts of 200 words maximum should be submitted to the Guest Editor at carlo.nardella@unimi.it by April 30, 2023. Accepted abstracts will be notified via email by May and announced as planned papers. Full-length articles of about 6000 words including references are due by November 30, 2023.

Dr. Carlo Nardella
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religious symbols
  • religious publicity
  • publicization
  • mediation
  • mediatization
  • marketization
  • commodification
  • digital religion
  • religious entertainment
  • populist politics

Published Papers (4 papers)

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16 pages, 1965 KiB  
Article
Questioning the Pope: US Conservative Catholics and the Online Polarization of the Debate about the “Church of Bergoglio”
by Alessandra Vitullo and Fabrizio Mastrofini
Religions 2024, 15(4), 497; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040497 - 18 Apr 2024
Viewed by 737
Abstract
The pontificate of Pope Francis is proving to be one of the most controversial within the Catholic world, particularly because of the several objections and protests it has raised in the most traditional currents of Catholicism. This theological and political opposition to Bergoglio’s [...] Read more.
The pontificate of Pope Francis is proving to be one of the most controversial within the Catholic world, particularly because of the several objections and protests it has raised in the most traditional currents of Catholicism. This theological and political opposition to Bergoglio’s pontificate has been the subject of many studies, which have focused, in particular, on the growing harshness of this debate in North American Catholic circles. Following these studies, the present contribution aims to study how this polarization spreads and is amplified through the online communication of these groups by providing an analysis of a specific case study: a tweet published by the account of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL). The PAL is a Vatican institution founded by John Paul II and renewed by Pope Francis in its membership and purpose (Global Bioethics). The Academy is perceived as the cutting edge of Pope Francis’ “progressivism”, especially regarding sensitive issues such as marriage, family, and euthanasia. For this reason, the Twitter account of PAL is considered the ideal platform to observe the languages, expressions, and content that characterize the opposition to Bergoglio’s pontificate today. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Valorization of Religion by Media)
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14 pages, 3603 KiB  
Article
The Algorithm Holy: TikTok, Technomancy, and the Rise of Algorithmic Divination
by Emma St. Lawrence
Religions 2024, 15(4), 435; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040435 - 30 Mar 2024
Viewed by 722
Abstract
The social media app TikTok was launched in the US in 2017 with a very specific purpose: sharing 15-s clips of singing and dancing to popular songs. Seven years and several billion downloads later, it is now the go-to app for Gen Z [...] Read more.
The social media app TikTok was launched in the US in 2017 with a very specific purpose: sharing 15-s clips of singing and dancing to popular songs. Seven years and several billion downloads later, it is now the go-to app for Gen Z Internet users and much better known for its ultra-personalized algorithm, AI-driven filters, and network of thriving subcultures. Among them, a growing community of magical and spiritual practitioners, frequently collectivized as Witchtok, who use the app not only share their craft and create community but consider the technology itself a powerful partner with which to conduct readings, channel deities, connect to a collective conscious, and transcend the communicative boundaries between the human and spirit realms—a practice that can be understood as algorithmic divination. In analyzing contemporary witchcraft on TikTok and contextualizing it within the larger history of technospirituality, this paper aims to explore algorithmic divination as an increasingly popular and powerful practice of technomancy open to practitioners of diverse creed and belief. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Valorization of Religion by Media)
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14 pages, 249 KiB  
Article
Religious Journalists’ Ethics on Communicating Science: The Case of Ultra-Orthodox Reportage in Israel
by Oren Golan and Nakhi Mishol-Shauli
Religions 2024, 15(3), 296; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030296 - 27 Feb 2024
Viewed by 800
Abstract
While religious dogma and science are often viewed at odds, scientific knowledge is increasingly integrated into religious journalism. This challenges the epistemic tenets that underlie the worldviews of religious readers. In this study, we aim to investigate the role of religious journalists as [...] Read more.
While religious dogma and science are often viewed at odds, scientific knowledge is increasingly integrated into religious journalism. This challenges the epistemic tenets that underlie the worldviews of religious readers. In this study, we aim to investigate the role of religious journalists as science gatekeepers and, more specifically, uncover their ethos in advocating science communication to their audience, amid widespread ambivalence. To this end, we focus on the ethical gaze of ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews in Israel. An enclaved religious group that has a history of challenging scientific precepts and has of late demonstrated various levels of ambivalence and resistance to scientifically inspired policies made during the COVID-19 pandemic. To this end, we conducted in-depth interviews with 20 Haredi editors, radio and print/online journalists, engaged with science reporting before and during the COVID-19 outbreak. The findings unveil several ethical facets employed by Haredi journalists: care, community, professionalism, and religion. The findings also outline the interaction between professional, religious, and communal codes of conduct, as they play out in bounded mediascapes. Accordingly, religious journalists’ role breaches traditional boundaries as they respond and strive to integrate multiple sources of knowledge for what they see as the betterment of their devout readers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Valorization of Religion by Media)

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10 pages, 770 KiB  
Essay
How to Worship in the Metaverse: Religious Experience and the Affordances of a New Medium
by Marco Adria
Religions 2024, 15(4), 487; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15040487 - 15 Apr 2024
Viewed by 963
Abstract
The extent to which the metaverse will become a site for religious and spiritual experience depends on how the aims of users align with the new medium’s potentialities for action, or “affordances”. Affordances are formed as the social, technological, and contextual capacities of [...] Read more.
The extent to which the metaverse will become a site for religious and spiritual experience depends on how the aims of users align with the new medium’s potentialities for action, or “affordances”. Affordances are formed as the social, technological, and contextual capacities of a medium are recognized and then enacted by users. This exploratory essay argues that the metaverse’s affordances, which overlap with those of already existing virtual reality (VR) environments, can deepen a sense of belonging for users of online religious spaces and mediate new ways of being present in those spaces. The following affordances of the metaverse (and of VR) are discussed analytically in the essay: immersion, presence, embodiment, usability, empathy, and contemplation. The phases of the continuing “buildout” of the metaverse are also assessed to uncover their likely effects on the metaverse’s affordances. These phases are massive scale, system interoperability, robust rendering, and persistent continuity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Valorization of Religion by Media)
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