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Four Narratives for Online Spiritual Community

Several months ago, I received a copy of several articles that explore the intersection of religion and the internet. I want to record some of my notes on the articles and at the same time share them with you.

Considering spiritual dimensions within computer-mediated communication studies” is another article by Heidi Campbell that was published in 2005 in New Media & Society. Campbell presents four ways of understanding the internet:

  • Information space – highlights “internet communication and information exchange. Focus is on the ability to allow individuals to utilize a variety of technologies to interact with data” (113).
  • Common mental geography – “regards the internet as more than a tool for communication, but a mechanism that individuals can use to construct a common worldview” (114).
  • Identity workshop – “a model enabling people to use online space as a place to learn and test new ways of being” (115).
  • Social space – “the online context as a social space where making connections with people is the primary goal” (115).

In addition to these four areas, Campbell asserts that the internet can also be understood as sacramental space, which “presents the internet as a sacred space and encompasses aspects of all of these models” (118). According to Campbell, online spiritual community can be considered in several ways:

  • Religious identity – “characterizes the online community as a group committed to each other through their shared faith and chosen liturgical expression or religious tradition” (126).
  • Spiritual network – “characterizes the online community as designed and initiated by God for a specific purpose” (127).
  • Support network – “characterizes the online community as existing to provide a spiritually and emotionally supportive atmosphere, emphasizing transparency and disclosure in its membership” (127).
  • Worship space – “characterized as creating a worship space. The internet becomes a tool for transmitting spiritual activities” (128).

I found these narratives to be quite helpful when considering the direction of Resurrection Online. I particularly appreciate Campbell’s encouragement to choose a particular model, “Identifying with a particular narrative helps an online community promote internal order and maintain coherence. Each model emphasizes a particular motivation for technological use, while highlighting a shared belief that the internet can be set apart for sacred use” (129).

Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering the internet? Which of these models do you find to be most helpful when considering Resurrection Online?

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