10. Is it Possible to Have a ‘Religious Experience’ in Cyberspace?
Gary Bunt [+]
University of Wales, Lampeter
The internet, within and between its different elements and forms, holds transformative potential for religions, in terms of representation, adherent networking, and application as a proselytizing tool. As access intensifies and technology becomes cheaper, those well placed in the information marketplace are reaping potential 'benefits' of access. Even the most reluctant or techno phobic agents of diverse forms of religious belief and expression in diverse cultures have found a place online. Web content and interaction can, according to some observers, contribute to increases in participation within diverse religiously oriented activities generated and represented online. The extent to which this translates into affiliation and membership, if relevant, is open to question. The spiritual supermarket now has an online checkout, where surfers may shop for the religious concepts and artefacts – and perhaps ‘experiences’ - that appeal to them. As much as being an agent of change, religious expression on the internet may also engender conformity and tradition, especially within specific micro-areas of religious interests, driven by notions of membership. This presentation explores these issues, asking what the implications of forms of ‘religious experience’ in cyberspace are (if any), and how religions are adjusting to digital media?