Exploring the Religious Frameworks of the Digital Realm: Offline-Online-Offline Transfers of Ritual Performance
Looking at the constantly growing field of religion online, the shifts in and the new definition of religious frameworks become an increasingly important topic. In the field of religious rituals, it is not only the participant, location and conduction of the ritual that is affected by this shift; also the researchers have to overthrow their former theologically resp. systemic based definition of religiousness and spirituality due to the fact that on the Internet, religion is defined and realized in a completely different way by its participants. This is true even in the field of Christianity as the example of a ritual created by some British „Emerging Church“ groups shows.
These loosely defined groups which span all denominational borders of the Christian spectrum have been established since the late 1980s mainly in the UK in order to organize church services they refer to as „Alternative Worship“. The Internet plays an important role as a platform of communication and (self-)organization of the members and as technically and aesthetically challenging means of (re)presentation. Some events that were conducted in real life, like the multimedia labyrinth installation in St Paul`s cathedral in 2000, have even been „reconstructed“ in virtual space,1 generating a new form of worship.
Interestingly but not unexpectedly, these transfer processes entail consequences for spirituality in real life. What exactly happens during the transfer into the digital realm? What are the interdependencies between offline and online and how do they affect worship and worshipers? These questions will be followed, employing the results and ideas of modern Ritual and Religious Studies, shedding light on a new field of (post)modern Christianity.
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