I think that religion and media do, in fact, enhance one another. The most fundamental way this is true is that the media sphere today is a primary sphere for the generation of religious symbols, discourses, communities, affinities, etc. this is even so for the established and historic confessional faaiths, but is more so of course for emergent traditions, discourses, communities, and subgroups. Media culture is producing or generating religion today, more than ever before, and that is not so much a collision or even an interaction between “media” and “religion” as it is an entirely new space of generation. This is most obvious in digital media, where my colleagues and I have been theorizing about emergent “third spaces of digital religion.”
You mentioned that it is important to situate the study of religion and media in its historical context. How do we avoid the allure of the “newness” of such a subject?
Through intellectual rigor and discipline. Good histories demonstrate the utility of not being caught up in the present. We need to attend to and listen to those.
Most people would have a familiarity with Macluhan’s “the medium is the message.” You take a more meaning-based approach. Why this is preferred over a medium approach?
Among the several problems (for me) with “medium theory” are two primary ones. First, as it is applied, it is over-general. Its claims are not specific enough and thee kinds of “effects” or implications it proposes are hard to specify and attribute to media, mediation, etc. A second problem is one of scale, medium theories tend to look on too grand a level, and fail to helpfully describe what is happening in spheres of actual, historically-embedded practice. They also often stumble into a kind of class-based “taste” arguments, where the kinds of meanings and functions attributed are judged in nearly moral terms. I’ve always found it much more enlightening to do field research on what people actually do with media, and build theory “up” or “out” from there. That allows us to see the many ways that media and mediation are integrated and layered into the fabric of lived lives, and to see that media “affects” of the kinds suggested by medium theorists are often too grand.
What is the relevance of the “globalization” or “transnationalism” discussion in the realm of religion and media studies?
This would be a treatise if I actually answered it. I’ll just say that it is more obvious all the time that we must look at things in a global context. Not only do media enable religious and cultural transnationalisms of a variety of kinds. A global view provides powerful insights into the meanings and functions of mediated religion in many local contexts.
What religion, in your opinion, is the most mediated? If you don’t feel you can answer this, why not?
Wow. Lots of pretenders. My favorite to look at now, because it is so complex, is neo-Pentecostalism. But is it the “most” I don’t know…
What BIG question or area of study would you recommend a young scholar or interested individual go out and tackle in this field?
History, history, history……that is, take on historiography and historicism in relation to thee range of phenomena that seem to present themselves ever and always in media and religion.
That, and authority, and the ways that structures of authority condition or determine or afford our understandings of these important questions
Thank you Dr. Hoover for your time and consideration and being part of the conversation here at www.kenchitwood.com!