Tuesday, July 23, 2019

New Paper on ultra-Orthodox Jews' use of WhatsApp

Dear Readers,

I was recently notified that a paper that I co-authored with my doctoral student, Nakhi Mishol-Shauli, has been published on Religions. The paper follows public groups that are continuously growing among the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi). This project was funded by the Ministry of Science in Israel (Grant Nr: 3-15724) and the President of the State of Israel’s Scholarship for Research Excellence and Innovation, allocated by Israel’s Estates Committee. You can read the full paper here and read the abstract below.

Mediatizing the Holy Community—
Ultra-Orthodoxy Negotiation and Presentation on Public Social-Media

Abstract: In recent years, media theorists stress macroscopic relations between digital communications and religion, through the framing of mediatization theory. In these discussions, media is conceptualized as a social institution, which influences religious establishments and discourse. Mediatization scholars have emphasized the transmission of meanings and outreach to individuals, and the religious-social shaping of technology. Less attention has been devoted to the mediatization of the religious community and identity. Accordingly, we asked how members of bounded religious communities negotiate and perform their identity via public social media. This study focuses on public performances of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, rhetorically and symbolically expressed in groups operating over WhatsApp, a mobile instant messaging and social media platform. While a systematic study of instant messaging has yet to be conducted on insular-religious communities, this study draws upon an extensive exploration of over 2000 posts and 20 interviews conducted between 2016–2019. The findings uncover how, through mediatization, members work towards reconstructing the holy community online, yet renegotiate enclave boundaries. The findings illuminate a democratizing impact of mediatization as growing masses of ultra-Orthodox participants are given a voice, restructure power relations and modify fundamentalist proclivities towards this-worldly activity, to influence society beyond the enclave’s online and o ine boundaries.

Haredi WhatsApp Groups’ Icons.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

New Paper on the Pope's use of Instagram

Dear Readers,

I wanted to inform you about my new study. Collaborating with my postdoc, Dr. Michele Martini, we have reviewed Pope Francis' Instagram account and have a new publication in Information, Communication and society. Below, I am attaching the paper's abstract.

The Making of Contemporary Papacy:
Manufactured Charisma and Instagram

 Oren Golan and Michele Martini
University of Haifa

Abstract: Recent research highlights the growth of alternative religious leadership on a global scale. In response, social media have emerged as platforms to compete for religious primacy. Accordingly, the study asks how is online religious authority constructed, re-affirmed and implemented by religious organizations? We contend that through online means, religious organizations are nowadays working to construct a public image to spark charismatic attraction towards institutional leaders. To investigate, we developed a grounded study that captured the full Instagram production of Pope Francis’ official account (429 images). Drawing on construal theory, findings demonstrated the strategic management of social, spatial, affective and hypothetical distance, simultaneously corresponding with uncovered facets: hierarchical positioning; geographical locales, haptic engagement, and leaders’ visual focus.  Thus, we suggest introducing a concept of image-mediated-charisma, and its theoretical framing through digital distance. Concepts that were observed in the religious realm yet can be extended and applied to political or cultural leaders.

Screenshot of Pope Francis’s Instagram profile stats. Retrieved on January 16, 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Digital Gates to the Holy Land

Dear Followers,

This October I launched this study on Catholic media activism in the Holy Land. The study has been generously awarded the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF) grant. Here are some details of the study at hand. 

Digital Gates to the Holy Land: Challenging the Religious Landscape through Monastic Online Video Production

From online sermons to ISIS beheadings, well-established religious authorities and charismatic movements are frequently turning to video as a medium through which they communicate political and cultural ideas, contend for users' attention, and mediate much of today's religious experience. Despite their widespread use and significant impact on today's competitive religious landscape, online religious videos remain unexplored as a subject of scholarly investigation. This study examines the nature of online videos as a burgeoning popular platform, and specifically questions how religious organizations act to shape users' worldviews and negotiate meaning via online video-mediated communication.

The overall aim of the proposed research is to examine the rise of the use of online videos and the emergent roll of video webmasters in organized religious institutions. This aim is reflected through five primary objectives: (1) To investigate the emergence of monastic webmasters, with attention to innovations in the traditional mode of proselytization through online video-sharing platforms. (2) To examine the appropriation of digital visual technologies by religious institutions, with particular attention on how this process affects  the relationship between monastic webmasters and traditional clergy (i.e. religious cooperation, project management, division of labor) in the production of religious videos. (3) To examine how online video production and dissemination challenge or reinforce traditional religious worldviews while creating alternative spaces for learning (e.g. values, practices, doctrines) and community engagement. (4) To shed light on the process of legitimation of information and communications technologies as tools of faith (e.g. mission, video-mediated religious experience). (5) To investigate Catholicism's adopted strategies of response to emergent and competing religious movements, sects and cults that are spreading throughout Europe, the Middle East, South America and the world at large.

To achieve these objectives, this study utilizes a novel research design focused on two Catholic-monastic groups, the Franciscan Order and the Canção Nova, that are currently collaborating to produce videos of faith focused on the Holy Land. This design incorporates semiotic analysis of produced videos, ethnographic fieldwork, and forty in-depth interviews with religious webmasters and stakeholders including elite clergy and media support staff.

This study is designed to reveal how religious groups’ long-standing conflicts over centrality and legitimacy are currently being played out in the arena of new media operations. The central argument is that the nascent video production within the Catholic world concerning the Holy Land highlights an intensifying dynamic between traditional and new sources of religious authority in today's information society. The study also illustrates the tensions that the internet generates for the various faiths and denominations which are attempting to maintain traditional hierarchies and boundaries while presenting their institutional identities online.

שערים דיגיטליים לארץ הקודש: גיוס וחינוך המונים באמצעות ייצור סרטוני רשת על-ידי נזירים קתולים

כיצד מתווך ידע דתי בעידן הדיגיטלי? כיצד פועלים אנשי אמונה כדי לגייס מאמינים ולחנך אותם באמצעות תיווך המשמעות של מקומות קדושים? שאלות אלו ניצבות במרכז הפרויקט המחקרי שלי. מנשיאת דְּרָשׁות המשודרות באינטרנט, ועד להוצאות להורג המוניות של ארגון 'המדינה האיסלאמית' (דאעש), סמכויות דתיות ותנועות כריזמטיות נוטות כיום לפנות לווידאו ולאמצעי המדיה החדשים בניסיון לשדר רעיונות תרבותיים ופוליטיים, להתחרות על תשומת לבם של משתמשי האינטרנט, ולתווך את החוויה הדתית בת זמננו. מחקר זה בא לבחון את טבעם של סרטוני הרשת כערוץ מרכזי להפצה וחינוך המוני של תפישות עולם וניהול משא ומתן של משמעויות באמצעות תקשורת-מתווכת-וידאו. המחקר מתמקד במקרה הקתולי-נזירי בישראל, ומבקש לבחון את צמיחתם של אמצעי הניו מדיה כזירה מרכזית להפצת ידע דתי. כמו כן, אנו בוחנים את מקומם של מנהלי הרשתות הדתיות כמי שאמונים על חינוך דתי בעידן המידע.
במסגרת המחקר אנו מקיימים ראיונות עומק עם שתי קבוצות קתוליות שחברו לעבודת מדיה משותפת בארץ הקודש: נזירים ממסדר הפרנציסקנים בישראל ונזירים מתנועת הקנסאו נובה (Canção Nova) הברזילאית. אנו עושים שימוש בניתוחים סמיוטיים-פרשניים של תוצרי עבודתם (סרטוני ווידאו, שידורים ישירים, תמונות, אתרי אינטרנט ואינסטגרם, מצגות בסביבות של מציאות מדומה). הנתונים שנאספו יוצרים מצע עשיר לניתוח הדרכים בהן קבוצות קתוליות באופן ספציפי, ודתיות באופן כללי, פועלות באופן מאורגן במרחב הדתי-חינוכי הצומח במאה ה-21 במטרה להשפיע על אמונות, תפיסות והתנהגויות של יחידים וקבוצות. 
המחקר זכה למימון מהקרן הישראלית למדע (ISF).

המחקר זכה למימון מהקרן הישראלית למדע (ISF).

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Web Journalism in the Ultra Orthodox (Haredi) Community

Hello Readers,

Another publication is in the process of being published soon. It involves the worldviews and professional inclinations of web journalists in the ultra-Orthodox world, with an emphasis on the Israeli community. The work was generously supported by the EU's Research and Innovation initiative - Marie Curie foundation, as well as by the LINKS I-Core initiative of Israel's Science Foundation. Here are is the draft of the abstract that should be published shortly in a European journal.

Fundamentalist Web Journalism: Walking a Fine Line between Religious Ultra Orthodoxy and the New Media Ethos

Oren Golan and Nakhi Mishol-Shauli

New media journalism has perturbed traditional reporting not only in mainstream-modern societies, but also within religious-cum-insular communities. Focusing on the Jewish ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, and in light of web-journalists’ continuous struggle with leading clergy and an apprehensive public, this study grapples with the question, how do ultra-Orthodox web journalists view their work-mission as information brokers for an enclave culture? The study gleaned from 40 in-depth interviews with web journalists and discussions with community web activists. Results uncovered three major schematas that drive their praxis: (1) Communal-Haredi (2) Western-Democratic (3) Journalist Ecosystem. Findings suggest a rising archetype of fundamentalist web journalism that rests its professional ethos on writers’ practice, rather than on formalized training or communal dictums. Web-journalists were found to strongly identify with their community, yet, often unintentionally, also to act as a secondary form of authority and harbingers of change.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Upcoming Publication on the Haredi integration of ICTs

Upcoming Publication:

Exploring the religious worlds of the ultra Orthodox I have been developing, alongside my doctoral student, Nakhi Mishol Shauli, and Ben Gurion University doctoral student, Malka Shacham, a new paper, funded by the Israel LINKS I-Core program and the EU Marie Curie foundation, that explores the ultra Orthodox's integration into communal and family life. I am attaching its opening statement and inviting interested readers to write to me about it. The full manuscript should be published in 2018.

ICTs in Religious Communities: Communal and Domestic Integration of New Media among Jewish Ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel
            Nakhi Mishol Shauli, Malka Shacham and Oren Golan

Since the 1990s, the integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into everyday life, including work, education, leisure and overall personal management, has become a hallmark of modern societies. Considering this development, British scholars (Horst, 2012; Silverstone & Haddon, 1996), established the domestication approach of technologies, contending that technological integration processes within modern families and communities are not technology-deterministic, but are largely affected by cultural and social factors. While these scholars explored modern-western populations’ legitimation of new media, further nuanced investigation of ICT integration among communities that manifest strong ideological, cultural or religious objections to modern practice is required. Despite overall resistance, an apparent boost in internet and new media use by members of such communities has been recorded and described by researchers representing various disciplines (Anderson, 2003; Busch, 2010; Horowitz, 2001; Lagerkvist, 2008; Lagerkvist, 2010). This study discusses the patterns and implications of ICTs domestication and use in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community.

While ICT use has been rejected from Haredi formal educational settings, it has been largely integrated into informal home and workplace settings. Considering the apprehension expressed by religious communities—especially enclaved and marginalized groups—regarding ICTs, as well as the opportunities they embody for these sectors, we seek to examine the manner in which for religious communities, and particularly for enclaved and marginalized groups, we question how do socializing agents in Haredi society negotiate ICT use within informal educational spheres.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Emergent Self-Educating Communities in the Digital Age

In addition to the cyber youth interest, over the past few years I have been involved with multiple projects focusing on Emergent Self-Educating Communities in the Digital Age. This work has been funded by two sources, the EU Commission's Marie Curie foundation and the LINKS  iCore project. This funding has enabled me to achieve a better empirical understanding of online communities and their offline counterparts.

My research group functions as a community net lab focusing on the ways that clearly defined (primordial) communities (re)form social boundaries through the use of new media (i.e. the Internet, mobile communication) and knowledge that is constructed online. Members of the group engage in different communities (i.e. Zionist religious Jews, Haredim, Philippines in Israel, Reform Jewry, the Custodia Terrae Sanctae Franciscan order) and investigate different social aspects of their new media activities including acquiring life skills, online dating, online journalism, religious mobile app developments and more. Thus informal knowledge and its dissemination through new media are evaluated as it impacts social identities and boundaries of each community.

My research team includes, my graduate students, postdoctoral affiliates and research assistants as follows:
Nakhi Mishol Shauli
Dr. Deby Babis
Yaakov Don
Liraz Cohen
Dr. Michele Martini
Alon Diamant-Cohen
Eldar Fehl
Akiva Berger
Matan Milner
Imad Jraisy

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Article: Strategic Management of Religious Websites: The Case of Israel’s Orthodox Communities

It's been a while since I last posted. Anyway, I have just published a manuscript in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. This is a based on a study I have worked on with Professor Heidi Campbell of Texas A&M University since 2008 and draws on interviews we conducted with Jewish Orthodox webmasters. I am glad it has reached fruition and I can share it with others. You can read the full paper here


This study investigates how webmasters of sites affiliated with bounded communities manage tensions created by the open social affordances of the internet. We examine how webmasters strategically manage their respective websites to accommodate their assumed target audiences. Through in-depth interviews with Orthodox webmasters in Israel, we uncover how they cultivate three unique strategies -- control, layering, and guiding -- to contain information flows. We thereby elucidate how web strategies reflect the relationships between community, religion and CMC.