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.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Informal Education in the Field: Visiting Bat Galim's Community Center in Haifa

Recently I conducted a visit with students to a community center in the struggling coastal neighborhood of Bat Galim in Haifa, Israel. The visit was part of their undergraduate studies as well as their training to become informal education practitioners. The students were introduced to the challenges of informal education management as they met Ehud Cohen,

Ehud Cohen - Discussing Administrative Challenges in Bat Galim's Community Center
a leading manager in the center ; Later on, they met Erez Sarig. Sarig is a young community leader and activist for green causes. During their visit, Erez discussed the activities involved in the Bat Galim's community garden. A place that fosters communal practices, agricultural knowledge, and inspires a green approach to community members,
Erez Sarig and Haifa University Students discussing Bat Galim's Communal Garden
This was followed by a workshop and lecture with Rony Keynan on community theater. It should be noted that Ms. Keynan is a leading member in the Hai-Po community theater in Haifa and introduced the group to drama-laden forms of pedagogy through a workshop activity (demonstrated in these photos).

Informal Education Students Workshop Activities

Rony Keynan explaining the foundations of Community Theater and dramatic practice
and finally Hanna Meller offered some inspiring discussion on the formation of a woman's club in the neighborhood, in collaboration with the Milav – Municipal agency in Haifa .
Hanna Meller Discussing Elderly Women empowerment in the Community Center
Overall it was a warm and wonderful day in November, which provided an opportunity to reflect on the multitude of pedagogical means and possibilities for informal education in its engagement with local communities.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Critically Acclaimed Documentary 'Pickles', with Dir. Dalit Kimor

In collaboration with Tamar Merin and Edna Grad of Jewish Studies I am organizing a screening of a documentary film at Northwestern University open to its students and scholars entitled: 'Pickles'.

The film has earned several awards, including:
  • EBS Seoul international documentary f.f. (honorable mention)
  • Crossroads international F. F. USA (first prize)
  • Saint Petersburg international documentary f.f (special prize)
Dalit Kimor will address the tensions of women torn between the desire for progress versus maintaining tradition; the status of Arab Widows; the feminist enterprise established by women with no awareness of Feminism; and the potential for financial success  change social conventions.