Monday, April 19, 2021

Religion and Inclusive Science Communication - Online Round Tables


Dear Readers,

I wanted to share with you an upcoming event I am organizing and co-hosting with colleagues of the University of Haifa and the Technion. The project initiators are: Professor Ayelet Baram-Tsabari of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and Professor Yariv Tsfati, of the Department of Communications and Journalism at the University of Haifa. In addition, leading participants and organizers include Dr. Lea Taragin-Zeller (Technion), Nakhi Mishol Shauli (University of Haifa) and Yael Rosenblum.

The event is based on our project on the ultra Orthodox Jewry and their modes of communicating science. We have invited international and local speakers, scholars and practitioners invested in mediating scientific concepts in everyday life. I am posting the flyer that we are distributing here and invite all interested parties to join in on the event. 

To register, please click here

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

 Dear Readers,

In a few weeks, I will be in conversation with Professor Ayala Fader of Fordham University on her new book "Hidden Heretics". Please browse through the enclosed invitation. If you are interested in attending, you are most welcome to join on January 13, 2021 at 4pm (Israel Time) and 9am EST at the following link:


Monday, June 8, 2020

New Publication on Jewish ultra-orthodox students in Israeli higher education

Dear Readers,

Just published a new manuscript with my Phd student, Eldar Fehl, titled: "Legitimizing academic knowledge in religious bounded T communities: Jewish ultra-orthodox students in Israeli higher education". This is a rare occasion for me to write about non-media issues, however, for those interested in bounded communities, they may find this appealing. The larger study does have connections to the legitimation of new media among Jewish ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) students, something to (hopefully) be published in the future.

To view the full paper online see:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Ethnography of Sacred Communities: Shifting Horizons of Online Religiosity (Upcoming Event)

Dear Readers,

Below you can read about an event I am developing with colleagues for the upcoming Anthropological conference in Portugal, July 2020. A Session that will be held online, given the COVID-19 crisis

European Association of Social Anthropologists
Association Européenne des Anthropologues Sociaux

0640 paper proposals 
Ethnography of Sacred Communities: Shifting Horizons of Online Religiosity

Oren Golan (University of Haifa)
Elisa Farinacci (University of Bologna)
Nurit Stadler (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Michele Martini (University of Cambridge)
 Please Send message to convenors via the easa website

Short abstract:
This panel focuses on the ways communal boundaries (internal and external), religious taboos, rituals and material culture are shaped, reproduced and changed via media platforms. Thus, illuminating contemporary religious authority, the anthropology of mediatisation and communal representation.

Long abstract:
For the past two decades, religious communities have been increasingly embracing online means to represent themselves, augment visibility, proselyte creed, and fortify their boundaries. In this panel, we focus on agents, institutional agencies and devotees that are pivotal in this endeavor. Ergo, we inquire about the ways in which communal boundaries (internal and external), religious taboos, rituals and material culture are shaped, reproduced and changed via a variety of digital media platforms including official websites, blogs, social media, films, television series, and web series. We invite scholars who employ ethnographic and netnographic accounts, and network analysis to shed light on these communities and their representations. This panel aims at fostering our understanding of key categories that are at the heart of current debates in anthropology and media studies, such as: * Emergent roles of online authority. * Negotiation of online/offline religious communities. * Anthropology of mediatisation. * Representations of religious communities in the media. * The ways the religious third space is constructed and mediated.

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).