chapter  6
Virtual fieldwork: engaging with religions with new (and old) media
Pages 17

Many books on the study of religion aimed at students have, in recent years, included chapters on the Internet. The problem is, they are almost invariably out of date as soon as they are published. Descriptions of the rise in usage of the Internet by religious groups, or repositories of useful materials and guides to help students approach the study of religion(s), are helpful, but static, ways of communicating emergent information. This chapter aims to be different, in that the focus will not be on how religious communities and the new media co-exist (although this is interesting and will be touched upon), but will instead be on how individual religious practitioners use online media; and also how student researchers can think and reflect on the ways in which they can interact with the rapidly changing landscape of online communication, including social media as well as more established media, as a part of engagement with living religions. To do this, we need to explore not just the fact that religions do use online media, but why they do so, and to understand what opportunities this offers the student in engagement with living religion. This chapter will not be deeply theoretical – there are others who have

helpfully discussed this before, and their texts are highlighted at the end of the chapter – but will address issues and ask questions about which and upon which students need to reflect if they are to use new media critically and academically in relation to religion in the non-meat world.