In the winter quarter, the 2012-2013 Bannan Institute will engage in an extended process of storytelling. Lectures and events will explore the public significance of sacred texts from diverse contexts and traditions, including the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Scriptures, the Qur'an, the Bhagavata Purana, various Buddhist sutras, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This winter series will also highlight the multiple ways in which sacred texts make meaning in the public sphere, through narrative, critical analysis, illuminations, communal and personal interpretation, electronic media, proclamation, art, and interreligious engagement.
Contemporary culture has become increasingly digitally integrated enabling us to approach almost every aspect of our lives, including religion and spirituality, as part of a widely distributed digital crowd. Christian believers gather regularly to pray on the hugely popular Jesus Daily Facebook page. In the recently launched Salamworld, Muslims come together in a global, multi-lingual social networking site shaped by Islamic values. And, in popular online social games as diverse as Flower and World of Warcraft, millions of gamers around the world develop religiously infused narratives that express and shape their spiritualities.
In the public learning series Sacred Pixels: Exploring Sacred Text in Digitally Integrated Culture, we explore how digitally integrated spiritual practices form new sacred texts and how they engage the resources of traditional religions in local and remote conversations with a diverse community of scholars, journalists, and religious leaders from across the country brought together as only new media technologies could make possible.
The second event in the series will consider the following questions: What role does religious belief and practice play in popular online games and gaming communities? What elements of “the sacred” are part of gaming practices? How might gaming shape religious belief? Can games be “sacred texts”?
Rachel Wagner is Associate Professor of Religion in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ithaca College. Rachel's work centers on the study of religion and culture, including religion and film and religion and virtual reality. Most recently, she has had pieces published on religion and virtual reality in Halos and Avatars: Playing Games with God, ed. Craig Detweiler (Westminster John Knox Press, 2010); the second edition of God in the Details, ed. Eric Michael Mazur and Kate McCarthy (Routledge, 2010); Understanding Religion and Popular Culture, ed. Dan Clanton and Terry Clark (Routledge, 2012); Halo and Philosophy, ed. Luke Cuddy (Open Court Press, 2011); CrossCurrents Magazine (Association for Religion and Intellectual Life, 2012); Digital Religion, ed Heidi Campbell (forthcoming 2012); Feminism in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Gina Messina Dysert and Rosemary Radford Reuther (forthcoming 2013); and Resisting the Place of Belonging: Uncanny Homecomings in Religion, Narrative, and Art, ed. Dan Boscaljon (Ashgate Press, forthcoming). Rachel's single-author book, Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality is part of the Media, Religion, and Culture series (Routledge, 2012). Short pieces relating to this research project can be found in Religion Dispatches and in the Society of Biblical Literature Forum.
Sean O'Callaghan is Assistant Professor of World Religions at Salve Regina University, Rhode Island. Prior to his move to the United States, Sean was a lecturer at Lancaster University in the UK. Sean has a particular interest in cyberspirituality and the ways in which cyberspace has impacted the sacred landscape, resulting both in the emergence of new forms of the spiritual and the transformation of traditional religious expressions. He is currently researching the use of cyberspace and technology by millennialist groups, hyper-real spiritualities and groups which engage in religiously inspired violence. Sean is a theologian by training and his Ph.D. focused on the interaction of missiology and Christology in global missions. He is author of The Compact Guide to World Religions (Lion Hudson, 2010) and has written several articles on the emergence of new religious movements.