Religion in the Digital Age: Schedule planning weeks 1 and 2

Next up in course planning; when and what (also known as the framework of the syllabus). Below is a really rough draft of how I envision the course proceeding in the first two weeks, but by the end of the syllabus drafting, I may resort to Andrea Livi Smith’s most excellent way of planning. I’ve arranged topics tentatively by week; assignments will come later. For the time being, I’m planning on having the class do small group projects in which they build a domain that explores a digital community, digital version of a religious text, or some other digital interpretation of religion.

Week 1

What is religion?

I envision this week as an introduction to the various notions of religion and religious studies, including a very brief look at some theories of religion.

Week 2

What is the digital age? How did religious groups ever manage before the internet?

Since I’m a historian by training, I find it helpful to ground my explorations in what the past was like and how the present differs. *Spoiler alert: I fully expect that by the end of the semester, we’ll decide that the only thing that may have changed is the medium and not the message.* Nevertheless, we can start with ideas of community, message, doctrine, adherence, apostasy in “analog” times.

Then comes the hard part: how to tackle the next few weeks. Possible ideas include 1) taking the ideas above (community, message, doctrine, adherence, apostasy, etc) and turning them into one-week explorations; or 2)  looking at various social media platforms (Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and how religious groups use them. These two ideas don’t need to be mutually exclusive: one could study message and outreach through Facebook, for example.

More to come…


Religion in the Digital Age: Course Objectives

Participating in the UMW Domain of One’s Faculty Initiative really helped me think about how to use digital learning in my classroom. That wasn’t an easy task, as I’m of a generation that came of age before all of this newfangled technology and someone who enjoys the thrill of the microfilm chase. But with a little coaxing, I can shed my Luddite proclivities and jump into the digital humanities with the zeal of the newly converted.

So I’ll be blogging about a course I’d like to offer sometime next year—Religion in the Digital Age. The basic idea of this course was to encourage students to investigate how individuals engage with notions of religion and the sacred in a digital way, as well as to examine how religious groups (denominations, etc.) contend with the challenges of getting their message across in a variety of electronic media. I really don’t know if anyone else has started a course like this; I’m just winging it here.

So, without further ado, here are the first draft course objectives for Religion in the Digital Age (RELG 331+prefix to be assigned later):

• Familiarize students with sociological concepts of religion (for example, why do people join religious groups; how do religious groups define their boundaries; why do people leave religious groups; how do notions of race, ethnicity, class, and gender influence these decisions)
• Explore how digital venues alter, reflect, or continue trends in religious affiliation, practice, and belief
• Encourage a web presence by the students in the course (either by blogging, setting up an interactive website, or using Tumblr)
• Promote an understanding of the methodologies involved in studying religion in an academic setting

(I’ll likely edit and add to these.)

Next up will be a draft syllabus, arranged by week and subject. Then I’d like to add some assignment/assessment ideas. Comments and suggestions are always welcome! Since I didn’t get the curricular development grant I applied for, I’m designing this in my “free” time and can use all the help I can get. Come join the fun!