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Call for papers: The Secular and/or Religious Nature of Technologies: Exploring the Boundaries of Human Communication in a Networked World




ICA 2022 Preconference
26 May 2022
Call for papers
The Secular and/or Religious Nature of Technologies:
Exploring the Boundaries of Human Communication in a Networked World
This preconference will explore how we conceive of communication technologies in a global, networked world and the implications such perceptions have for human communication and the social relationships created and maintained in these human-technology encounters.
Specifically, our focus is on the secular and/or religious traces and implications of technology. We investigate what kinds of secular and/or religious ideas are implied in our human-technology relationships and how they shape the ways in which we build and maintain social relationships between humans and technologies in different historical and cultural contexts. We also are interested in exploring the ethical discourses inspired by secular and/or religious thinking that are embedded in the current developments of communication technology, namely AI and robotics.
This preconference starts with the premise that when we think of technologies we often are drawn to narratives of the Enlightenment and (Western) modernity. This history typically is framed as a victory of technology as a product of rational science over myth, religion, and ritual, and hence, secular by nature.
From this perspective, religious actors and communities are perceived as averse to technological innovation and wary of technological tools. However, scholars of (global) history of media and communication argue for a multilayered and complex relationship between religion and communication technology, a notion that challenges modern, Western ideas of technology as secular. Examples including the invention of the printing press and its subsequent role in religious literacy or the spread of  televangelism in the age of mass media illustrate early and modern uses of technology in religious contexts make our point.
The developments in digitalisation and globalisation of communication continue to blur the secular/religious divide in thinking about technology. Today, researchers in the field of Digital Religion demonstrate that many religious traditions worldwide have embraced new communication technology.
In fact, there have been innovative technological adaptations for communicating religion and maintaining social, cultural, ethnic and political relations in different religious institutions, organisations and groups.
Moreover, scholarship shows that religious communities have developed diverse attitudes and approaches to using communication technology that range from early adoption to resistant attitudes.
Finally, in the current age of AI & robotics new questions of human – technology relationship emerge.
These issues include, among others, questions of ontology (the boundary between human and machine) and ethics. We actively encourage discussions about how to talk about the ontology and ethics of AI and robotics and what secular and/or religious lenses inform how we see and engage with those (near) future orientations in the world of communication.
Confirmed speakers include:
Zizi Papacharissi, University of IllinoisChicago
Sam Han, University of Western Australia
We are interested in gathering conversation partners together working around this theme.
Abstracts are being accepted on a variety of related themes including:
● The role of communication technology in framing and promoting various notions of the secular
in society
● The role of communication technology in the formation of post-secular tendencies and contexts
in society and culture
● Digital religion and the rise of secular religiouslike practices in contemporary media
● Theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of religion, media and secularities
● Communication technology, religion and secularities in a global perspective
Please note we are also looking participants specifically for a panel on Religious Technology:
Intersectional Perspectives and another on Rethinking the Secular/Religious Divide in Digital
Papers or abstracts of 250 words maximum should be submitted to the organizers at by January 7, 2022.
Acceptances will be emailed at the time of the overall ICA acceptances in late January.
Preconference organizers team:
Heidi Campbell, Texas A&M University
Stewart M. Hoover, University of Colorado
Johanna Sumiala, University of Helsinki
Corrina Laughlin, Loyola Marymount University
Diane Winston, USC Annenberg, California
Sarah McFarland Taylor, Northwestern University
Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, University of Iowa
Kristin Peterson, Boston College
Andrea Press, University of Virginia
For questions, please contact:
Heidi Campbell, Texas A&M University;
Stewart M. Hoover, University of Colorado
Endorsing Divisions:
Popular Media and Culture; Philosophy, Theory, and Critique; Feminist Scholarship Division
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