Postgraduate students

Sam Stevens BA PGDipArts, PhD candidate

Modern media, modern church? – communication, mediatisation and religious practice in contemporary, independent Protestant church groups in New Zealand

The project will focus on the relationship between mass media use – and interrelated processes of mediatisation – and religious practice in several non-traditional, independent church groups. The circulation of media texts via a variety of modern media will be discussed in relation to interplay between ostensibly "secular" and "religious" communication systems.

Theoretical discussions (including a re-evaluation of facets of ritual theory and concepts of ritual "space" in late modernity and various communication theories), will be balanced against interview and survey material.

Fieldwork will provide information on: the primacy of various media in the formation of religious identity; the impact age, gender, ethnicity or other demographic factors have on patterns of media use; the way websites, and interactive internet platforms contribute to congregational or personal religious experience, compared with traditional material media such as religious books, music and DVDs.

The ultimate area of study is the result or function of these processes; the way group communication systems are (re)created, and new group rituals and identities formed. The study will include discussion on production – the resources allocated by church authorities to produce and disseminate their message and how churches produce material to suit their congregation – and consumption, i.e. how religious adherents receive and process information through various channels.

Supervisors: Dr Will Sweetman, Associate Professor John Stenhouse, and Dr Erica Baffelli

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme