Bounded Religious Communities' Management of the Challenge of New Media

Baha’í Negotiation with the Internet

{josquote}[The American Baha'i community's] strict adherence to a certain structure and hierarchy within the offline structure of the community is in many respects simply replicated and encouraged online.{/josquote}

The negotiation of new forms of media by religious groups is a dynamic and complex process that involves decision-making engaging the history, tradition and beliefs of the community. This negotiation process is especially complex for bounded religious communities, which establish rigid social and value-laden boundaries allowing them to create and maintain a unique and separate cultural system. Observing how members of bounded religious communities interact with the Internet enables us to consider how some groups resist the fluidity of networked relations and instead use technology to maintain closed social structures and solidify their unique identities. This is clearly seen in the case of the Bahá’í faith, especially in the patterns of use and limits American Bahá’ís have developed to engage with the Internet. By using the Religious Social Shaping of Technology approach, developed by Campbell (2010), as a lens to explore the challenges and choices made by the Bahá’ís, this process of technological negotiation is unpacked.

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