Conference Paper: Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion


Earlier today I presented a paper at the ‘Digital Methodologies in the Sociology of Religion’ conference at the University of Derby. The conference sought to bring together scholars from different institutions and disciplines to critically evaluate the uses, impacts, challenges and future of digital methodologies in the sociology of religion.

As part of this, I presented a paper entitled, ‘Anti-Social networking: Facebook as a site and method for researching anti-Muslim and anti-Islam opposition’. Due to popular demand – well, one request via Twitter – I’m now making the slides available. To read and/or download, click here.

If you’d prefer to know a bit more about the paper, I’ve pasted the conference abstract below:

Research from 2010 highlighted the growing incidence of public opposition towards the building and development of mosques in the West Midlands region (Githens-Mazer & Lambert, 2010). Notably, the research highlighted the innovative use of social networking and new media – especially Facebook – to disseminate and garner support for such opposition.
Recognising this, a short pilot study was undertaken which sought to investigate the use of Facebook in opposing the Dudley ‘super-mosque’. Focusing on two Facebook groups created to oppose the mosque – “Stop Dudley Super Mosque and Islamic Village” and “Fuk [sic] the Dudley mosque, lets build a big fat pig there instead” – fifty ‘friends’ who had ‘liked’ and posted on the group’s ‘wall’ were invited to complete a questionnaire. Using only online resources, the findings from the questionnaires were analysed using a framework based on Weber’s typology of claims to legitimacy (Thomson, 1990). The analysis highlighted a breadth of opposition: from ‘rational’ in the form of flaws in planning legislation, through ‘traditional’ and the identification of Dudley as ‘Christian’, to the ‘charismatic’ and the expression of overt bigotry.
From the outset, the study recognised how spaces such as Facebook have potential to function as sites for research as indeed method also. Following a brief overview of the findings therefore, this paper will set out the methodological approaches employed, from conception through design to implementation. In doing so, questions about the challenges and pitfalls faced both as researcher and research in relation to positioning, legitimacy and validity will be considered. Focusing also on the disruption of social boundaries – the blurring of the private and public in virtual spaces (Markham & Bayn, 2009) – this paper concludes with a reflection on the impacts both of and for using digital methodologies, social networks and other new media to research religion and associated issues.

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