Wk 4: Religion & Politics

Faith and Spirituality

iLecture: Peter Fletcher


Michel Foucalt coined the term ‘pastoral power’ in 1982 and used it to describe individualising power, the power that makes us and individual with a marked identity. Foucalt believed that the lifetime care of the soul, from cradle to grave, requires full knowledge of a persons conscience, and therefore full, open and frank confession is needed. This confession to an authority both creates and individualises the subject and leads to a feeling of a weight being lifted. Foucalt said that all power relationships have a never ending struggle but that confession creates self and is a tool of individualising power and also a creative resistance to that same power.

(What the hell does all that mean in 25 words or less? That pastoral power is some some power a dude who invades your privacy, commands you to confess all your stuff has over you, but by confessing that stuff that makes you stand out as an individual and creates who you are, but also reinforces the power given to the dude. You can also get power by refusing to do what the powerdude commands. I think.)

Traditionally community ideas included a common interest, a geographical loation and a shared living experience. The net changes all that and disrupts notions about what forms a community. The Net proves that geographical location is not required, nor is a shared living experience. It has been conjectured that we continue our relationships despite these factors through skype, msn and facebook, eg. Virtual Communities can exist so long as there is passion, feeling and connection.

Whilst i agree with this section in theory, i find it hard to believe that geographic location is what forms community even on a traditional basis. Before the net, we had the telephone to keep in touch, and would form communities based on our heritage, our history, our shared blood, our shared experiences or shared interests. I have never felt I needed a ‘shared living experience’ or a common geographical location to be part of a community.

Communities of Faith are used extensively by religions, including Caltholic, Mormon, 7th day adventists, bahai etc. They all are search engine optimized and form part of their Outreach program. Buddhists have E-Sangha forum, Catholics have XT3 (which includes a dating site), MuslimSocial is a SNS for muslims, and covenspace for pagans.

The links were not available for viewing. Covenspace has been removed. I will endeavour to try to find the sites later.

There was discussion of Trees and Grass, Trees and Ivy and Trees and Rhizomes and insistence on use of parables (although parables have only further confused religious beliefs in the past, so I’m not sure why they would want to stick with that idea!)

Peter also talked about the JW’s and how they only have two sanctioned and official sites because they believe that information should only come from an authoritative source. There are no JW social sites that are encouraged by the religion and he likened JW faith to that of a tree. A solitary single source or govenance of power.

But the Anti-JW scene on the Net is far more accessible, with a mass of SNS, blogs, forums, DBs and facebook groups dedicated to those who are against or ex-members of the JW faith. Peter says there are NO pro-JW channels to match the negative sentiment, except the 2 official websites.

The xJW community share a common interest and passion, a common purpose of providing mutual support and allow anonymous avatars to allow intimacy, frankness and compassion to foster. Most interaction is via a bulletin board.

The Net is also a place of resistance because it is a place of self creation. We create who we are, our web presence, by blogs, SNS, forums and DBs and this allows us to play with differing personalities and identities. This gives us power to be free of pastoral power and allows people to be inappropriate with the safety of anonymity and to reconfigure themselves at will.

Peter concludes the Net is a place Religions use for Outreach and conversion. The Net also provides space for resistance of pastoral power. The Resistance takes shape through the confessions and creation of new identity. Heirarchal religions are more vulnerable to resistance. He gives buddhism as an example of openness. He believes religious powers are using the net to Outreach but not to engage and that if they did, they would change the shape of their organisations so they would be virtually unrecognisable. He doesn’t explain how or why this would be so.

I felt like this lecture really was a bit higgedy piggedy, and it really didn’t give me anything concrete or usable. It certainly didn’t feel like an introduction to this topic. I think further research will be necessary.

Activity: Task 1.5

What are the ways in which religion has, and continues, to play a role in everyday life? What role can the Internet play in this?

In my opinion, Religion is the basis for the ethics and morality that is brought to society. It is the crux upon which wars are fought and lives are given, martyrs made and sins forgiven. It is the factor upon which we stand against or we stand for, and many of us stand divided and united. We stand confused, uncertain, but we all, as adults, understand the ramifications of religion. We pray, we berate, we scoff, we bless. We bless people who sneeze no matter what our personal faiths are. We have religion indoctrinated into us from birth, whether it’s one religion or no religion, they are still a set of beliefs we follow.

And even now, with religion facing unique obstacles and deteriorating numbers, expanding consciousness and awareness to new ideas, faith is still prolific on the Net. The Net can expand a person’s ideology or move it toward a new direction. It can offer information and debate, ideas and rituals. I can see a future with evangelism on Live Chat, on Skype and YouTube. The Net can help to define a person’s faith, so that those unsure will know where to further their investigations or if they should at all. The Internet can outreach to new converts, and engage in philosophy and doctrine. It can teach, it can inform and it can ‘heal’ through prayer groups or the ability to research geneaology for baptism of the dead. The Internet connects people of all faiths and also reinforces faiths if needed.


Visitpostsecret.blogspot.com Discuss in the tutorial whether and how sharing a secret in this way can be viewed as a spiritual experience (to paraphrase Frank Warren, the creator of PostSecret). Write down the impressions of the ‘secrets,’ the undercurrents behind daily life revealed by these postcards. Are they a form of resistance, or submission?

I loved this site. I think I’ll be back again and again over the years, see what’s there. It is the voyeur in me but also the fact that no matter how hard I try, I cannot relate to people having secrets. There is nothing in the entire world that makes up who I am, that has not been shared with someone else at some point in my life. I am an open book, literally. I have no secrets. And when I see a site like this, it makes me sad that I have nothing new, nothing unique, nothing secret to share. Because I feel the power and the passion of that site, the emptiness and the hollow thrum – the eagerness to tell but the quiet fascination of keeping it quiet. I can see from the artwork, the diligence, the thought and the questions that have been left unasked – am i revealing too much in this secret, will somebody know my identity, will the truth of this set me free. I can see all of that in these postcards and yet, and yet, ….
and yet, I feel like there is a wall between me and this amazing community because I have nothing to share.

When I studied Religious Philosophy at Deakin back in the dark ages, we discussed what was a religious experience, and the gist of it was to do with whether or not it had an ‘otherworld’ feel to it, as in, did it feel ‘not from here’. I don’t think this site qualifies as a religious site, but i do see it as a site of ideology.

Just my 2 cents.

Discussion topic: navigate to this popular site, www.beliefnet.com, do the Belief-O-Matic quiz: what do you think of the results and the process of completing this quiz? Why would people want to do this?

I enjoyed going to this site. I know several people who have asked me what religion it is that is closest to their beliefs and I’ve never known. This is obviously a flawed quiz and not perfect, but it IS the perfect starting place and a good way to be able to introduce religion into a conversation. It also attempts to demystify religions and define them with a designated set of doctrines. The Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and the Christadelphian religions are the only christian faiths I know of that list out their belief structure and have core fundamental beliefs open to viewing by all. Every other religion seems to be a bit hit and miss.

Discussion topic: Analyse and discuss the interrelation between faith, spirituality, daily life and the Internet.

From a quantum physics’ point of view, we are all energy and matter. A lightstream of string theory of connectedness. Therefore things that involve passion, and divination (whether they be faith, spirituality, resistance and the like) exude a natural energy that interconnects us all. our daily lives expend and replete energy, in circular motions on a continual and continuous basis. The Internet is also a band of energy, not just with its technological marvels of beeping and popping and flashing, but also of the user generated content – an energy beam of consciousness, of ideas and expressions.

They are all interconnected. We are all one. And we all experience this every single day.

In my opinion, of course.

KRudd is my Facebook Friend

Flew, Terry. (2007). Not Yet the Internet Election: Online Media, Political Commentary and the 2007 Australian Federal Election. Media International Australia. 126.5-13. In E-Reserve.

How far do you agree with the author’s claim: communication in politics and news journalism are becoming more diffused and power less focused on ‘big media,’ but the political institutions in Australia are not only lagging behind the changes in media, but becoming more centred on the Labour and Liberal parties?

I believe that there is a fundamental powershift from big media to media, because the internet is giving everyone their own publishing house. I think that politics is not net-savvy enough at all. I don ‘t know if they are more centered on Labour and Liberal because that’s where the news is, or if they are doing that by choice. I don’t believe other political parties are net savvy either, and I think that the success of the Kevin07 campaign should surely be showing them what direction they need to head. I think as more and more ‘individuals’ gain their own power the power of the audience is becoming its own political party.

Nagourney, Adam. The ?08 Campaign: Sea Change for Politics as We Know It. New York Times. 2009-01-19.

This journalistic article reports upon the adoption of web 2.0 applications in political campaigning in the US: what do you think of the shifts described?

I think these shifts are permanent too. I agree that people are now policing things using the web, not just politics but also in health areas. I think that the downside to all of this is that to pay for the next campaign will be a billion dollars. To need to raise that kind of money is just so incredibly sad, and it really does go to show that only those with the most money (and not the best policies) will win.

Mishra, G. (2009, January 10). The Promise and Myth of Barack Obama’s Government 2. Gauravonomics Blog. (Archived by WebCite).

Focus: according to this blog post, what is ‘government 2.0’ and what are the main ingredients for it? Here, it is worth looking beyond the technological solutions. What do you think of this notion of ‘government 2.0’, is it something achievable. What other issues of equity and participation do you think should be addressed as well?

  • make online government data and processes more user friendly
    • using social media tools to create a more effective and transparent government.
    • require agencies to provide access to social media sites
  • Establish a single terms of service that covers all social media sites
    • Alert federal agencies that the benefits of using these sites outweigh the risks
  • accept that contextual advertising is a byproduct of using social media sites
    • Set criteria for all agencies for when such ads are acceptable.
  • Agencies can use free Web products and services.
    • Agencies do not need to use all products and services offered
    • Employees with a clear business need can create accounts to use free services
  • direct agencies to use a standard disclaimer to display on social media sites where they publish content
  • allows agencies to use persistent cookies to better serve customers’ needs
  • hire staff who understand what the internet really means for government
  • freely share non-personal government data,
  • allow third parties to build mashups on top of government data,
  • build a platform/ process for participatory policy debate,
  • allow citizens using a government process to connect with each other.

I think this is acheivable. I also think we should be able to vote online, and do our census online. i think that government departments should be able to exchange and view and access information to make it easier for the public.

Singaporean bloggers have been using the Internet for political expression and activism in a more controlled political climate where such contributions are more difficult in print and broadcast media. Discuss the usefulness and limitations of the Internet in facilitating a democratic civic society which allows the interplay of different interests and positions in the public domain:

I didn’t understand the sites here, I read them (although the first one doesn’t work) and I certainly didn’t understand the question at all.

Navigate around and discuss the following sites in terms of the kinds of involvement they encourage:

www.kevinpm.com.au – I liked the layout and colours of this. The tweets were up to date, the comments were only an hour old, everything was clean and inviting. The video was two months old but not overly concerning. Nothing jumped out and grabbed me though.

www.malcolmturnbull.com.au – WHY are we going to the website of a dude who’s not even in charge of anything? HATED the front page, was immediately put off and I went to google and looked up Tony Abbotts page.

www.tonyabbott.com.au – This was much more inviting than the malcolm turnbull page but seriously, it’s all broadcasting, there was no interaction at all, no twitter, no shout box, nothing.

www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au – This site is for volunteers and I didn’t see this as a political type site, even though it’s run by the qld government. I did like the ‘have your say’ section.

www.getup.org.au – This was a site I’d never seen before, nor heard of. I found it interesting. On their about page, they write “GetUp is an independent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation giving everyday Australians opportunities to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues.” I found that interesting and engaging. I was concerned though that their movie on their about page is a 2008 movie. Surely they would have been able to update it by now?

Discuss with your fellow students in class: does the Internet encourage democracy and political participation? Why/why not?

I don’t believe the Internet encourages democracy. Democracy in a true sense of the word doesn’t really exist in any country, so Australia uses a mashed up version of democracy. Political participation however, I believe is very strong and evident in everyday life. I believe that just as talkback radio proves to become the news headlines on television, so to do blogs create a space for everyday people to have a political voice. And it’s not just bloggers. I have a few friends on Facebook who are MORE than willing to blurb on and on about this party, or that party and what the government is doing wrong. There are groups spawning all over FB that aim this way, aim that way and you can join the group or become a fan and then tell all your friends about it. It’s viral at its best and its worst. it’s taking the collaboration and community of freedom of speech and giving it a megaphone. It’s like that article “The people formerly known as the audience” (rosen, 2006) says – we now have our own publishing house, and yes, we ARE using it!


Rosen, J. (2006). The people formerly known as the audience. PressThink: Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine, 27


iLecture: Tama Leaver


Politics has always done its advertising via mainstream forms: TV, radio, print. This was a one way model with limited possibility for conversation or rebuttal. The limited means were talkback radio and letters to the editor. Journalism was designed to communicate and keep the people informed. They were considered the fourth estate. Political experts were used and were attached to either mainstream media or to the world of academia.

Up until the 1990s and then everything changed.

Political discussion is now colaboratory and blogs are a major factor as they are an additional avenue for reporting, debate and discourse. Journalism these days lacks credibility because of bias. Newspapers and media outlets have either a political or business motivation or are looking for sensationalist stories. Political opinion no longer belongs to ‘experts’ but to the everyday citizen. In Australia some of the most influential commentators are doing it on blogs.

We the Media by Dan Gillmore.

There are over 120 million blogs created every day. Today. when significant events happen, blog use increases which means blogs re linked to news. Blogs changed the nature of reporting including sites like photobucket and flickr.

The public now has power in their mobile phones: photos and videos can be uploaded to youtube etc so everyone has a voice. We have the tools of production of participation to create a citizen protest or to alter a political cycle. Citizen Journalism doesn’t replace mainstream media but it does allow for a wider viewpoint.

The Kevin07 campaign in australia was the first election to use Internet tools and was very significant for politics. One side got it right and the other side didn’t. Kevin Rudd was on MySpace, the Libs launched theirs and then left it alone, just like old style medias. The disparity is that one site realised that the web is a living breathing organism and can’t be left alone, without response. Labour realised that someone needed to be active to accept friend requests and kept vigilance. Liberals did not and had 8 friends.

Kevin07 was also the first time an australian election was run like a presidential campaign in America. It pushed Kevin teh Man, not the leader of a party. this was a significant shift specifically to make the most of social networking. They encouraged grass root participation and donations; used Facebook, flickr and YouTube; collaborated and responded to comments; and galvanized young voters.

Obama did it right in his 2008 campaign and built on what Rudd had started. He had digital grassroots, with a local campaign, local engagement and online organisation. Obama campaigners were web 2.0 savvy and used every tool. Their election was micro-funded with lots of small donations and were committed to open access and open government.

Kevin07 failed according to Tama (although I personally disagree with this because there is a lot of activity on his stuff now, just not as much as when he was campaigning) because he didn’t maintain or continue his use of web 2.0 tools. Labor is implementing an Internet Filtering system which shows he doesn’t understand current Net technologies, he only has minimal maintenance of sites and treats those spaces as a place to broadcast from, not have conversations.

Obama was a success because he has implemented communication, transparency and participation on the whitehouse website.


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