Buddhism Buddhism in New Medias
by
Scott A. Mitchell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0115

Introduction

The proliferation and variety of new media over the past half-century has posed new opportunities and challenges for Buddhist communities. Religious studies more generally, as well as the allied fields of sociology and anthropology, have covered the area of religion and new media fairly well, but Buddhist studies has only just begun to contribute to this field of inquiry. The following bibliography reflects this dearth of scholarship while providing primary sources for future research. “New media” here refers to the Internet, social networking, and mobile communication technologies, as well as more traditional broadcast and print media and film. It is therefore related to issues of consumerism, modernity, and social justice. The bulk of the sources in the first two sections, General Overviews and Journals, are intended to give the researcher a firm grounding in the area of media studies, broadly defined. Selected areas of research provide useful articles on some dominant themes, such as representations of Buddhism in media and new locations of culture, such as mobile technology and the Internet. Primary sources, divided into print and broadcast media and online media, list some longstanding and relevant examples of Buddhist practice in new media.

General Overviews

There is no single, book-length work dedicated to Buddhism in new media. Moreover, scholars in Buddhist studies—and religious studies more generally—have been slow to take the topic of popular culture as a serious area of inquiry until only very recently, with Forbes and Mahan 2005 being an excellent overview of contemporary religion in American popular culture. Works such as Horsfield, et al. 2004 offer the researcher an overview of many themes and issues relevant to studying Buddhism in new media, whereas Beaudoin 1998 and Silverblatt 2008 are useful works for the classroom. Graham 1999 and Zaleski 1997 provide useful, if somewhat dated, theoretical contexts for studying religion on the Internet. Carrette and King 2005 offers a thorough critique of the exploitation of religion by the capitalist marketplace.

  • Beaudoin, Tom. Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.

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    A well-cited and perennially popular work about “Generation X” Americans as the producers of contemporary popular culture. The work is useful in charting the terrain, if limited in its critical analysis and focus, which is on largely middle- to upper-class mainstream American culture.

  • Carrette, Jeremy, and Richard King. Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion. London: Routledge, 2005.

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    An excellent overview of the ways in which corporate and commercial interests have co-opted religion and spirituality, with a focus on North America and the United Kingdom. While Carrette and King have their own biases, their analysis (in chapter3) of the commodification of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism is invaluable.

  • Forbes, Bruce David, and Jeffrey H. Mahan, eds. Religion and Popular Culture in America. Rev. ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

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    With both a comprehensive view and easy-to-read style, the work covers the gamut of popular culture in the United States, from The Da Vinci Code to baseball. Chapter 3 deals specifically with Buddhism. (See also Iwamura 2001, cited under Buddhism in Other New Media [Film, Mobile Communication, Popular Culture].)

  • Graham, Gordon. The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry. London: Routledge, 1999.

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    Because the Internet is a fast-moving target, most studies become outdated almost as soon as they are published. Graham’s philosophic approach to the subject, however, has lasting import, as he deals with technophilia, Marxism, democracy, and the nature of reality—issues that persist despite new technology.

  • Horsfield, Peter G., Mary E. Hess, and Adán M. Medrano. Belief in Media: Cultural Perspectives on Media and Christianity. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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    While this work focuses on Christianity and new media, the essays as a whole provide a useful model of how to connect new media technologies to cultural and religious change. Chapter 1 provides a particularly useful toehold in this area of research and has the most relevance for Buddhist studies.

  • Silverblatt, Art. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. 3d ed. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.

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    Silverblatt’s work is a useful classroom tool for teaching about and interpreting media, from film and television to traditional print and new interactive media. Additionally, it may be useful in charting the terrain and familiarizing students with the language of media studies.

  • Zaleski, Jeff P. The Soul of Cyberspace: How New Technology Is Changing Our Spiritual Lives. San Francisco: HarperEdge, 1997.

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    As with Graham’s work, Zaleski’s study of the Internet may appear a bit dated, as it predates the current locus of online community or social networking in places such as Facebook or Twitter. Nevertheless, his chapter on Buddhism raises important questions about communicating religion that remain relevant.

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