Online Religious Studies

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Data transitions have revolutionized many scientific disciplines, starting with the exact sciences, then the life sciences, and now the social sciences and humanities are in the process of making the transition to becoming data intensive sciences, with descriptions through quantitative measurements. New analysis tools, and publicly accessible utterances, opinions, transactions and interactions resulting from widespread Internet and social media usage facilitate new, data-intensive research methods in disciplines that have so far relied on small-scale literature and/or panel-based studies. To illustrate the new possibilities, we report on a pilot carried out by a cross-disciplinary team consisting of computer scientists and researchers in religious studies. In the latter area, research is often focused on mapping out the convictions, hopes, and beliefs of groups of people, be it within certain religions or within any other group, such as those defined by a political party.

In the pilot, religious scholars examined the core keywords in a left-wing political party in order to determine their hopes and beliefs. Rather than following their standard way-of-working, they were equipped with a search engine with an index of content crawled from discussion forums, the party’s web site plus a range of online publications relating to the party and going back to 1990. In this paper we focus on lessons learned and on methodological innovations for religious scholars as well as for computer scientists building the enabling technology.

  • [PDF] J. Bekkenkamp, E. Meij, and M. de Rijke, “Online religious studies,” in Web science 2011, Koblenz, 2011.
    [Bibtex]
    @inproceedings{websci:2011:meij,
    Abstract = {Data transitions have revolutionized many scientific disciplines, starting with the exact sciences, then the life sciences, and now the social sciences and humanities are in the process of making the transition to becoming data intensive sciences, with descriptions through quantitative measurements. New analysis tools and publicly accessible utterances, opinions, transactions and interactions resulting from widespread internet and social media usage facilitate new, data-intensive research methods in disciplines that have so far relied on small-scale literature and/or panel-based studies. To illustrate the new possibilities, we report on a pilot carried out by a cross-disciplinary team consisting of computer scientists and researchers in religious studies. In the latter area, research is often focused on mapping out the convictions, hopes, and beliefs of groups of people, be it within certain religions or within any other group, such as those defined by a political party.
    In the pilot, religious scholars examined the core keywords in a left-wing political party in order to determine their hopes and beliefs. Rather than following their standard way-of- working, they were equipped with a search engine with an index of content crawled from discussion forums, the party‚{\"A}{\^o}s web site plus a range of online publications relating to the party and going back to 1990. In this paper we focus on lessons learned and on methodological innovations for religious scholars as well as for computer scientists building the enabling technology.},
    Address = {Koblenz},
    Author = {Bekkenkamp, J. and Meij, E. and de Rijke, M.},
    Booktitle = {Web Science 2011},
    Date-Added = {2011-10-20 10:49:41 +0200},
    Date-Modified = {2012-10-30 08:39:02 +0000},
    Title = {Online Religious Studies},
    Year = {2011}}

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