Online and offline – locating a pagan community
Coco, A 2008, 'Online and offline – locating a pagan community', Cyberproceedings, The 2008 International Conference CESNUR and INFORM: Twenty years and more: research into minority religions, new religious movements and ‘the New Spirituality, London School of Economics, London, 16-20 April, Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), Turin, Italy.
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This paper examines the ways Australian pagans use email discussion lists as a means of fostering community amongst dispersed offline practitioners. Sociologists struggle with ways of characterising the pagan movement as it appears to lack the necessary identifiable set of uniform beliefs and organizational characteristics evidenced by other religions (Nietz 1994). Bruce (2002) argues that pagans are too dispersed geographically to acquire the status of a social force. While Berger (1999) states that paganism bears the characteristics of a late-modern religion one is left with the question as to how social solidarity amongst people gathering under the pagan umbrella might be achieved. New information and communication technologies (ICTs) accompanying globalisation are changing the forms of human association and have stimulated speculation regarding the extent to which they are able to mobilise groups and foster community. Theoretical models and metaphors for religion which are based on geo-temporal motifs may be inadequate to characterizing community in the networked society. It is suggested that ways of understanding religious movements in the 21st century might be facilitated by research methodologies that examine patterns in communicative practices. Wenger’s theory of ‘communities of practice’ (1998) is used to examine how pagans communicate both online and offline to negotiate and develop a sense of community.