3. Religion, Technology, and Art

In this sub-theme, we look for material that advances our understanding of how technologies, particularly technologies that impact us through the arts, affect religious beliefs and activities. This includes both ways in which technologies can enhance religious experiences, leading to richer experiences and deeper commitments, and ways in which technologies produce experiences that intervene in and even compete with religious beliefs and practices, fulfilling the same needs as, up until now, religions have fulfilled exclusively.

Specific topics include but are not limited to:

  • Virtual Reality’s ability to immerse viewers within worlds that until now existed only in their imaginations —inside the Garden of Eden, for instance, alongside Adam and Eve.
  • VR’s potential to reclaim old sacred spaces (rituals could be held within a VR version of Stonehenge, for example) and to create new sacred spaces located outside the mundane world.
  • Artists’ use of technology to challenge religion’s protocols.  For example, the 2017 VR piece L’Apparizione created by Christian Lemmerz and the Khora Company, invites viewers to move around a golden, levitating Christ, pressing close to his body, if they wish.
  • Older technological practices that manifested or enhanced religious experiences.  Typically, we have understood religion to be anchored in metaphysics and technology in physics, but this is a post-Enlightenment distinction. In tribal cultures, there are no absolute boundaries between actions resulting from technology and religious magic.  Ancient engineers developed machines that could magically open temple doors or cause the fires on altars to spontaneously blaze up when a worshipper entered the space, thus generating a divine presence. The Great Awakenings of 19th-century America promoted the idea that technologies such as the telegraph could connect humans not only to one another but also to the divine. How do different communities understand the boundaries between manifestation, enhancement and deceptive illusion?
  • Might technologically mediated experiences replace religion altogether? Religion’s characteristic effects include moving people outside of their everyday concerns; mediated experiences seem increasingly capable of doing this without adhering to a specific religious tradition—or any religious tradition at all.

The panel solicits proposals from scholars and artists. Presentations may take the form of a paper delivered to the audience, the presentation of a work of art, or some combination of these.

Sub-theme hosted by Sarah Iles Johnston and Jacob Wamberg 

Submit a proposal of a maximum 500 words.

Submit abstract to EasyChair here