Seeking through the small screen: Television as a resource for negotiating and constructing personal spirituality

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Title: Seeking through the small screen: Television as a resource for negotiating and constructing personal spirituality
Authors: Martin, Wendy
Date: 2007
Abstract: One of the noted changes in religious behaviour in North Atlantic societies, has been the movement away from traditional institutionalized religions and towards non-institutional religion and personal forms of spirituality often characterized by individuals' mix and match various religious and secular ideas, beliefs and practices in order to form personal forms of 'religion' (Luckmann 1967; Bibby 1987, 1991, 2001; Roof 1993, 1999; Wuthnow 1998; Zinnbauer 1999; Heelas 2002; Heelas and Woodhead 2005). Such trends then beg the questions, specifically how are people constructing their personal religions? Are there common resources helping to shape and influence individual's personal forms of spirituality? How are elements such as individualism, consumerism and communication and information technologies impacting upon and reflected in contemporary religious practices? Inspired by these research questions, this thesis investigates how television functions as a cultural resource for negotiating and constructing personal forms of spirituality. Using in-depth interviews with 30 research participants this project examines how self-identified 'spiritual' individuals define and describe the relationship between their spirituality and their television viewing. Combing insights from sociological literature examining contemporary spirituality, with the research participants' definitions and descriptions of spirituality, I come to interpret spirituality as both a product and a process; that is, spirituality as 'specific beliefs and practices' and spirituality as 'the act of learning, thinking, talking about transcendent meaning' (Besecke 2002; 2005). The term 'transcendent' as it is used in this context refers to the postulation by individuals or collectives, that there is some form of reality and meaning outside, beyond or underneath every day, objective reality (Luckmann, 1967:58; Berger 1969:53; Wuthnow 1976:71; Dawson 1987:228; Besecke 2005:183). Based on this understanding of spirituality as product and process, I argue that television programs play a role in cultural dialogues about transcendent meaning, offering a platform through which viewers reflexively explore a variety of spiritual themes, topics and issues. To support this argument, I present interview data demonstrating how the participants in this study use television programs as way to help define what counts as spirituality; to shape and inform their spiritual beliefs, general worldviews and concepts of morality; to foster curiosity, learning and open-mindedness; as an outlet for working through different possibilities, options and potential forms of ultimate meaning, as evidence of ii transcendent reality; and importantly, as a way to satisfy their interest in spirituality. Further, I argue that participants use television as a resource for a particular form of spiritual consumption as they continuously seek out both new and more information, knowledge, and ideas related to an assortment of religious, spiritual and transcendent themes.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/29678
http://dx.doi.org/10.20381/ruor-13093
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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