Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2016 Volume 12 :: Article 4
2016 Volume 12, Article 4
Religious Apps for Smartphones and Tablets: Transforming Religious Authority and the Nature of Religion

Author: Cortney Hughes Rinker, Jesse Roof, Emily Harvey, Elyse Bailey, and Hannah Embler (George Mason University)

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This article focuses on the intricate and close relationship between religion and technology. It examines the use of religious applications (often referred to as “apps”) for smartphones and tablets. Apps are computer programs that are either free or available for purchase from places like the Apple iTunes store. Smartphones and tablets are easy and convenient ways to access information on the Internet and to connect to other users around the world. Religion has not been excluded from the coming of these new types of technology. There are hundreds of religious apps focused different faiths available. This article recounts the experiences of Christian and Muslim university students living near Washington, D.C. who self-report using religious apps on a regular basis. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews between 2014 and 2016. Using their experiences, we argue that religious apps are changing how religious authority is defined and are altering who is considered to be a religious leader according to our participants. We suggest that because of the portability of smartphones and tablets, the nature of religion has shifted from being located primarily in the public (i.e., institutions) to the more private spaces of their everyday lives. Moreover, given our sample, we also try to show how these students make sense of religions in a neoliberal age of media.

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