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Heidi Campbell

  1. Contents
  2. Biography
  3. Theoretical Contribution
    1. Religious-Social Shaping of Technology
      1. History and Tradition
      2. Core Beliefs
      3. Negotiation
      4. Communal Framing
  4. New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies
  5. References

Heidi A Campbell is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication [1] and an Affiliate Faculty in the Religious Studies Interdisciplinary Program at Texas A&M University. She studies religion and new media [2][3][4] and the influence of digital and mobile technologies on religious communities.[5] Her work has covered a range of topics from the rise of religious community online,[6][7] religious blogging[8][9] and religious mobile culture within Christianity, Judaism and Islam, to exploring technology practice and fandom as implicit religion and religious framings within in digital games.[10][11]




Campbell received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Spring Arbor University in Michigan (1988-1992) and a Masters from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (1996-1997) in the Theology and Ethics of Communication. She also received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh (2002) where she studied the intersection of Computer-Mediated Communication and Practical Theology in her thesis entitled “Investigating Community Through an Analysis of Christian Email Online Communities”.

Campbell is a scholar of new media, religion and digital culture. Her work has appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion,[12] New Media and Society,[13] Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,[14] Journal of Electronic Broadcasting and Media [15] and the Journal of Contemporary Religion.[16]

She is the author of Exploring Religious Community Online: We are one in the network (Peter Lang, 2005) and When Religion Meets New Media (Routledge, 2010), and editor of Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New media Worlds (Routledge, 2013), and co-editor of A Science and Religion Primer (Baker Academic, 2009) and Playing with Religion in Digital Games (University of Indiana Press, 2014). Campbell is also co-editor of Routledge’s Studies in Religion and Digital Culture book series and on the editorial boards of Ecclesial Practices,pf Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, pf New Media and Society and the Journal of Religion, Media and Culture. She has held research fellowships with the Institute for Advanced Studies-Durham University (UK),[17] Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research-TAMU,[18] Caesarea Rothschild Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science-University of Haifa (Israel) [19] and Institute for the Advanced Studies-University of Edinburgh (UK)[20] and Wycliffe Hall-Oxford University (UK).

Theoretical Contribution

Religious-Social Shaping of Technology

Campbell developed the Religious-Social Shaping of Technology (RSST) approach in order to assist scholars seeking to examine religious user communities negotiation processes related to media technologies. This approach builds upon ideas drawn the social shaping of technology (SST), which sees technological change and user innovation as a social process. RSST views the interrelationship between religious groups and new technologies as a dialectical process, in which the ethos and identity of a religious groups dictates expectations regarding members’ engagement with new media. This approach was developed by Campbell in her book When Religion Meets New Media (Routlege 2010).

A key premise underlying the RSST is that religious communities typically do not reject new forms of technology outright, rather they undergo a sophisticated negotiation process based on their communal background and beliefs. This informs their response to the various affordances offered by a given technology and potential impacts they perceive it may have on their community. The RSST approach employs four layers of investigation:[21]

History and Tradition

A researcher must first uncover aspects of the community’s history and tradition which inform their response to media. Special attention should be given to how they define what constitutes community, authority and their relationship to textual media.

Core Beliefs

Next the core religious and social values of the community must be revealed and examined. Values underlie key religious practices and determine a group’s identity and priorities, also become the basis that guides their response towards and beliefs about a given technology.


Identifying a community’s background and beliefs become a basis for understanding how and why they respond to various media in particular ways. This leads to considering the process of acceptance, rejection and/or re-configuring. If a technology runs counter to their values and priorities they must make choices regarding what aspects of the technology they can accept, need to reject and to what extent its use or design needs to be innovated in order for it to fit into the moral economy of the community.

Communal Framing

Finally it becomes important to pay attention not only to how community’s use but also talk about media. This layer focuses on analyzing the ways in which community members and leaders talk about new media through official policy statements, religious materials, sermons and in interviews. Studying technology talk reveals important identity narratives about the community and how they seek to frame themselves in contemporary society.

The RSST approach to studies of new media has been applied to varied religious context including the Amish faith and tradition influence on their response to technology; The case of Ultra-Orthodox Jews use of the “Kosher” phone ; Religious Christian use of the Internet; Modern Islamic discourses about computers and Baha’í Negotiation with the Internet.

New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies

The study of the intersection between new media, religion and digital culture is often referred to as the study of “digital religion”. Digital religion is defined as “Religion that is constituted in new ways through digital media and cultures… this recognizes that the reformulation of existing religious practices have both online and offline implications. It also means digital culture negotiates our understandings of religious practice in ways that can lead to new experiences, authenticity and spiritual reflexivity” (Campbell, 2013, p. 3).[22]

Digital religion research has become an emerging sub-field within Internet Studies, and display interest not only in the performance of religion online, but also in how religious communities interact with media and negotiate their online and the offline existence. The initial research of digital religion focused on describing and documenting online communities. Throughout the years this sub-field has evolved to investigate online worship spaces and offline institutions and use and response to online environments. The current approaches to digital religion studies focuses on the integration of online-offline use of social media and mobile media. As an effort to create an international interdisciplinary conversation related Digital religion research, The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies [23] was established.

The project was established in 2010 through a grant from the Evans/Glasscock Digital Humanities Project, at Texas A&M University and brought to fruition with the assistance of TAMU's Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture [24] Campbell serves as the project Director.

The Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies brings together scholars from not only religious studies, theology and sociology of religion, but those in fields such as area studies, media studies, political science, and psychology. The Network serves as the leading repository and connection point for scholars, students and independent researchers studying the intersection between new media, religion and digital culture. It provides access to an interactive online bibliography of research works, profiles of scholars actively working in this area, blog reviews of recent published scholarship and an up-to-date list of news items and events related to the study of Digital Religion.


  1. Bio of Heidi A. Campbell
  2. Campbell, H. (2005). Exploring religious community online. New York: Peter Lang-Digital Formation Series.
  3. Campbell, H. (2010). When religion meets new media. London: Routledge
  4. [Campbell, H. & Looy, H. (2009). The science and religion primer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.]
  5. Campbell, H. (2013). Digital religion. Understanding religious practice in new media worlds. London: Routledge.
  6. Campbell, H. (2012). Understanding the relationship between religious practice online and offline in a networked society. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 80(1), 64-93.
  7. Campbell, H. (2013). Religion and the internet: A microcosm for studying internet trends and implications. New Media & Society. 15(5): 680-694.
  8. Campbell, H. (2010). Bloggers and religious authority online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15(2), 251-276.
  9. Campbell, H. & LaPastina, A. (2010). How the iPhone became divine: Blogging, religion and intertextuality. New Media and Society. 12(7), 1191-1127.
  10. [Campbell, H. & Grieve, G. (forthcoming 2014). Playing with religion in video gaming. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.]
  11. Grieve, G. P., & Campbell, H. A. (2014). Studying Religion in Digital Gaming. A Critical Review of an Emerging Field. Online-Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, 5.
  12. The Journal of the American Academy of Religion
  13. New Media & Society
  14. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication
  15. Journal of Electronic Broadcasting and Media
  16. Journal of Contemporary Religion
  17. Institute for Advanced Studies
  18. Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research
  19. Caesarea Rothschild Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science
  20. Institute for the Advanced Studies-University of Edinburgh
  21. Campbell, H. (2010). When religion meets new media.
  22. Campbell, H. (2013). Digital religion. Understanding religious practice in new media worlds. London: Routledge.
  23. Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies at Texas A&M University
  24. Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture.


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