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‘WWW.Faith.Org’: (Re)structuring communication and social capital building among religious organizations.

Title‘WWW.Faith.Org’: (Re)structuring communication and social capital building among religious organizations.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsCheong, PH, Poon, J
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Keywordscommunity, internet, social capital, theory of religion online

This paper examines the relationships between Internet and social capital building within religious organizations, a relatively understudied foci. Building upon theoretical insights provided by new institutionalism and recent research on the Internet, social capital and religion, this article explores the ways in which religious organizations, have (re)structured their norms, values, and practices of religious community in light of the incorporation of the Internet into their congregational life. Drawing from interviews conducted with Christian and Buddhist religious leaders in Toronto, this article discusses three major relationships in which the effects of the Internet on social capital may be understood, that is, complementary, transformative, and perverse relationships. Religious organizations are traditionally associated with relatively high stocks of social capital, yet findings here suggest that their communicative norms, values, and practices are changing to varying extent. The results also indicate that the relationship between the Internet and social capital building is largely complementary; however the Internet is perceived by some to be a ‘mixed blessing’, facilitating the potential transformation of organizational practices that affect community norms while leading to the dispersion of religious ties that could undermine community solidarity. Thus, contrary to earlier studies that have documented no evidence of innovations involving the reconfiguration of organizational practices and the adjustment of mission or services, findings here illustrate how some religious organizations have expanded the scope of their calling and restructured their communicative practices to spur administrative and operational effectiveness. Like other organizations, religious organizations are not insulated from technological changes including those associated with the Internet’s. This study clarifies and identifies key ways in which the distinct spirituality, cultural values, and institutional practices and norms of religious organizations influence communication processes that constitute bridging and bonding forms of social capital in this era of faith.