New Book Explores Impact of Digital Media on Buddhism

Buddhism has been uniquely affected by the digital revolution and integration of new media into its spiritual practices. Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus offers a collective interdisciplinary exploration of the existence and nature of Buddhism in the digital and highly networked era we live in. This is the first book in the new Routledge Studies in Religion and Digital Culture series.

Editors Gregory Price Grieve, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and Daniel Veidlinger, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at California State University-Chico, have compiled a collection of significant discussions that surfaced from a 2011 symposium on Buddhism and digital media. This collection provides the first collaborative and multi-disciplinary investigation of how Buddhism intersects with digital and online worlds.

“This volume aims to assess how digital media affect Buddhism and to help us understand what new forms of Buddhist practice, belief, and community are emerging within this digital nexus,” states Veidlinger.

Contributors suggest that digital and online media have now taken the place of oral communication and manuscripts as new conduits for religion. Turning their attention to Buddhism, they examine its relationship with digital media through concrete case studies, ethnographic research, cognitive psychology, historical investigation, and content analysis.

Veidlinger notes that while Buddhism’s relationship to digital media has been understudied there are in fact many important reasons to focus on this topic. For example, Buddhism speaks of notions such as the ideology of constant change, which features prominently in the ephemeral world of digital media as well. It is also a religion that is thriving in our current interconnected world, and practitioners are eagerly utilizing online virtual space for communication, practice and development of new religious communities.

“Rituals are being reconfigured for online virtual worlds and mobile apps, and communities that are spread out across the globe are communicating with each other in new and unprecedented ways,” says Veidlinger. “Buddhism’s authority structures are being challenged in some cases and upheld in others, its scholars are publishing important studies online, and the whole process is being recorded and commented on in innumerable blogs.”

The ten contributors from disciplines such as communication, sociology, Buddhist studies and comparative religion each bring with them diverse perspectives on methodological, historical and sociological approaches to digital Buddhism. Together they ultimately argue that the digital mediation of Buddhism has been an important and well-suited transition that expresses much of this religion’s ethos.
As Grieve notes, “for historic and conceptual reasons Buddhism meshes well with digital media’s affordances. In fact, digital media and Buddhism have shared an intimate link from the very beginning.”

By offering a comparative approach involving scholars from a number of different disciplines this book capture the unique effect new media has on Buddhist communities online and offline. It also shows how digital religion engages and is shaping non-western contexts.
Buddhism, the Internet and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus was release this month, November 2014, by Routledge of the Taylor and Francis group, see:

This summary of research also appears on Religion News Service at: