Friday, November 11, 2011

Authority Online

Authority is a key element in understanding the ways of a religion. In Hinduism, community temples look to a priest for their authority within the temple. This however is very different to the authority that Hindus seek to find in an online setting. What is the nature of an online authority for Hinduism? This question is something that I would like to slightly address in my blog this week.
                For some of the websites that I have begun to look at, such as and, there seems to be a lack of authority found on the website. There is contact information to reach about general questions or concerns involving the site, however there doesn’t seem to be the type of authority that Hindus generally look for as they do to their priest in their offline temples. This lack of authority places a higher importance on identity. For example, visitors to the site rely on themselves for their benefits from the website. They must partake in prayer individually, and are not able to confide or address questions towards a hierarchical figure in the Hind faith. However, this does not mean that authority is absent in every online temple for Hindus.
                In another website I have been looking at,, it is very clear who the main authority is not only for the website, but also for help and questioning in prayers and the religion itself. The Shiv Shakti Peeth “was originally established in Kurukshetra, India by Swami Harishchander Puri,” who still maintains contact information on the site for questions, concerns, lecture requests, and audio, video, and picture requests. He is a very active part on the website, and clearly a main authority figure based on his attention, communication, and feedback from the website. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a lot of information on Swami Harishchander Puri through the website or by using basic search engines. This presents the problem of knowing whether or not an authority figure is a legitimate source or not. Pauline Cheong references this problem in an article by explaining that the logic of disjuncture and displacement “perspective refers to dominant approaches in which digital media is framed to be corrosive and disruptive to traditional religious authority, stressing an erosion of power for traditional institutions and leaders, to define and determine the meaning of religious symbols” (Cheong, 5, 2011). Here, Cheong is expressing that religious context online can sometimes change or disregard a presence of authority and in knowing the legitamcy of the authority. Authority is something that cannot always be easily found for religious purposes in an online setting.

Cheong, P. (2011). Authority. Arizona State University: Online Document, 5

Friday, November 4, 2011

Research Question & Case Study

My research question will focus on what aspects of online religious practices, specifically within the Hinduism faith, strongly affect their religious identity; centered around whether or not their core values and beliefs are being strengthened or weakened and discovering if this influence differentiates their Hindu identity from that of the identity they would originally possess without using online tools.
                In order to understand this inquiry, I will research three specific subgroups including: the importance of Hindu identity, how the notion of identity comes into play on the World Wide Web, and how a Hindu identity interacts in an online setting. I will also be creating a case study to add to my research of scholars that have studied this subject before by looking at a few online Hinduism sites. While looking at these sites, I will understand the differences of identity online in an informational site vs. interactive site sense. In other words, I will compare different websites to see what aspects they have that allow growth of an individual’s Hindu identity; some may be more of an informational medium, and others will allow the visitor to participate in Hindu traditions.
                The websites that I want to incorporate in my study, so far, include the following:

                I believe that it is important to look at multiple sites in order to have a consistent answer to my question of Hindu identity online.