Cultivating Online and Offline Pathways to Enlightenment: Religious Authority and Strategic Arbitration in Wired Buddhist Organization

17 May, 2016
Photo Credit: Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple, by Kelman Chiang from SRN's SG Photobank

Photo Credit: Wat Ananda Metyarama Thai Buddhist Temple, by Kelman Chiang from SRN’s SG Photobank (http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/srn/photos-bank/wat-ananda-metyarama-thai-buddhist-temple/)

The advent of new media has led to changes in structures of authority and religion is no exception. The source of authority for religious leaders has traditionally been their knowledge in mediating and interpreting religious doctrines. So how does the digitization of religious knowledge affect religious authorities, given that followers now have access to online religious knowledge which empowers them to challenge the legitimacy of their religious authorities?

A/P Pauline Hope Cheong (Arizona State University), A/P Shirlena Huang (National University of Singapore), Prof Jessie P.H. Poon (University at Buffalo-SUNY) take on this question by studying Buddhist organizations in Singapore. Through conducting in-depth interviews with Buddhist leaders, these authors argue that Buddhist leaders maintain their epistemic authority through strategic arbitration. Rather than forcing a discussion over who is the proper authority in the digital age, Buddhist leaders instead play the role of arbiters guiding their followers in navigating the online-offline realm of knowledge.

This interesting article about religious authority in the digital age was published in Information, Communication & Society (2011). To learn more, please click here.