Media and Religion: The Mobile Phone as a Key Actor
By Allwell O. Nwankwo, PhD
The media and religion have always enjoyed some affinity. Various religions use the media to propagate their faith. On the other hand, the media promote religion. At the level of the individual, however, it seems the mobile phone has become an integral part not only of everyday life but also of “doing religion.” The article, Connectivity and communion: The mobile phone and the Christian religious experience in Nigeria, published recently in New Media & Society, explores the fusion of the mobile phone into the Christian religious experience, using mediatization theory as an analytical lens.
Specifically, the article (based on an online survey) addresses the following questions: What role does the mobile phone play in contemporary religious experience? What types of religious content are consumed on the phone? What are people’s attitudes towards the use of mobile phones during worship? How is the mobile phone perceived as a tool for religious practice?
No doubt, Nigerians are among the most religious people on earth. A study by WIN-Gallup International indicates they are second only to Thais. So, religion is a very important institution and, most times, a critical identity marker in the country. The article, therefore, touches on two salient strands that, with other elements, form the warp and woof of the society.
The findings of the study suggest that many people go to church with their phones. While there, they read the digital Bible or sing from the digital hymnal on the phone. The more adventurous ones make calls, send messages, and share content on social media during worship. But not everyone considers this acceptable. Critics believe the mobile phone should not come to church at all. Advocates think it should be welcome in church and used to reach out. Dualists say it is neither here nor there as actual usage determines what the phone can do.
Outside the worship environment, the mobile phone continues to serve as an always-available “techno-spiritual” gadget. And in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems safe to predict that the mobile phone and other digital technologies will be called upon to play an even more prominent role in religion and other spheres of life.
The article is published here
The accepted version can be downloaded here
Allwell Nwankwo holds a PhD in Media and Communication from the Pan-Atlantic University. He had earlier on obtained a BSc in Mass Communication and an MSc in Marketing from the University of Lagos. His research interests include mobile phone technocultures, digital religion, mediatization of everyday life, and phenomenology in communication research. A marketing professional for over 20 years, Allwell currently works at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group. His previous roles include: Managing Director, University of Lagos Press & Bookshop Ltd; Head of Marketing, Longman Nigeria Plc; AGM Marketing, Coscharis Technologies Ltd; Product Manager, SC Johnson; Product Group Manager, PERA-BEAM (UACN Plc); and Senior Correspondent, Corporate. Allwell has published in top journals such as New Media & Society, Africa Journal of Management, Observatorio, Romanian Journal of Communication and Public Relations, and International Journal of Cultural and Creative Industries. His books include How to Serve & Keep Your Customers, 20 Universal Laws of Service Excellence, How to Succeed at Job Interviews, and Customer Service at a Glance (on Amazon). Allwell is married and blessed with three children. Besides work and academics, he is a songwriter and choral music director.