Follow-up post

The IAHR 2015 is over, and the first IAHR THATCamp took place in Erfurt. Given the huge competition of concurrent panels, there was quite a bit of interest in discussing the use of technology in the study of religion.

Instead of summarizing all of the lively discussions, I just want to use this post to collect links to the different projects that were mentioned during the session:

(social) media projects

Text analysis

Feel free to add links or remarks in the comments!

Digital text collections and computational text analysis

A major branch of the much discussed so-called digital humanities is computational text analysis. This quantitative approach to the study of texts requires—preferably large—collections of digital (or: digitized) texts.

Since an important branch of religious studies is also textual scholarship, it might be worthwhile to discuss if and how religious studies can benefit from these new methods. But it is also important to discuss the prerequisites and implications of such approaches.

In the session, I would like to give a very short introduction to computational analysis, but then mainly discuss with the participants:

  • What computational methods are already applied in religious studies?
  • What new methodological developments are potentially fruitful for religious studies?
  • Which digital collections of religious texts exist, and how can they be used?
  • How can the accessibility and interoperability of text collections be enhanced?


Within the last years some national and international (English speaking) blog initiatives emerged from a Study of Religions (SR) background and with different focuses (self-promoting, NGO promoting, research promoting etc.). One new blog initiative rooted in Germany is run by some post-doc.
Our mission is to offer a new medium for topics which are of individual interest but yet have a research background, like “I’ve always wanted to write something about XY, but ….”. To ensure that only the topics are in the foreground and no special C.V.-orientated interest, we have some special rules for contributors like publishing only with initials and writing articles within 100 minutes with no more than 1.000 words.
In the ThatCamp session on Friday we want to share our Blog experience with you and discuss some topics which are of special interest for us as well as (hopefully) others:
One very important point for us is “interactivity”. On the one hand this is one (maybe main) reason to go into social media, but also hard to initiate. – How is it possible to initiate a discussion or contributions to articles and statements? We notice a strong interest in reading articles which are published on our blog, but we have little commenting activity.
Another point of interest is a discussion about the targeted audience for SR-Blogs, but also for other social media users within SR.


General discussion about SR-blogging and other SR-social media initiatives
We are also interested in sharing and discussing our experiences and points of interest with other SR-Blog users (readers, writers, and initiators) and user from other kinds of social media.
And, of course, we will be happy to network with other SR-social media initiators and get more and other experiences to work on. For this and all the other written points above, the ThatCamp seems to be the right place.

Mapping visitors of the Dutch online project ‘New We’

The Dutch multimedia New We project ( started in December 2008. The aim of the project is to promote social cohesion in a society, which is at the same time secular, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. The challenge is to find answers to the question of how to live together in peace and harmony without denying the mutual differences. Starting from the motto ‘Connect the differences’, the project’s website offers elaborate information about different religious and spiritual backgrounds of people, and personal stories and views on topical issues in society from diverse perspectives. The idea behind the New We project is learning to deal with different worldviews without unnecessary anxiety towards ‘the other’ and with fewer prejudices. Information and communication in order to promote mutual understanding and connecting people are important ingredients in the search of a ‘New We’.

After six years the website has about 45.000 unique visitors every month and the number of visitors is still increasing. This autumn, a research is planned to ‘map’ these visitors. This will be done in terms of demographics (age, gender, ethnic/cultural/religious background and such), but also – actually the most important question – in terms of interests. Why do people visit the site, what do they hope to find, how is it relevant to their daily lives?

With this THAT camp session, I would like to call in the expertise and creativity of the participants of the conference. What could be interesting questions for this research to present to website visitors? And also: how to use the site and social media for doing research in an effective way, while at the same time building up a ‘new we’ community’?

THATCamp at the IAHR conference 2015

From August 23–29 2015, the conference of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) will take place in Erfurt, Germany. As part of this conference, a THATCamp is planned. It will take place on two days: Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. and Friday, August 28, 1:30-3 p.m. at CT (the white tent at the university entrance).

The THATCamp is an open space: There will be no fixed schedule until the day of the camp itself. Instead, the camp provides an opportunity for people interested in the use of technology in the study of religions to exchange about any topic they like.

You can all contribute to the camp and make sure the topics you care about are addressed.

  1. If you want to contribute to the program, please create an account. (Even if you just want to attend, you may like to register. All registered participants will appear on the campers page, so you can see who else is joining.)
  2. Once your registration is confirmed, you can propose a session. Due to the limited time, sessions will probably be ~10–20 minutes long. If you propose a session, please be ready to facilitate it.
  3. Spread the word about the THATCamp and your session. If you use twitter, you can use the hashtags #thatcamp #iahr2015.
  4. Come to the camp, no matter if you proposed a session or are just curious. Help set the agenda and have a nice time!