Kelsey Mcginnis: Final Project
Table of Contents


Working title: “Cyber Sanctuaries: Virtual Places of Worship in American Evangelicalism”

In February 2015, Barna Group published a research report on the changing role of the internet and virtual spaces in American Evangelical churches. According to this report, nearly half of the pastors surveyed (over 1,000) believe that ten years from now, some of their congregants will be having all of their spiritual or religious experiences in online communities or through webcasting, online videos, and other media. Scholars from an array of disciplines have been interested in online religious communities for over a decade. I am interested in contributing to this growing body of research by exploring musical participation in sacred virtual spaces. My proposed research project focuses on the webcasting of congregational music and the experiences of those who choose to participate in it by proxy. How do virtual worshippers perceive the digital tools that mediate their experience? Do they sing aloud, or do they listen and observe? Do individuals choose this mode of participation for privacy? Are congregants “church shopping” for a particular style of music or aesthetic that cannot be found in a local church?

To answer these and other questions, I will conduct a survey of American Evangelical Christians who have tried or regularly participate in online musical worship. The purpose of the survey is to gather the qualitative data needed to present a nuanced, critical perspective on webcast musical worship. Participants who do not regularly choose this mode of participation will have the opportunity to explain why they prefer to attend a church service. I will present the survey findings within existing frameworks utilized by ethnomusicologists currently working on this subject (particularly drawing on the work of Monique Ingalls, Sara Moslener, and Julie Ingersoll). Through ethnographic research and engagement with current scholarship, I hope to present preliminary conclusions (or new hypotheses and questions) on this complex subject.

Project format: Research paper
Final presentation: Partial paper reading and multimedia presentation

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