Rachel Wagner, PhD
Reading Religion Dispatches will slowly introduce me to more people who write, study, work on the topic of religion and the internet. On Labor Day I read about a new online game based on the Bible. The author, Rachel Wagner, explains what a MMORTS (massively multiplayer online real-time strategy) is and how this kind of games work. Then she asks lots of good questions the game poses, including:
- How [does] the game’s dynamics handle the problem of divine inevitability and human interaction?
- Could the very notion of interactivity in a game like this have some effect on our everyday approach to the Bible’s stories?
- What if anything it means if I, as a woman, play as Abraham and direct the conquest of Canaan?
- What exactly would it mean to win the game?
- If I play it, do I become more "pious?"
- How we as a culture we are trying to figure out the relationship between play, theology, and performance of belief.
These intelligent, provocative questions piqued my interest in the author. I found that on Religion Dispatches she wrote two more articles: Dreaming Cyborg Dreams: Virtual Identity and Religious Experience in 2009 (about "four types of immersive new media that address the issue of religious identity") and Sacred Texting: When Religious Writ Gets Wired in 2008 (seeking answers for the questions of "What are the new forms that sacred texts are taking? And what are the implications of these transformations?") Next, I checked Ms. Wagner's page at Ithaca College, where she is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy. There I learned that her "work centers on the study of religion and culture, including especially religion and film and religion and virtual reality." These are topics that interests me too, so I will definitely will follow her work. "Following" in this case mostly means to follow her "Godwired" Twitter feed, which is about her upcoming book "Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality." The book should be out next year. Till then I recommend reading her articles online.