Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life

Overview

Millions of users have taken up residence in virtual worlds, and in those worlds they find opportunities to revisit and rewrite their religious lives. Robert M. Geraci argues that virtual worlds and video games have become a locus for the satisfaction of religious needs, providing many users with devoted communities, opportunities for ethical reflection, a meaningful experience of history and human activity, and a sense of transcendence. Using interviews, surveys, and his own first-hand experience within the ...

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Virtually Sacred: Myth and Meaning in World of Warcraft and Second Life

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Overview

Millions of users have taken up residence in virtual worlds, and in those worlds they find opportunities to revisit and rewrite their religious lives. Robert M. Geraci argues that virtual worlds and video games have become a locus for the satisfaction of religious needs, providing many users with devoted communities, opportunities for ethical reflection, a meaningful experience of history and human activity, and a sense of transcendence. Using interviews, surveys, and his own first-hand experience within the virtual worlds, Geraci shows how World of Warcraft and Second Life provide participants with the opportunity to rethink what it means to be religious in the contemporary world. Not all participants use virtual worlds for religious purposes, but many online residents use them to rearrange or replace religious practice as designers and users collaborate in the production of a new spiritual marketplace.

Using World of Warcraft and Second Life as case studies, this book shows that many residents now use virtual worlds to re-imagine their traditions and work to restore them to "authentic" sanctity, or else replace religious institutions with virtual communities that provide meaning and purpose to human life. For some online residents, virtual worlds are even keys to a post-human future where technology can help us transcend mortal life. Geraci argues that World of Warcraft and Second Life are "virtually sacred" because they do religious work. They often do such work without regard for-and frequently in conflict with-traditional religious institutions and practices; ultimately they participate in our sacred landscape as outsiders, competitors, and collaborators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Robert Geraci's astute argument that video gamers discover enchantment, redemption, and transcendence in gaming deserves widespread attention. Virtually Sacred is one of the most original treatments of gaming and participation in virtual worlds I have ever read. The elegant, understated prose provides the perfect foil for Geraci's unexpected, provocative foray into grasping the contours of religiosity in gaming and virtual worlds." —Bonnie Nardi, Professor at University of California, Irvine, and author of My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft

"This lucid but sophisticated book demonstrates that online virtual realities like World of Warcraft and Second Life allow the sacred to flourish in a secular society, encourage players to experiment with ethical issues, sustain community in an age when tribe is an obsolete concept, and offer not merely escape but transcendence." —William Sims Bainbridge, author of The Warcraft Civilization and eGods

"In Virtually Sacred, Robert Geraci argues that 'virtual worlds are now rearranging or replacing religious practice', competing with traditional religions and their stories in a new spiritual marketplace. This provocative book represents a major empirical and theoretical step forward for the study of digital religion, engaging seriously and thoughtfully with the history of religions, virtual anthropology and actor-network theory, and will make an essential contribution to the next generation of debates in the field of religion, media, and culture." —Tim Hutchings, CODEC, St. John 's College, Durham University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199344697
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 7/14/2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Geraci is Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. He is the author of Apocalyptic AI: Visions of Heaven in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Virtual Reality and many essays that analyze the ways in which human beings use technology to make the world meaningful. He was the principle investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to study virtual worlds and the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Award (2012-2013), which allowed him to investigate the intersections of religion and technology at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Real Stories in Virtual Worlds
1) A Cultural Adventure
2) Polite Society
3) A World with Meaning
4) The Flow of Faith Online
5) Another Life for Religion
6) Sacred Second Lives
7) Reassembling Religion
Appendix: On Method in the Study of Virtual Worlds
References
Notes
Index

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