Digitalization and Society

by Bünyamin Ayhan (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 210 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Digitalization and Religion (Mehmet Akgül)
  • Digital Literacy (Bünyamin Ayhan)
  • Digital Economy and Bitcoin (Haldun Soydal)
  • Digital Politics (Hasret Aktaş)
  • Digitalization and Civil Society (M. Nejat Özüpek)
  • Digital Health (Uludağ / Asst. Prof. Yusuf Yalçin İleri)
  • Historical Development of Games and Digital Games as a Product of the Culture Industry (Selahattin Çavuş)
  • Digitalization and Law (Abdurrahman Savaş)
  • Changing Face of Economic System: Digital Economy and its Effects on Employment (Fatma Nur Yorgancilar)
  • Digital Photography from Different Aspects (Salih Tiryaki)
  • Digitalized Culture of New Generation (Tuba Livberber Göçmen)

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Prof. Mehmet Akgül*

Digitalization and Religion


The development of communication technology and its interaction with religion has a controversial and conflicting history. Considering the speed and present level of communication technology’s historical development, we can say that there is a media problem that is far more important than our estimation. One can say that, for the last two centuries, there has been a worldwide revolution in the means of information production and transmittance. The impact of the media, displaying a slow progress, in the beginning, has nowadays gained tremendous momentum through its own particular dynamics. Printing technology, which the Western world surprisingly came to know about as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century, has reached different dimensions with the invention of the telegraph, radio, television, video recording devices, and finally with the rise of new electronic media or communication technology such as the Internet. Thus there has been a transformation into full-fledged mass media that has the effect and power of almost instantly reshaping social life (Akgül, 2008: 40).

The invention of printing technology has been considered as a turning point in reference to the speed of technological development and transformation process, to the extent that history is divided into the ‘pre-print’ and the ‘post-print’ eras. When the radio was invented in the following centuries, the division of ‘the pre-Marconi’ and ‘the post-Marconi’ periods arose (Matelski & Liynch, 1997: xi). To distinguish present time from earlier periods, we can now use the division of ‘the pre-Internet’ and ‘the post-Internet’ time periods.

This chapter is intended to investigate the forms that religious culture has taken on in the digital age which humanity has been experiencing and which differs from the earlier ages within the framework of information, technology, and religion. It shall discuss the controversial religious differentiations taking place in the transformation processes as well as the process of religions reproducing themselves in the modern period through the media in a way that is quite different from the earlier periods. In this context, religion shall be considered in connection with its interaction with communication, technology, and the cultural world. ← 9 | 10 →

The new way of living, interrelating and understanding the values that have been rationally built on modern science and technology, in spite of the great resistance by traditional religions, has mostly taken a negative attitude towards religion on the one hand. On the other hand, it has accelerated the ‘religious awakening’ process that has arisen all over the world especially from the 1960s onwards. However, this religious awakening shows that traditional religious forms also undergo change and differentiation from time to time. Therefore, some scholars, in parallel to the developments occurring in communication technology and with an optimistic outlook, refer to the process of change that has been taking place in the post-1960s in the sphere of religion as the ‘Third Great Awakening’ (Altheide & Snow, 1991: 203). On the other hand, religions and religious organizations that have stood up and reacted against modernity in the context of the interaction between communication technology and religion call the present age an ‘age of degeneration’. One can find a number of examples for this phenomenon in the history of religions. The reactions developed and the positions taken by traditional religions vis-à-vis social, scientific, and technological challenges point to the issue of religion versus change as one of the most complicated areas of conflict in history. Though the debates that have been conducted in the last centuries in the context of religion versus change over secularism and the future of religion have lost their earlier vigor, they still retain their freshness and intensity to a certain degree.

To say it in the clearest terms, we are now faced with the problem of whether religion will be able to protect its original character in the face of the tides of scientific and technological progress and socio-cultural changes as it is considered to have a set of ‘unchanging beliefs’, an institutional authority, and a host of ritual and ethical principles, or if we now face the ‘new forms’ it will assume in this process (Güngör, 2006: 330). This problem requires us to address, before anything else, the religion-society relation and the nature of technological progress. On the other hand, the issue of the ‘importance of religion’ that has never decreased for individuals and society pushes us to reconsider the secularization theories that had questioned the religion-life relation from the nineteenth to the second half of the twentieth century.

Communication Technologies and the Changing Human Situation

Communication technologies, accompanied by the vehement wind of change that tosses our life about in the present period of time, promise humanity a ‘new civilization’, an ‘information revolution’, or an ‘information society’. First of all, the progress in the field of communication technologies allows for worldwide ← 10 | 11 → access to information with its full diversity, paving the way for the rise of a new network of social relations among individuals and thus leading to the formation of a new domain of social values. In the opinion of the utopists of the digital age, communication technologies will at the same time create chances for a more productive and developed employment. These, in turn, will raise the quality of work in many jobs on a micro-scale, increasing the independent and nonstandard forms of production (Hamelink, 1998: 20).

Cees Hamelink, who took part in the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (and Information Technologies) (UNRISD), discusses the progress in communication technology from the perspective of worldwide population rates, levels of using communication technologies, technical infrastructure, and economic investment. Hamelink also makes different global comparisons in an attempt to describe the new form of the world and possible future problem areas. The most important of his findings is that more than 50% of the global population has never made a phone call. Thus, he emphasizes the contradictions inherent in the digital age and calls attention to the possible problem areas in that age. He also points to worldwide problems and inequalities such as the need for energy that will arise as a result of the increase in the use of communication technology; the inequality between developed and developing countries with respect to communication infrastructure, network, and using-skills; and other things such as hardships in technology transference, the lack of political and legal arrangement, intellectual property rights, taxation, and personal and institutional access to the digital nets (Hamelink, 1998: 21–22).

Along with the problems noted as concerns with communication technology, he also points to some positive developments. For him, the spread of the use of communication technologies, despite certain drawbacks, will produce a global homogenous culture. In addition, the encounters between different cultures will give rise to a new and creative way of life in terms of understanding each other. This foresight suggests the formation of communities of new values that could easily surpass traditional borders of religion, ethnicity, gender, and age. This will broaden new alternatives of communication (styles) to be established among communities. Moreover, could be sources of knowledge, commercial and communicative networks, securing lobbying activities, social mobility, performing the function of a democratic and viable social development.

In the same manner, education through communication technology will increase the potential of distance education and will increase people’s access to libraries. The use of electronic networks will also facilitate health services by making it possible for physicians to obtain the best possible diagnosis and provide ← 11 | 12 → necessary therapies to patients, while also decreasing health expenses. Communication technology will also help to develop an early warning system against possible global disasters and climate change impacts and will also help to increase the level of awareness of the most suitable and efficient agriculture production methods amongst agriculture professionals. It has the advantage of increasing our level of environmental awareness. It will also increase social awareness to decrease the rate of air pollution caused by scattered industrial facilities and will prevent the negative impacts they cause to the local environment. Last but not least, the use of communication technology will create a new free-civil domain and new global communities through the digital network. Many new social movements from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ecological movements, feminist organization activities, and human rights activist movements will force the conceptions of local government to change and sovereignty to transform, causing the growth of democratic standards and supporting many social-civil groups (Hamelink, 1998: 21–22). The developments pointed out by Hamelink have already started to be felt all over the world.

The changes taking place in communication technology, that with its reflections in all spheres challenge the set standards of life, call for new considerations and social scientific efforts. One may wonder if the human being, to look from a pessimistic outlook, is confronted with new uncontrollable situations as a consequence of the mischief caused by “what he has done by his own hands” (Qur’an, the Chapter Rūm, 41). Or, with an optimistic outlook, does the new phase reached by science and technology, and thus by communication media, offer humanity new possibilities and achievements?

The information revolution, a term coined to refer to the present level reached by science and technology and the spread of knowledge in every field, and changes in human thought and action that are caused by progress in this field. This has rendered various points of discussions on the new era of civilization, the new network of social relations, and the new domain of social values.

When values are in question, the first thing to be noticed is the fact that new networks of social relations and social values begin to spread quickly in social life. The classical values that had for centuries served as a principal source and guide for human thought and behavior have been replaced by the new network of social relations and the scale of values, both originating from technology. In this context, we wonder what kind of relationship exists between the unchanging traditional values claiming universality and the technological development that changes human life with constant changes and novelties. In this context, we should address the processes of historical interaction and transformation that have taken ← 12 | 13 → place between religion and communication technology, which have relativized the traditional understanding of values of a mostly religious origin and made claim for building an area of new values.

The Relationship between Techno-Scientific Development and Values

The relationship between technology and man is one of the major problems caused by modernity. In contrast to the traditional worldview that ‘man can know what is natural, but cannot change it’, the modern worldview and conception of science, putting in practice the principle that man cannot only know, but also change and thus rebuild what is natural, prevailed in the modern world. The modern outlook pitted the traditional world and man, having a relatively static rhythm of change, against the present world and process of change. The long and controversial contest for domination that had taken place between ‘believing’ and ‘knowing-acting’ resulted in the victory of technology that enabled the processes of rationalization, secularization, and modernization to know the natural and social worlds to their utmost details and to control them. Though there has been extensive theoretical debate about the pros and cons of technology and many theories have been set forth about its practical results – such as alienation, anomy, etc. – in the history of modern thought, no decisive conclusion on the nature and consequences of technology has been reached. However, one can summarize ongoing debates and current results in four categories (Güngör, 1990: 29–30):


This book presents a collection of papers by researchers from several different institutions on a wide range of digital issues.
Digitalization describes the phenomenon of how knowledge is processed and the processed knowledge provides social transformations beyond digitization, interaction, annihilation of time and space, the phenomenon of usage in multimedia. Transformed is not only the society but also its mentality. Digitalization reveals a sui generis digimodern process by processing modern structures with the help of compulsory tools. This process is a reconstruction of social structures and institutions on the basis of the digitalization perspective. Each social institution adapts this process and provides a contribution to the digitalization of society.

Biographical notes

Bünyamin Ayhan (Volume editor)

Bünyamin Ayhan is a professor at the Faculty of Communication at Selçuk University, before which he was a guest associated professor at the Faculty of Communication at the Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University.


Title: Digitalization and Society