Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

My[Sacred]Space: Discovering Sacred Space in Cyberspace

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

My[Sacred]Space: Discovering Sacred Space in Cyberspace

Article excerpt

[1] Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe created MySpace in August of 2003. The website is self-described as "an online community that lets you meet your friends' friends." You can "create a community" and "share photos, journals, and interests with your growing network of mutual friends!" (1) Furthermore, it is described as a "social networking platform that allows Members to create unique personal profiles online in order to find and communicate with old and new friends." (2) These friends can view each other's profiles, communicate with each other, share photos, post journals/blogs and comments, and describe their interests. According to Fortune editor Patricia Sellers, MySpace is a place where one can "hang out and express" oneself. It is estimated that there are currently about 2.2 million bands, 8,000 comedians, thousands of filmmakers, and over 100 million "regular" users with MySpace accounts. It is also estimated that the average number of users who sign up each day is about 230,000. (3) In fact, in 2005, MySpace "passed Google in terms of traffic" and currently receives about one billion views per day. (4) Moreover, as of November 2009, there were currently over 265 million user accounts. According to Alexa Internet, MySpace is currently the eleventh most popular website, globally, while it is the fifth most popular in the United States. (5) This places MySpace right between the other two most popular online social networks: Facebook and Twitter (the former as the second most popular, globally, and third most popular in the United States, and the latter ranking thirteenth most popular both globally and nationally). (6,7) These statistics will be revisited again below, but before proceeding, the terminology underlying this analysis must be explored. (8)

[2] When many people hear or read about "the sacred," its polar opposite, "the profane," creeps into their minds as well. Moreover, many also associate these terms with the late French historian of religion Mircea Eliade. Eliade may, in fact, be responsible for popularizing these terms in his 1957 seminal work, The Sacred and the Profane, but the current analysis will begin around 45 years earlier (1912) with the distinctions that French sociologist Emile Durkheim developed in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. According to Durkheim, the "distinctive trait of religious thought" is the basic division of the world into the sacred and the profane. (9) These two modes of being are distinguished by their heterogeneity, i.e., their distinct differences. For Durkheim, this heterogeneity is "absolute" in its necessity for distinction; "In all the history of human thought there exists no other example of two categories of things so profoundly differentiated or so radically opposed to one another." (10) To put this differentiation into terms of the physical universe, Durkheim states that the sacred represents that which is "ideal and transcendental," while the profane represents the material world. (11)

[3] According to Durkheim, however, "anything can be sacred." There can be sacred gods, spirits, rocks, trees, springs, pebbles, pieces of wood, homes, etc. As Durkheim states, "The circle of sacred objects cannot be determined ... once for all. Its extent varies infinitely, according to the different religions." (12) In other words, nothing is inherently sacred, i.e., humanity classifies things as such; "there are sacred things of every degree." (13) Furthermore, to clarify this description more thoroughly, "the sacred character assumed by an object is not implied in the intrinsic properties of this latter: it is added to them. The world of religious things is not one particular aspect of empirical nature; it is superimposed upon it." (14) Moreover, Durkheim states, "the sanctity of a thing is due to the collective sentiment of which it is the object." (15) Thus, one finds the notion of the sacred to be relative from tradition to tradition, as cultures vary in regard to one another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.