Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


21 June 2017

'Dear Mr Muslim, Dear Mr atheist: Positioning in evangelical social media discourse'

Presented By Stephen Pihlaja, Newman University
  • 1-4.30pm
  • Brockington B1.14

About this event

From 1pm - 2pm, Stephen gives a talk:

The internet and social media sites offer access to diverse audiences, but for religious users, conflict can occur when attempting to make videos which are viewed by communities of believers who share the same faith, at the same time as users who are openly hostile to their beliefs. This presentation focuses on a discourse analysis of interaction among Christians, atheists, and Muslims on YouTube. I present a case study of responses to one Evangelical Christian Facebook preacher, Joshua Feuerstein, by a Muslim YouTuber and an atheist YouTuber, using a corpus of 67 video pages (including 6 hours and 47 minutes of talk and 60,888 comments). My analysis shows how user interaction, particularly hostile interaction around issues faith and belief, is affected in online contexts. I focus on three main findings. First, given the open nature of public social media interaction, users are compelled to respond to a broader social context and this engagement requires some adaptation at least in the presentation of belief. Second, the content and themes of the arguments are not especially unique and are the result of ongoing interaction among people of different faiths. Third, talk about religious issues which is driven by and oriented towards popular personalities did not seem to support the growth of tangible affiliation among users or communities.

From 3pm - 4.30pm, Stephen presents a data session:

The data for the session will be a response video made by a Muslim responding to an Evangelical Christian ‘Dear Joshua Feuerstein Muslim Response John Fontain’ . The video is just over five minutes. My own analytic focus is on positioning within the video and the use of another user’s words to frame one’s own arguments.

Stephen Pihlaja is Reader in Stylistics at Newman University (Birmingham). Stephen is interested in the use of language in religious interaction, in both online and offline contexts, particularly descriptions of and arguments about religious experience and expression among Evangelical Christians, Muslims, and atheists. His book ‘Religious Talk Online: the evangelical discourse of Muslims, Christians, and atheists’ is forthcoming on Cambridge University Press.