Miracle, Journey to the Hell and the Digital Divide

Legitimation Techniques of a New Religious Movement Inside and Outside its Cyber Space Discourses

In the last four years I have conducted fieldwork – online ethnography (cyber anthropology) and offline participant observation as well – among a new religious movement, which has been constructed around a folk-prophet, Denes Peter (from Transylvania) from 2008, and became a sparse network community in the Carpathian-basin. I examine what the differences are between cyber and real space legitimation techniques (narratives and values). It seems that the effect of internet contents is twofold: it can cause a feeling of homogenization, while it also polarize the readers (both inside and outside of the group). It can be conceived as a threshold between the inquisitive and the susceptible visitors. Cyber context lets know the deeper secrets later, so without shocking new visitors too much. In the offline world there are more or less different discourse-content: the importance of narratives and values have other scatter and stress. Although both the online and offline communication contains inside and outside interactions, the facade of the community shows significant discrepancy in these different spaces. Cyber and real space can be divided only relatively, even though they form different spheres out of their discourse space. On the web the group stresses the legitimation, and less the message. Some important narratives are missing (or they are imponderable) in the cyber space: e.g. the healing and cure with praying, travelling to the other worlds (Heaven, Hell) and distant planets. Other legitimation techniques are overrepresented in the cyber space: walking on fi re, miracle, sermon and benediction. The heterogeneity and dynamism of the discourse is hardly perceptible exclusively from the web. At the conclusion, I use a critical aspect of the “from-above” analysis methods (CDA, TODA), and show the possibilities and frames of discourse analysis on the base of the anthropological fieldwork (“from beneath” aspect).

Released: Replika 90–91, 57–77.
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