Canadian Buddhists on the Web

Buddhism in Canada Buddhist community Conferences Internet

Here’s the abstract for my upcoming talk at the conference on Canadian Buddhism to be held at UBC, October 15-17, 2010:

“Canadian Buddhists on the Web: Push, Pull, and Practice.”

How are Canadian Buddhists using the internet? Who are the people making best use of web technology to get their Dharma message out, and what can we learn from them? How is the internet changing the way people seek out Buddhist teachings and Sangha connections? Where are the fault lines between digital immigrants and digital natives within the Canadian Buddhist community? What are the new opportunities and threats presented by social media, collaborative open-source computing, e-books and mobile computing? Where is the boundary between practice and politics on the web? Is the web a substitute for practice, a new way of practice, or nothing to do with practice?

These are the questions we will examine in a pilgrimage through temple websites, blogs, portals, Second Life groups, YouTube channels, LinkedIn groups, iTunes offerings, and cyber-espionage reports. Our goal is to define some best practices, isolate some common pitfalls, and celebrate some incredibly inspiring global Buddhist initiatives coming out of Canada.

In part two of my presentation, I will introduce participants to a variety of web traffic analytical tools (7zoom, Alexa, Compete and Web.Archive) that offer new research methods for the study of Canadian Buddhism as it is lived on the web today.

In conclusion, I will delve into the spiritual assumptions and tensions implicit in mixing dharma and the web, such as: traditionalism versus modernism, digitally disadvantaged communities, empowered but uninterested youth, cultural mis-appropriation and fluid group identification, authority vs the wiki model, no-self vs celebrity branding, giving freely vs commercialism, retreat versus engaged practice, local activism vs global citizenship, inter-community alliances, exclusions and norms.

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