Second Life's Tower of Meditation. Image via Secondlife.com.

Second Life’s Tower of Meditation. Image via Secondlife.com.

 

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of an ongoing series of interviews about the study of religion and media around the world. The first part appeared in summer 2012.   In his introduction then, Plate wrote:

Over the next several months, I will be interviewing scholars who are investigating the places where religion and media meet. Since The Revealer itself began alongside NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, this seems a logical venue. The hope is that these intersections will provide a forum for a broad range of scholars, but also make scholarly work accessible to a general public interested in such topics. After all… they are inescapable even if we don’t think of them in terms like “religion” or “media.”

By S. Brent Plate

Can you really meditate in Second Life? How is a video game like a magic circle? Is “real life” just one more window in our multitudinously screened lives? In this interview, recorded earlier this year, I talk with Gregory Grieve about such questions, and about hacking, video games as art, and the narrative constructions possible in and out of various realities.

Grieve has been playing (and I use that term deliberately) with new media and religious practice for most of his life, as you’ll hear here. Currently, he is an associate professor in the religion department of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. He researches and teaches in the intersections of Asian religions, digital media, popular culture, and ethnographic approaches to the study of religion. He’s published a number of books and articles on these topics, and is the author of Retheorizing Religion in Nepal and the co-editor of the edited volume Historicizing Tradition in the Study of Religion. Several works are forthcoming, including the co-edited (with Heidi Campbell) Playing with Religion in Video Games, and (with Daniel Veidlinger) Buddhism, the Internet, and Digital Media: The Pixel in the Lotus. He is working on Digital Zen: Contemplating Buddhism, Virtual Worlds, and the Mindful Use of Media which concentrates on Buddhism in the virtual world of Second Life, a 3D interactive world of over 20 million residents in which users interact with one another through animated avatars. In 2004-05 he was a fellow at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media.

More about Greg Grieve and his projects can be found here.

S. Brent Plate is visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College. His recent books include Religion and Film: Cinema and the Re-Creation of the World; and Blasphemy: Art that Offends. With Jolyon Mitchell he co-edited The Religion and Film Reader. He is co-founder and managing editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art, and Belief.