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ICT and religious tradition: the case of Mount Athos

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ICT is understood to be closely associated with the shaping of late modernity. It constitutes one of its fundamental and distinctive features and is a product of its socio-economic institutions. Yet, it is increasingly taken up by traditional communities. The core question of this paper is whether the encounter of ICTs with cultures that have not embraced the values and ways of life of modernity gives rise to alternative perceptions and enactments of socio-technical ensembles. Do traditional communities disentangle the ICT artefact from the institutional context of modernity and appropriate it in their own culture and social order? Is there a potential fusion of ICT with non-modern cultures that leads to transformative effects of either the endogenous culture or the taken-for-granted ‘modern’ meaning of ICT value? Or is the take up of ICT, loaded with the meanings and values it inherited in its context of modernity, just eroding traditional culture and bringing them closer to modernity? We address such questions by exploring the meanings and consequences of ICT in the community of monasteries on Mount Athos that was established in Byzantine times and remained largely isolated from most institutions of modernity. This is an early stage in what we intend to make a longitudinal research, and not surprisingly, our findings at this stage are inconclusive. We found a mix of attitudes and ICT-related practices among the monks and different attitudes towards the information processing/storage and the communication functions of ICT. But overall, adoption of ICTs is increasing on Mount Athos and we identify areas in which potential changes are under way and which merit further research.

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