Advances in the Study of Information and Religion


As evidenced by the annual CSIR Conference on Information and Religion, the intersections between religion and information are beginning to be recognized and explored. However, the literature on information seeking and religion has tended to focus on the information behavior of religious leaders (see Michels, 2009, 2012; Roland, 2007; Roland & Wicks, 2009; Wicks, 1999). Several papers from the previous two CSIR Conferences on Information and Religion focus on information seeking, use and evaluation, but the emphasis continues to be placed on examining these topics from an historical or clergy-centered perspective.

This paper offers an alternative approach to the study of information and religion by exploring information seeking practices in the context of religious conversion. Based on a search for peer-reviewed articles and conference proceedings in the major library and information science (LIS), religious studies, anthropology, and sociology databases, this paper includes what Marcia J. Bates has called a “rigorous systematic bibliography” (1976). I identify ways in which the concept of information seeking in the religious conversion process has been presented in the literature under subject terms, in combination with keyword searching. Using this method, I draw attention to the presence of information, and information seeking, in the existing literature on religious conversion.

By highlighting the ways in which these articles illustrate the concept of information seeking in the process of religious conversion, I develop a thorough definition of religious conversion and discuss its implications for our discipline’s understanding of “the social construction of religious knowledge” – the theme of the Third Annual CSIR Conference on Information and Religion. My findings build upon Jarkko Kari’s work on spiritual information phenomena (Kari, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2001; Kari & Hartel, 2007), and will further contribute to scholarly knowledge about information practices in religious contexts.