Aspects of the self: an analysis of self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self within selected Buddhist blogs
At the heart of this dissertation is an examination of self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self within three Buddhist blogs: The Buddhist Blog, The American Buddhist and ThinkBuddha.org. Based upon this original research, my thesis contributes to ongoing discussions relating to the self online and to the emerging field of media, religion and culture. A number of other scholars have already investigated how the internet has provided a new platform in which to engage with online religious communities, participate in rituals and develop religious identity. Up to this point, however, the place of Buddhism online has been largely overlooked or limited to purely descriptive analysis. As I argue in chapter one, this thesis provides a more developed examination of Buddhism on the internet. In chapters two and three, I demonstrate how my analysis and definition of three aspects of the self, namely self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self, within selected Buddhist blogs (online diaries) provides an innovative contribution to the developing area of study related to new media and religion. In chapter four, I consider my four central research questions and the interdisciplinary approach used which draws from the fields of anthropology, visual cultural studies, media studies, as well as Buddhist studies. In chapter five I present the Buddhist interpretative framework used for the analysis of the experiential self. This focuses on the conceptual issues of the self in early Buddhism as well as the Buddhist Theravada Abhidhamma framework for the analysis of the self (anatta), the components of the self (khandhas) and the senses and sense spheres (ayatanas and dhatus). Through the three ethnographic case studies (chapters six, seven and eight) I demonstrate how the genre of life writing (blogs) is used as a medium for self reflection, self presentation and the experiential self, thus emphasising the experiential aspect of human existence online. In the conclusion (chapter nine), I consider the continuities and discontinuities between the three blogs, and in doing so I illustrate how the detailed examination of Buddhist blogs provides an insight into different aspects of popular culture, of Buddhism on the internet and how new media is being used in the twenty first century.