Online Ultra-Orthodox Religious Communities as a Third Space: A Netnographic Study
This research applies a netnographic approach to explore the extent to which online communities function as a third space that supports a networked religion. Five months of observation at a leading online ultra-Orthodox Jewish forum revealed four chief characteristics: religious–secular discussion—the forum served as a platform for religious discourse as well as a sphere for discussing a wide range of subjects unrelated to religion; identity game—members constantly played two types of identity games: personal and group; intense activity—the forum was characterized by rather intense activity patterns; and a unique religious expressiveness—this was reflected in textual and visual representations and exhibited in online debates. Findings indicate that the forum offers its members a third space of digital religion that is hybrid in any possible sense and reinforces a lively networked religion. While it aims at enabling serious discussion of religious matters, it also serves members as a social sphere in which they can communicate about extrareligious issues; express their personalities, skills and opinions; and even play with their anonymous peers.