The REL Digital Lab builds on curricular and research initiatives by bringing together old and new technologies for creating and disseminating scholarship, and provides a central hub for the digital activities of the Department of Religious Studies. With a variety of computers, audio recording equipment, and a new high-definition display, the RELdl is a space that supports collaboration among faculty and with students, with the goal of developing shared projects along with co-authored submissions and publications. The RELdl is also exists virtually, consisting of this website, the REL Digital Lab on Github, and the Religion in Culture MA Workspace on Slack.
The RELdl is a resource for those interested in using digital tools and methods in their research and teaching. We aggregate information and resources for doing digital scholarship and host regular workshops and brown bags to introduce tools and projects relevant to our members’ work. Our goal is to ease the process of getting started with digital projects and to develop new projects for faculty and students to collaborate on. We rely on campus partnerships—such as eTech and the ADHC—to support project development, hosting, and archiving and preservation.
Who are We?
Jeri E. Wieringa, Director
Dr. Wieringa joined the REL faculty in 2020 as a specialist in digital humanities and the social theory of religion. An alumna of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, she has been active in digital humanities scholarship since 2011, and has worked on multiple grant-funded software and publishing projects, including Omeka and Digital Humanities Now.
A historian by training, her research examines new religious movements in the US through the lenses of gender and technology, with a particular interest in millenarianism and processes of knowledge formation.
In the digital humanities space, she focuses on methodologies and infrastructure for the critical use of computation in the study of human cultures. In 2019, she defended the second digital history dissertation project accepted by the Department of History and Art History at George Mason Unversity, which used computational text analysis to explore the relationship between gender norms and end-times beliefs in the development of Seventh-day Adventism.
She has experience in website design and development, digital publishing, Python, natural language processing and machine learning with historical texts, and project management.
Joseph (Joe) DeFrank, GRA
Coming to REL’s M.A. in the Fall of 2020, Joseph DeFrank from Canton, GA, graduates in the Spring of 2020 with a B.S. in History and a B.A. in Religious Studies from Young Harris College. An Irish-American scholar for an academic year at Queen’s University of Belfast, some of his main interests include the study of religion in the United States, new religious movements, and what the future of “religion” might be.
Michael J. Altman
Michael J. Altman received his Ph.D. in American Religious Cultures from Emory University. His areas of interest are American religious history, colonialism, theory and method in the study of religion, and Asian religions in American culture. Trained in the field of American religious cultures, he is interested in the ways religion is constructed through difference, conflict, and contact.
Along with his research, Dr. Altman teaches a range of classes in the department from REL 130: Religion, Politics, and Law to REL 450: Religion and Power in Colonial India. His courses are notable for their use of digital projects such as course blogs (for examples, see American Religion in America and Monks and Nones.) He is also the producer and host of the REL Department podcast, Study Religion and manages the various REL Department social media accounts.
Nathan R. B. Loewen
Nathan Loewen, who began in REL as of January 1, 2015, earned his Ph.D. in Modern Philosophy of Religion at McGill University’s Faculty of Religious Studies. Prior to coming to UA he taught at McGill University (2005-2009) and in the Department of Humanities at Vanier College (2009-14), both of which are in Montreal, Canada.
Dr. Loewen has two primary areas of research and publication. One focuses on globalizing discourses within the philosophy of religion, and the other analyzes the emerging confluence between Religious Studies and Development Studies.
A third area of interest for him is critical digital pedagogy–how today’s students might critically analyze the structure and function of digital platforms that are being used in higher education. His work in this area focuses on innovations that enable teachers and classes to reflect upon how they engage not only with each other but also with wider circles of scholars and various publics on both local and global contexts.
It is this last research focus that has led to his role as Faculty Technology Liaison for the College of Arts and Sciences. He manages the College’s website for teaching and professional development, assists A&S faculty in the processes of revising or developing online courses, organizes events (such as OLIS) and participates in technology committees across campus.