cover image THE INTERNET AND THE MADONNA: Religious Visionary Experience on the Web

THE INTERNET AND THE MADONNA: Religious Visionary Experience on the Web

Paolo Apolito, . . Univ. of Chicago, $26 (282pp) ISBN 978-0-226-02150-8

Apolito, a cultural anthropologist who has previously studied Marian apparitions in a local context, investigates how these experiences are transformed by the Web and other information technologies. Noting the correlation between easy media access and reports of apparitions, Apolito sees "a spectacular effect of visionary affirmation" in which "the virtual network has offered a great opportunity to reinforce the global network of visionaries." Instead of being isolated by their experiences or beliefs, devotees receive encouragement as "a flood of daily visions... washes over the visionaries and worshipers like a special network of television stations constantly broadcasting." In the Web's horizontal architecture, "everything is true to the degree that it is present," with the result that "the first victim of the Internet is precisely the traditional institutional control" previously exercised by Church authorities. Although Apolito's analytical passages can be abstruse, written in a postmodern inflection dense with metaphor, his reportage is crisp and balanced, and his examples have a compelling power of their own that connects beyond the book's academic focus. He supplies enough quirky quotes and anecdotes to convey the curious flavor of this virtual community without breaking essential sympathy with his subjects. (Mar.)