Digital  dimension of confession: results of structured field observation

Ostrovskaya E.A. (Petersburg, Russian Federation), Alexeeva E.V. (Ekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


              page 204212


This article investigates the digital dimension of confession using the methods of structured observation and content analysis. When investigating religious practices, contemporary sociologists and anthropologists undertake their inquiry in an essentially changed social and cultural reality. The specifics of this reality can only be understood provided that the whole range of communicative spaces of religious interactions is taken into account. Field observations of religious communities necessarily involve two dimensions of analysis: face-to-face and virtual forms of interaction. Virtual analysis implies the online monitoring of structural observation units. Synchronization of online and offline analysis dimensions allows the diversity of the interaction contexts under study to be revealed. In addition, it enables a researcher to grasp the communication that is taking place between the actors in its completeness, which is always a hard task. In this paper, for the first time, confession is investigated by analysing communication within Internet communities organized by Orthodox temples in the city of Ekaterinburg. Research data was collected using the methods of structured observation (on the complete enumeration basis) and content analysis. The research was carried out in the March 2018 July 2018 period. For the analytical purposes, we defined confession as a social interaction presented in structured units. These units included the priest, congregation, time of confession, space, confession as a ritual and confession as a sacrament. The results of the online structured observation of these units were presented in the form of tables. A unique methodological feature of this research consists in the application of the method of structured observation to an object in its digital self-presentation. The studied digital resources included the websites of Ekaterinburg Orthodox temples, YouTube channels and themed pages of believer communities. Using content analysis, we have identified which structural units of confession most frequently appear in virtual themed communication threads in Ekaterinburg.


Key words: structured observation, structural units of observation, content analysis, thick description, religious communication, Orthodox digital landscape of Yekaterinburg.


DOI: 10.20874/2071-0437-2018-43-4-204-212




E.A. Ostrovskaya

Saint Petersburg State University, Universitetskaya nab., 7/9, Saint Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation



E.V. Alexeeva

Ural Federal University, Mira st., 19, Ekaterinburg, 620000, Russian Federation