Meet the Fellows: 2017 Newcombe Fellow Hannah Scheidt

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2017 class of Fellows includes Hannah Scheidt, a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the Northwestern University:

For years I have used new media sources in my research. This has meant frequenting blogs, forums, social media platforms, and even virtual worlds, as well as delving into the bodies of theoretical work on communication and internet technologies. Despite the highly digital nature of my work, I have a rather minimal web presence myself, especially compared to other millennials. I am even somewhat uncomfortable with computer-mediated communication at times, something I have had to interrogate and, to some extent, confront in the process of research. When I did my undergraduate thesis on religion in the virtual world Second Life, I would entreat friends and hallmates to login with me—to physically sit with me as I explored virtual space and encountered other users—until I was comfortable enough to “go virtual” myself. Though the topic of my research has shifted over the years (I now study atheism), I cannot shake a fascination with the role of media technologies in identity and community formation, and so media sources remain central in my work. Maybe my feeling of being somewhat less than “digitally native” keeps me curious about mediated spaces and allows me to treat the networked world like a research environment.

Ms. Scheidt’s dissertation title is Practicing Atheism: Culture, Media, and Ritual in the Contemporary Atheist Network. For more information on the 2017 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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