Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 567–585 | Cite as

Digital Strategies for Building Spiritual Intimacy: Families on a “Wired” Camino

  • Kathleen JenkinsEmail author
  • Ken Chih-Yan Sun


Researchers have explored the role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in mediating both religious practice and intergenerational family relationships. Few, however, have paid close attention to the interplay between ICTs and spiritual dimensions of intimacies. Drawing from an ethnographic case of parents and their young adult children from various countries who walk the Camino de Santiago together in northwest Spain, we examine family members’ reflexive use of ICTs in ways that enhance intimacy. Our analysis of in-depth interviews, field observations, and online travel journals illustrates how digital technologies can be disciplined and activated to reinforce intimacy constructed through the sharing of spiritual practice. In particular, we highlight family strategies to limit ICT use on pilgrimage to mark tech-free sacred time, as well as their embracing of digital technologies as ritual tools in the construction of visual narratives of shared spiritual practice. Our analysis adds a micro relational case to the larger literature on intimacies and contemporary media forces, furthering the conceptualization of media and digital technologies as an integral force in the pursuit of transcendent interpersonal experiences.


Technologies Families Spirituality Reflexivity Intimacy Pilgrimage 



We presented this paper in the 2017 annual meeting of American Sociological Association, and appreciate the helpful feedback of Dr. Erin A. Cech and other participants. This research is generously funded by a Plumeri Award from the College of William and Mary. We gratefully acknowledge the insightful comments of Wendy Cadge, Thomas J. Linneman, Yu-Hao Lee, David Smilde, and three anonymous reviewers at Qualitative Sociology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyWilliam & MaryWilliamsburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Criminology, Saint Augustine Center, Room 204Villanova UniversityVillanovaUSA

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