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Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review


published on May 19, 2015

Shannon Trosper Schorey
DOI: 10.5840/asrr20155188

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Revisiting the Role of Information in “Scientology v. the Internet”

“Scientology v. the Internet” references the Church of Scientology’s ongoing struggle with Internet activists and users who attempt to access, disseminate, or modify copyrighted and trademarked church documents online. Since the mid 1990s the Church of Scientology has attempted to use copyright and trademarks to secure their sacred esoteric teachings, but Internet activists have argued that these policies transgress good “Netizen” etiquette and threaten the architecture of the digital platform as a space for the radical access and dissemination of information. This article seeks to revisit Scientology v. the Internet by highlighting the changing imagination of information within the Scientology tradition itself. While L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology maintain a Cold War era conceptualization of information as discrete data that is in need of control (because of the threat of entropy and misuse), recent calls from Independent Scientologists to “open source” the “tech” reflect greater cultural shifts that have begun to reimagine information as a process that carries along with it an emphasis on the values of open access, modification, and distribution. The tension between these two competing imaginations of information continues to fuel the Church of Scientology’s struggles online; while at the heart of “Open Source Scientology” lies a double movement of preservation and alteration that is intimately bound with narratives of authenticity.