SansBlogue  
Friday, September 29, 2006
 
Red face and apologies! ::

A friend just told me that my RSS and Atom feeds have been "down", for weeks! I am very sorry humble apologies to all who usually read this blog via a feedreader. It all happened when I was setting up blogs for PG students in my "Bible and Electronic Media" course. Somehow though we got the correct settings for their blogs, I messed mine up!

BTW you might like to read their blogs:
young reader
Wisdom whakaaro
The blog of Aisea
wisdom justice truth
I believe that the feed for Sansblogue is now functioning correctly, but "if YOU know different" please tell me!


Thursday, September 28, 2006
 
"Family" : towards a biblical view::

Family is a hot topic, changes in Western society and laws have put the traditional ideas of what family is under stress. Advertisers (a good cultural weather vane) can still use the mum/dad and kids model but often they choose not to. Christians have stepped in to defend "family values". But often these are not based on any understanding of the Bible, or of a theology of family. We risk merely being culturally conservative. Supporting the way things were against the way they are.

So, when Glyn Carpenter asked me to write about what the Bible says about family I gladly had a go. You can find the post "What is a family?" on the Vision Network site. (Since Vision Network is working with a new "open" format of website [see below] I'll encourage you to visit - and link to☺- the article there rather than read it here.)



Wednesday, September 27, 2006
 
Vision Network, Evangelical and Open, or Adobe and closed::

Vision Network, the Evangelical "umbrella" in NZ has a new website. It is done in Joomla an Open Source CMS. Whether you start by some random clicking around (as I did) or by reading Glyn Carpenter's welcome "speech" you'll soon spot the intention of being open and interactive. You can comment - like a blog - a surprisingly rare feature on an "institutional" website. If you register and you can even go further and place content on the site! (Though currently this is not working for me, probably a temporary glitch, they had to move the site to the new CMS under time pressure due to ISP problems...)

The site design is fairly clean and easy, it has a nice feature (given the basic print-legacy reluctance of most CMS designers to really accommodate variable width designs) of allowing you to "set preferences like page width and font size" (a technical step in the right direction - of user empowerment [especially nice for IE users, FF users can just CTRL-+ or - anyway ;-)]).

Currently the site has too little content, though getting people to submit reports from the annual meeting was a good idea. Glyn is also approaching people to get discussion starter type material which should help.

The real innovation here - especially for Evangelical sites in NZ - is that it seems set up to encourage interaction and discussion. As a Baptist I like that, church is about a community of people seeking God, and God's will, together... Discussion and even debate is not something to be feared, but welcomed and encouraged.

Apart from more content, which time and Glyn's efforts should fix, how could this be better? Give us RSS and/or email notification of new material in sections we choose to subscribe to, that way I don't have to remember to visit, but will be reminded when there is something new to read. Glyn also says that they are working on a "help" section, so that users who are less inclined to play can be told how to perform various tasks...

So all in all a really good start, and an encouraging move towards greater interaction with people outside the inner circle. (Not just "Web 2.0", but the "priesthood of all believers"! )

PS: I also just "attended" an Adobe eseminar on Adobe® Captivate™ 2 for Education lots of brouhaha and reminder emails, started at 6:45am (good job I'm a "lark"), and then quite disappointmentnt. Basically a long Flash presentation with audio, but (almost) no interaction. It seems to me that Adobe just don't "get" it, top-down, daddy-knows-best no longer "captivates" even with "multimedia"multimediaia here means that the words are read as well as printed, and the slides are animated Powerpoint style as well - wow [what is the smiley for "yawn"]).



Sunday, September 24, 2006
 
How is the quality of serious writing assured? ::

In the physical world, raw power - which in fact drives these things - is carefully disguised. Quality - at least in the academic world - is assured by "peer review". Journals decide what to print, based on the assessment made of the work by a reviewer - expert in the field - who does not know the identity of the writer.

One defers, in the academic world to those who are recognised as "authorities". Usually they are recognised as such by titles conferred by reputable (the more reputable the better) institutions.

In theory at least these mechanisms are impartial and accurate. In practice, and in private, most academics admit that the system is not as equitable and egalitarian as it sounds. Influence abounds, a "good" supervisor can help ensure their students' work is published in prestigious locations, and so ensure their own prestige grows. If you scratch my back, I will ensure yours is scratched in turn!

Online there are no such mechanisms, no history or culture of deference, not authorities who can provide a seal of approval to new work. In this sense Wikipedia is the epitome of “online” - an encyclopedia (that most respectable of academic writings), at first glance composed by any one who cares to write.

The brouhaha around the battle of words between Wikipedians and Brittanicans has centred round this difference. Wikipedia is written by anyone, and relies largely on the self healing provided by the Wikipedian community (note that two of the articles referenced in this post are currently either closed, or "under dispute" - so much for "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" - to ensure the quality of its articles. Brittanica is written by “experts” and relies on their reputation – acquired in traditional institutions – to assure the quality of what is written. Wikipedia is swift to respond and up to the minute with the latest news of popular culture, if (occasionally, and debatably) dodgy. Brittanica is safe and reliable – if a touch staid and stodgy.

A new online encyclopedia project Citizendium (ht to if:book “a fork in the road for wikipedia”) seeks to combine some of the virtues of both systems. As Wikipedia cofounder Larry Sanger describes it one difference between Wikipedia and Citizendium will be the credentialling of editors:
We want the wiki project to be as self-managing as possible. We do not want editors to be selected by a committee, which process is too open to abuse and politics in a radically open and global project like this one is.
People who believe they have “suitable” credentials will propose themselves as section editors, they will post links to their credentials, so that these may be publicly challenged. Likewise all authors and editors must register under their own real names. Citizendium is to import elements of the “reputation” based system of the physical academy to an online community project.

Time will tell if the attempt to avoid in this way some of the problems that plague Wikipedia, yet still avoid the inertia that dedevils Brittanica will succeed.

Clay Shirky critiques this mixed approach, writing:
Deference, on Citizendium will be for people, not contributions, and will rely on external credentials, a priori certification, and institutional enforcement. Deference, on Wikipedia, is for contributions, not people, and relies on behavior on Wikipedia itself, post hoc examination, and peer-review. Sanger believes that Wikipedia goes too far in its disrespect of experts; what killed Nupedia and will kill Citizendium is that they won’t go far enough.
Ah, we live in interesting times!



Friday, September 15, 2006
 
Multi-dimensional reading of Ruth? ::

Te atapo (the dawn) takes a different more postmodern line, she dreams of a multiple reading of the book of Ruth, "The hermeneutical text", with members of the class each with a different ethnic background contributing different readings together to one website. Now that could be fun...




 
Bible Software in Tonga ::

Aisea is from Tonga, he is taking "Bible in an Electronic Context" this semester, and has blogged about his dream of Bible Software in Tonga one of the Open Source or free programs could be close to ideal. If only he had a Tongan Bible in electronic format and with copyright permission. Does anyone know of a possibility? Who "owns" the Tongan translation(s)?



Wednesday, September 13, 2006
 
Saved by the Whale: on idiot redactors and reading the psalm in Jonah ::

Tyler has the pleasure of teaching Jonah, in Hebrew! (Though, unless I've missed something he is only at chapter one still, "good things take time" as the cheese advert down here says ;-) Meanwhile John Hobbins at ancient hebrew poetry and I have got ahead of the class and have been discussing chapter two.

I took exception to John's statement that:
Since the psalm is not a prayer but a praiseful narration of a deed of deliverance in answer to prayer, it suits the context only approximately.
This is not a new thought, dozens of commentators have said the same thing, but in this case I'm sure the crowd is not displaying its true wisdom ;-)

So I wrote:
Jonah has asked to be thrown into a raging sea, he seems to expect to die (and the sailors, surely the more expert witnesses do too 1:14). However, far from drowning Jonah, his God sends a fish to swallow him - hardly a chance outcome - and he survives. He prays a pious thanksgiving for his deliverance from drowning... His piety may seem misplaced, his castigation of "those who forsake their true loyalty" may seem hypocritical, but surely the form of the prayer is appropriate?
John's riposte begins:
From the point of view of the narrator of the book of Jonah, that is true. From Jonah's implied point of view, it is not - at least not while Jonah found himself within the fish. Note the parallel expressions "from the viscera of the fish" (2:2 in the Hebrew) and "from the belly of Sheol" (2:3). That's not how Jonah would have talked if, in the moment of distress which the psalm looks back on, he understood the fish to be a vehicle of salvation.
(It is good stuff, so go and read the full version of our conversation!)

I'm still not convinced... The two phrases, (מִ‍מְּעֵי הַדָּגָה and מִ‍בֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל) are as you say parallel, but they are NOT in lines that are in a direct relationship. The mention of fish guts occurs on the narrator's lips introducing the psalm. While "from Sheol's belly" comes from the lips of Jonah, in the psalm. The parallel does create an undertone of "this is salvation!?" but does not diminish Jonah's so human arrogance in supposing that the fish is intended to save HIM. And saved from Sheol he has been, from “the heart of the seas, and the flood [that] surrounded” him! And, though not the most salubrious of habitations, I'd rather be alive in the fish guts, than dead at the bottom of the stormy sea – which is the fate the sailors expected for their landlubber passenger. I find it difficult in such a well-told, ironic tale to accept that the delightfully ironic psalm is a mere accident or clumsy mistake. The hypothesis of the idiot redactor won't float!



 
Saved by the Whale: on idiot redactors and reading the psalm in Jonah ::

Tyler has the pleasure of teaching Jonah, in Hebrew! (Though, unless I've missed something he is only at chapter one still, "good things take time" as the cheese advert down here says ;-) Meanwhile John Hobbins at ancient hebrew poetry and I have got ahead of the class and have been discussing chapter two.

I took exception to John's statement that:
Since the psalm is not a prayer but a praiseful narration of a deed of deliverance in answer to prayer, it suits the context only approximately.
This is not a new thought, dozens of commentators have said the same thing, but in this case I'm sure the crowd is not displaying its true wisdom ;-)

So I wrote:
Jonah has asked to be thrown into a raging sea, he seems to expect to die (and the sailors, surely the more expert witnesses do too 1:14). However, far from drowning Jonah, his God sends a fish to swallow him - hardly a chance outcome - and he survives. He prays a pious thanksgiving for his deliverance from drowning... His piety may seem misplaced, his castigation of "those who forsake their true loyalty" may seem hypocritical, but surely the form of the prayer is appropriate?
John's riposte begins:
From the point of view of the narrator of the book of Jonah, that is true. From Jonah's implied point of view, it is not - at least not while Jonah found himself within the fish. Note the parallel expressions "from the viscera of the fish" (2:2 in the Hebrew) and "from the belly of Sheol" (2:3). That's not how Jonah would have talked if, in the moment of distress which the psalm looks back on, he understood the fish to be a vehicle of salvation.
(It is good stuff, so go and read the full version of our conversation!)

I'm still not convinced... The two phrases, (מִ‍מְּעֵי הַדָּגָה and מִ‍בֶּטֶן שְׁאוֹל) are as you say parallel, but they are NOT in lines that are in a direct relationship. The mention of fish guts occurs on the narrator's lips introducing the psalm. While "from Sheol's belly" comes from the lips of Jonah, in the psalm. The parallel does create an undertone of "this is salvation!?" but does not diminish Jonah's so human arrogance in supposing that the fish is intended to save HIM. And saved from Sheol he has been, from “the heart of the seas, and the flood [that] surrounded” him! And, though not the most salubrious of habitations, I'd rather be alive in the fish guts, than dead at the bottom of the stormy sea – which is the fate the sailors expected for their landlubber passenger. I find it difficult in such a well-told, ironic tale to accept that the delightfully ironic psalm is a mere accident or clumsy mistake. The hypothesis of the idiot redactor won't float!



Sunday, September 10, 2006
 
Derrida, Bible and hypertext ::

In her post "Jacques Derrida in digital environment?" Young Reader takes a post by Peter Lurie in "Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left: Deconstructing Hyperlinks" and begins to explore ways in which when reading the bible online at Bible.org the hypertext format deconstructs the authority of the text - perhaps the opposite of what the website designers intend.

I wonder, I'd like her to explore the thought in more detail, does the linking text of hypertext dissolve the authority of the text, or does all the effort and the hundreds of links all focused on this passage of Scripture in very real ways reinforce that authority? It would certainly help raise the Google pagerank of that page on the web ;-)

(BTW I should declare an interest Young Reader is a Kenyan doing postgraduate work at the School of Theology at the University of Auckland, where I teach.)



Friday, September 08, 2006
 
A little Hebrew is a hilarious thing! ::

Rabbi Tyler once quoted Rabbi Jack Moline, who recounted the the conversation that transpired when "Abbott & Costello Learn Hebrew" if you know even only a little of the sacred tongue then this is a post you do NOT want to miss!



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