Digital Openness and Biblical Studies
(post-CARG post #1) ::
[Nb. this post should have gone up this morning Philly time, but my hotel had an Internet blackout, following the hot water drought the day before, so I am sending it off this evening!
Following the much blogged about CARG Biblioblogger session at SBL, amid the buzz of a dozen other conversations (that we'd all have loved joining also) a group of us talked about the openness thing.
It wasn't world shattering. We haven't solved the funding of the Disseminary
, or even recruited a dozen authors for them, nor have we all agreed to put our shoulders to any other wheel (though several of us are busy inventing "wheels")... But we did decide - at least that's my memory of it, do correct me or add what I've forgotten - that we need to create a climate in which openness in Biblical Studies is on the agenda.
By "openness" we mean (some or all of these things, and perhaps others):
- openness of access: the current (closed) "publishing environment" means that our output, monographs, articles etc. appear in costly forms that are difficult (at least for scholars outside Western academic institutions, in particular 2/3 world and independent scholars) to access. Note that this is of real interest to scholars, we publish to influence others, to propagate our ideas, to gain tenure or promotion - all of these goals are assisted if people can actually read our work!
- openness of creation: in software programming circles there is a buzz around "open source" projects, the success of Linux (Did you know Google's server clusters - about the nearest thing in the real world to Deep Thought" - run Linux?), Moodle (Did you know that Britain's largest university has chosen Moodle as its Learning Management System?) and other OS projects reinforces the sense that openness of creation is a good model to explore. What projects could Biblical Scholars contribute to that would be our Linuxes or Moodles?
- human openness: the "guild" model of scholarship and its practices (including for example the peer review system) have served Biblical Studies well, but they are - or have become - barriers to "outsiders". The guild has tried - SBL in particular, through travel grants, committees on Women in the Profession and the like - to break open this barrier, though with less than total success - see the discussion on the near absence of women at biblioblogger session and in particular Pilgrim at First and Lake's comments in her post "Why don't Women (Biblio-) Blog?" or ask yourself how many biblical scholars you have read or listened to recently who were born and who currently reside in South America, Asia or Africa...
To work to create such a climate in which openness in Biblical Studies is on the agenda - remember the discussion was
at SBL - we talked of asking for a new program group on "Openness in Biblical Studies". I was deputed to begin rolling this ball, so if you are interested join in...[PS after writing the above I attended the CARG business meeting, the "openness" thing is on the list of possible sessions for 2006, I also (before that) had a chat to Kent Harold Richards, so my suggestion is that we wait a week or two til the CARG list is finalised, and only if "openness" is absent we move further in proposing a group... sorry, none of you was around to consult with!
As I wrote the above I began to reflect more on the sort of summary statement we will need to propose such a group, and I am convinced that:
- much of this force behind this issue comes from the conjunction of a (historic?) societal move towards openness with the changes how we communicate and what is possible in a digitally mediated environment
- these questions inevitably arise (at SBL) in the CARG sessions precisely because the drive towards "openness" is founded on digital communications
- and that for some years (some of us) have been pushing the boundaries of what can accurately called "computer assisted research" to include such more cultural questions
So, the issue is do we go on developing within CARG (despite the name) a session on issues of digital culture and Biblical Studies, or should we (instead of proposing an openness group - however named) propose that like an amoeba CARG split into CARG (focusing on computer assisted research - as the name implies!) and DC a "digital culture and biblical studies" group...
[The above paragraph should be rewritten in the light of the comment above, but what the one below expresses is still my view!
I wish we'd had the time to work through all this yesterday!