SansBlogue  
Sunday, July 01, 2007
  Bible, Babel and Web 2.0
In AKMA's post "Retrospect and Prospect" he writes:
The items of special concern to one constituency in our planning
meeting stayed fixed at the Web 1.0, or generously at the Web 1.5 level
— whereas the digital natives who will very soon be entering
seminary take Web 2.0 for granted, and some have begun messing with
more adventuresome instantiations of the digital environment. To a
student who’s active with Facebook and Flickr, who plays in
Second Life or Warcraft, who’s comfortable chatting in text,
conversing over a shared audio server (such as Ventrillo or TeamSpeak),
at the same time she’s flying to her island in Second Life, a
seminary’s installation of BlackBoard not only represents archaic
technology, it represents determined irrelevance to her way of daily
life.
I'm not sure whether the "one constituency in our planning meeting" phrase indicates an otherwise widespread desire to engage with the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 and beyond, or whether it is just a scholarly caution not wishing to implicate others in what one has observed is true of a small sample. Either way, the inability to engage with Web 2.0 and beyond seems to me to be endemic in the Theological world. How many teachers at your institution (assuming you are institutionalised ;-) have a blog, even?

There is a reason (beyond old age and advanced technophobia) for this. Web 2.0 begins from letting everyone and anyone have a voice. Scholarship is a series of guilds. Guilds are communities designed to keep others out, and ensure that only the authorised, and properly respectful, may perform the holy acts and mysteries that the guild "owns".

In biblical studies this fear of letting "lay" interpreters loose on the sacred text is deeply ingrained. (See Jim's post More Wretched Dilettantism for a textbook example!) In academic institutions the stakes are different, after all "we" control the marks. Yet the fear is similar, if teaching gets tainted by Web 2.0 ideas students will decide for themselves what is worth their time and what is not. They might decide that the solid (if frankly often dull and insipid) scholarship we value is not interesting enough... No, "we" know what's right, and good, and true and we'll make sure our students are not given freedom enough to think for themselves - they might hurt themselves poor things!

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