Saturday, July 07, 2007
  Why blog?
Long, long, ago though not so far away, in a universe both very like and yet quite unlike this one ("The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there." L. P. Hartley) I started a blog. My goal was to discover why people blog. I could not do this from the outside looking in, all i could see was interesting (and not so interesting) stuff, but little to explain the motivations and rewards. I expected this experiment to run for a short while... years passed... (well, three or four have ;-) I quickly got absorbed in blogging and forgot to ask: Why?

The rewards are primarily:
  • social - in reading and writing blogs one "meets" so many interesting people (some of us who met physically for the first time at the notorious SBL Biblioblogging session in 2005 discussed this)
  • intellectual - one also meets, and I hope shares, such interesting ideas
  • surprising - when by email, phone or face to face on meets someone who actually reads what one writes (now that's seldom happened to me as a result of print publication!)
But, still, why do I continue to spend/waste time blogging. The question has been raised for me by a conversation with Heidi Campbell, who is running some research on religious bloggers, the announcement by Lingamish that serious bloggers must divide their attentions between several blogs, and now on a more serious note Gary Rendsberg chips in with his half-birthday reflections!

Gary and David both make a big point of statistics, somehow the number of people who "visit" makes the effort worthwhile. This does not encourage me, sadly this blog has seen better days, 2005 was the highlight, and I have now far less visitors than I used to back then :( In fact Sansbloque's best day ever was Tuesday, August 30, 2005. So in the hopes that nothing succeeds like success and in the interests of nostalgia here is a replay of that day's posts - TAH, DAH:

The view from my office ::

Stephen's post (full of the joys of [Southern Hemisphere] Spring) titled "The sun is shining..." suggested to me a new round of the old this-is-my-desk blog craze...

[Sadly the inspiring photo of a distant and high skylight with grey sky has gone the way of all digitalia, and is no longer available, but trust me it was and is uninspiring!]

The new and even more exciting this-is-the-view-from (or in my case "of")
my-window craze. Despite Stephen's extolling of the windows at Carey,
the view from mine is impossible without a ladder, and I've never
climbed up to look...

Peer review another look: or, on the salvific effects of peer review ::

Jim West has, in Biblical Theology, a fine polemic piece titled "Washed in the Blood of the Peer Review" taking me (and others) to task for our dependence on "peer review". He sums it up, himself, in fine style:
sum I object to the scholarly mentality that sees itself as "washed in
the blood of the peer review". Peer review does not guarantee truth. No
one can believe it does. Hence, it exists simply for the preservation
of power. It is nothing less than the old cliche of the smoke filled
back room where the good ole' white boys gather around the card table
to buttress the careers of their friends while they ignore those who
are not worthy of their attention because "their ideas didn't appear in
the Journal of High-Falootin' Research" published by Brill and costing
95 Dollars for each issue published on a quarterly basis.
largely I agree with him. I have no desire to defend the "system" it is
(almost) indefensible (well it's not, and probably some biblioblogger
with more desire will defend it) but I certainly don't
want to defend it. And I did say, as well as some incautious stuff,
that I now (thanks to Jim's good sense) deeply regret, and won't repeat
;) I did say "or some process that ensures similar rigorous standards".
And will note that, in the sordid world where paid academics live,
"publish or perish" is the rule, and the publish part needs to be
recognised by other bodies as the equivalent of peer review else it
only counts for mini-brownie-points and will not save your career, job
and family income!

So, in summary: I heartily withdraw the phrase "peer review" and reword the last bullet point below:
  • scholarly,
    unless Open Biblical Studies submits itself to quality assurance to
    attest to outsiders (particularly beginners) that it is indeed
    scholarly, and (through some process that ensures rigorous standards as
    a peer review process intends) satisfies the professional academics'
    need for recognition.

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