Wednesday, June 30, 2004
More rumours, holding the baby ::

Our baby is too big to "hold", she will have her full driver's licence soon. So it was great last night at the Ministry Development Course (in service training / retreat for newish pastors) to be given a baby to hold over coffee and sharing. That's the sort of sharing I like, small cute and with all that potential just bursting out of the eager eyes, hands and mouth that contentedly explore the world. (And when you can only ask for a change of view or position by grizzling too!)

I cannot imagine how anyone can hold a contented baby and fail to catch a "rumour of another world". The complexity, promise... to me it always makes me think "a creature like this has to imply a creator".

I know, I know, Tom (thenewsisgood) will quickly remind me - if he's reading this - that there is also all the gratuitous violence and pain. Though yesterday I hardly needed reminding, an afternoon of sermon prep. reading warcrimes websites (well trying to read, the pictures nearly made me sick) and then my colleague who's running the MDC has a husband just out of intensive care, who sometimes does not even recognise her.

But somehow, at least for me a baby still whispers those rumours...

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
God and the Joys of Sex ::

Maggi Dawn's recent post drew my attention to the interview with Philip Yancey. What a thought provoking interview - I must go and read some Yancey. I never have, yet, somehow, I guess for the same reason I've never read Lord of the Rings - because it's a cult book.

Two things struck me in the Yancey interview. One was delight that about sex he was sending a positive message when so much Christian preaching is negative - quite the opposite of God's approach!

But actually - despite the title I've given this (which borrows from an old article) - what really grabbed me was the way he put even sex into context. There's one great quote:
I think that's what being spiritual is. It's paying attention - both to epiphanies that other people may overlook, and also to injustices that people may intentionally overlook.
I just love that idea, it seems to me to describe a lot of what I want in a spirituality for today.

So I guess I'm going to buy the book. And break my rule, and read a cult author. I hope his ideas and the expression and packaging of them are as good as the interview suggests.

(He also mentions New Zealand in the interview, so he can't be all bad!)

Friday, June 25, 2004
Community and action in blogsphere and 'real life' ::

Steve's recent appeal for volunteers to adopt a cheaper diet for a week, and donate the difference to mission, did not fall on deaf ears. COMMENTS and Maggi's extensive musings demonstrate that we read his post. Yet as I write, I'm away from Internet access on a three day writing retreat, no one has volunteered to join Steve. (Still haven't publicly as far as I can see!)

Like others I was stirred by Steve's appeal, so why did we not act?

I cannot speak for you. You'll have to front up to Steve for yourselves! For me lethargy was introduced by the complexity of the required action. Not the menus, but the social complexity:
Barbara does the shopping, but I do the cooking
Four (or often less, who can predict the movements of teens and twenty-somethings) others share our table
I am the only reader of Emergent Kiwi in our household
The effort of explaining and motivating was too much, at least when multiplied by the sorts of issue that Maggi raises
BUT if our pastor at church had proposed such an action I'd have had moral support, others in the family would have taken up the cause and encouraged us to action. Such fragmentation can occur in face-to-face communities. However, the nature of the web, where everyone can choose and adopt 'places' that suit them encourages dissociation. The simplicity of online choice, and the absence of coercion by circumstances and of the positive reinforcement we get from 'doing things together' diminishes the power of online community.

Does this mean that blogsphere promotes only a faux-friendliness that hides a real individualism? Yes and no. Bloggers are mainly Westerners, inhabitants of the most fiercely individualist society yet known, not even the Spartans who reputedly left their ugly or sickly babies to die or sent them off as slaves failed to value social responsibility the way we do. How could we be anything but rugged individuals (my Thesaurus gives "rough, jagged and harsh" among rugged's synonyms).

Yet that's not all we are:
read Finker's poem and weep with him
watch as female bloggers support each other when some poor male lets slip a hurtfully sexist remark
or do as I did some months ago - write to some blogfriends and ask for help with a blog related project
That's when you notice the community beneath (or above) the isolation that life online allows.

[I wrote allows there because there are more of us introverts online than in 'real life' and, along with our particular strengths and gifts, the sin we risk is to isolate ourselves from others.]

Monday, June 21, 2004
Gender roles

Same batch of emails I also had a mail from a young woman who's class at school is studying "gender roles in society and Christianity", she'd read my piece on "submission" from the series on "Women & men - sex & God" that I did a few years back.

It's the most encouraging feature of publication online. Getting feedback, criticism and encouragement from readers. It makes me wonder if I should put the Not just a Father material on God as Mother in the Bible and Christian tradition into an online format....

Global Equity Initiative

Life online is a wondrous experience, I got an email today from someone who likes the Amos commentary. That's not unusual, but this person works for the Global Equity Initiative as an economist. She's also a worker priest.

The Global Equity Initiative and its capability approach strike me as exciting, if I was not just going off for three days writing (with no Internet connection) I'd explore it more straight away!

Friday, June 18, 2004
Biblical Languages

Rubén Gómez has a post on the Bible Software Review Weblog titled "Decline of Greek and Hebrew?" which came serendipitously for me. (It follows concerns in his earlier post about Davide's: Greek and Hebrew: so be it
Rubén writes:
Greek and Hebrew (never mind Latin) have also been "ditched" in many places, or at best relegated to a marginal place. And most certainly Bible software cannot make up for this lack of systematic study of the biblical languages.

This is just the sort of thing one would expect to see when "business interests" and politics become the main criteria. But surely education is something else. I'm afraid these are bad days for the Humanities... (big sigh)
And I agree, I remember my shock coming to a Western Institution after a decade in Africa (where ALL degree students in Theology learned BOTH Hebrew and Greek) to discover that students could obtain a degree with a "major" in biblical studies without even being able to make out the alphabet of either of the main biblical languages! ...and in NZ things have moved downhill since 1993, small classes that we supported then because someone should keep the candle of scholarship burning, are now cut as "uneconomic".

On the other hand among my students there's a growing desire to make use of the tools that software does offer, to "get behind the translation". Just before I read Rubén's post, I was discussing with my principal a new course we are planning to equip students with a little Hebrew and Greek, so that they can at least begin to understand the data from such Bible Software, and read commentaries intelligently...

Opposing tendencies, or the same dumbing down???

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Comment Spam

Well, I suppose it was only a question of time. Today I got the first comment spam on the blog. Actually it was not too offensive, an ardently evangelical atheist pointing me to his presentation of the gospel of unbelief.

I can understand people who don't believe - after all it's often a struggle to maintain belief when life has been smooth and all too easy. (See my post on "Good space, bad space, God space".)

I can understand people who believe wanting to convert others - after all we have (or so we claim) good news! But where is the attraction in persuading others to unbelief - just sharing one's misery?
Maybe I misjudge "hubrisbiscuits" with her/his 5,351 words of earnest advocacy, perhaps buried in the mass of words is something that would make atheism an attractive alternative to dependence on the love and grace of a forgiving creator - somehow, in all the strained attempt to be reasonable about unreasonable issues, I missed that gospel!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Association Internationale Bible et Informatique

The seventh conference of AIBI is in Leuven 23-24 July 2004. I am organising a session with a series of short presentations and panel discussion around the topic "How does an electronic communication environment change the way we do biblical studies?"

The participants and titles are now firm:

Dr Patrick Durusau, Society for Biblical Literature: "“RBL: The Changing Landscape of the Book Review Process"

Paul Nikkel, University of Sheffield: "Through an Open Window: Exploring Openness in Biblical Scholarship"

Dr. Susan Lochrie Graham, University of Exeter/Theology South West: "“E gesis and Eisegesis: Personal development in online biblical studies"

Dr Tim Bulkeley, University of Auckland: "“Hypertext and the arts of biblical studies"

Dr Sheila McGinn, John Carroll University: "“E-gesis and the sensus fidelium"

I hope that the session and the panel will be stimulating, and will open up some of the questions that the Biblical Studies blogs have also been seeking to explore.

If you are at the conference do say "hi!".

Friday, June 11, 2004
Meanwhile in the "real world"...

We had our School of Theology retreat, it's always good to rediscover that despite very different interests, church affiliations etc. we share a great deal, gives encouragement that this unwieldy animal that's been created out of the old consortium might actually work (like the camel, also reputedly designed by committee ;).

On the AIBI front there are now five of us, so the session is a "goer". With two women, three men, two from the USA, two from UK and me we have at least some spread, and the topics should provide both spread and some degree of focus. Wonderful how fast and late one can put something together using electronic communication!

Meanwhile the the putative Coherence of Prophetic Texts group seems also to be on, with a handful of us, and a suggestion that we broaden the focus to include coherence in other Hebrew Bible texts.

Electronic scholarship

I want to acknowledge here that while I've been (physically: at the School of Theology retreat; and virtually: getting the first five Stimulus articles into "final form") away Mark Goodacre has posted a good listing of recent activity on Open Source Scholarship but as well a new slant to the talk of doing scholarship in an electronic environment has been opened up by Rubén Gómez mention of Davide's Notes
, Davide is doing a University of London extramural BD, and is blogging his thoughts and some of what he discovers.

Naturally this thread is being taken up by others notably by Mark with some comments on Student Blogs. As Rubén points out the blog gives an insight into Davide's thoughts as he plans his degree, Mark adds the interesting suggestion that maybe students could be asked to keep a blog much as they are sometimes asked to keep a logbook. That's a suggestion I'll be pondering... What struck me about Davide's contributions was that he hacollectionon of short writings on biblical studies topics that (he's obviously a strong student) provide convenient bit-sized introductions. Now, I'm always on the look out for "Noddy Guides" to point my own students towards to orient and give shape to their reading. It would be potentially useful if Davide would list his posts by category (I spotted a few on social aspects of ancient Israelite life) or if the guys at Deinde would add him to their Biblical Studies Search tool.

Oh, yes, with nice intertextual self-referentiality Davide blogs about Rubén and Mark blogging about him.... With some nice warnings about how adding assessment to the blogging mix might change the medium. More food for thought....

So all-in-all "electronic scholarship" makes quite a good heading for this catch-up post...

Thursday, June 03, 2004
Economics of Open

Stephen in his comment below pointed me to the enthusiastic article from Wired "Open Source Everywhere" among the gush and enthusiasm I'm finding some gems. Did you know that an OS software guy called Bruce Perens has persuaded mainstream publisher Prentice Hall to publish a series under an Open Publication License. Apparently the economics works for the publisher according to Prentice Hall's "editor in chief" Mark Taub :
"We believe that this makes good business sense. We believe that making free electronic copies of the books available will allow people to literally test-drive the book. If they determine that this book is likely to meet their needs, we believe a good number of these people are going to opt to go and buy the printed book, because it's a whole lot easier to consume a book on paper than it is electronically."
I don't think this model could work in Biblical Studies, but Edward Zalta, a philosopher from the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Sanford has been running the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for some years now. It uses a different model. The encyclopeadia has been funded for its set up costs. When I met him at a humanities computing conference in 2000 I was most envious of his US$200,000 grant for software! The authors are rewarded with academic credit.

This seems to me a model that might be more workable in Theology, and with the climate that the Prentice Hall series and other initiatives creates...

Why are AKMA and Trevor finding it difficult to get authors for their Quadriga Publications?

Wednesday, June 02, 2004
OAN notices "theologians"

It was nice to see AKMA's post mentioned on Open Access News, it would be nicer if the discussion was noticed more widely by our own biblical studies guild! I had a discussion with colleagues (face-to-face) about why BS and theology should be so slow to investigate or support open initiatives - what do you think?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
The economics of scholarly journals

Daniel Greenstein (University Librarian at University of California and other impressive titles) has a fascinating yet simple take on scholarly publishing in an article in Nature. He writes:
I believe that the business model of commercial publishing, which once served the academy's information needs, now threatens fundamentally to undermine and pervert the course of research and teaching. Put bluntly, the model is economically unsustainable for us. If business as usual continues, it will deny scholars both access to the information they need and the ability to distribute their work to the worldwide audience it deserves.
Without greater openness of access, scholarship is withering on the vine!

He supports this claim with data from the "Bear Stearns European Equity Research report on Reed Elsevier" (a major scholarly publisher).

He warns that:
Scholars, librarians and others more interested in the future of the academy than in publisher's share prices, should take a hard look at the fairly flat line showing that despite the explosion in the number of new journals, libraries did not buy many more titles in 2002 than they did in 1986. The academy is paying more each year to access a steadily declining portion of the scholarship and knowledge that it creates.

His section "Open minded on Open Access" is especially worth reading in the light of our rescent posts. With headings like:
Will author charges sustain high-quality peer reviewed publications?
Will Open Access publishers guarantee the integrity and persistence of the scholarly record they help to create and disseminate?

NB. what he refers to as author charges and others call the author pays model is not as severe as it sounds.

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