Saturday, February 24, 2007
  Stimulus and stuff...
The latest issue of Stimulus is out, according to the Stimulus blog it includes both a couple of articles of particular interest to me:
According to the editorial (I have yet to see the paper copy):
Mark Brown presents solid evidence of Bible disengagement in New Zealand. A Bible Society survey showed only 21% of those church attendees surveyed read their Bible daily. 22% read the Bible weekly, while 57% read the Bible occasionally or hardly ever! Chris Marshall builds on this theme, discussing Bible disengagement in postmodernity. This article is followed by a facilitated discussion on this topic between Gavin Drew, of Stimulus, and Chris Marshall and John Crawshaw.
There's also a piece by Nicola H C (a fellow member of the Centre for the Theology of Gender group, and lecturer at BCNZ) reviewing Dawkins' book.

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Friday, February 23, 2007
  Promotion and Tenure New Criteria for New Media
Mark Goodacre has a good post responding to a document (whose status is unclear to me) from the New Media Department at the University of Maine, headed "Promotion and Tenure Guidelines Addendum: Rationale for Redefined Criteria" and titled more snappily: "New Criteria for New Media".

Mark open his post praising his (past and present) institutions for the support and encouragement they have given him. However, he also writes:
One of the difficulties is that in some institutions, those involved with appointments, promotions and tenure, have not yet realized how rapidly the scene has changed in the last decade or so, and just how valuable it can be to have academics who invest a lot of time and energy in new media.
Which is sadly both true and widespread. The Maine document he cites is more focused on creation of new media like websites, however an MLA report (discussed earlier this year in an Inside Higher Ed article "A Tenure Reform Plan With Legs") may well have more impact on us poor biblical scholars!

The article set the scene, with some ancient history:
In 1998, a group of provosts of research universities circulated a document calling for bold reforms of the tenure process. Traditional publishing was becoming an economic sinkhole, they argued. Junior professors couldn’t get published. University presses and journal publishers were losing too much money. Libraries couldn’t afford to buy the new scholarship that was published. Somehow, they argued, the system needed to change — with less emphasis on traditional publishing and more creativity about how to evaluate professors up for promotion.
How similar things are in 2006! The cloud (though no bigger than a man's hand) on the horizon is "a proposal being drafted by the Modern Language Association to fundamentally change how English and foreign language professors are reviewed for tenure."

A special panel of the MLA is finishing a report that will call for numerous, far-reaching changes in the way assistant professors are reviewed for tenure.

Inside Higher Ed reveals that:

Among the ideas that will be part of the plan are:

  • The creation of “multiple pathways” to demonstrating research excellence. The monograph is one way, but so would be journal articles, electronic projects, textbooks, jointly written books, and other approaches.

  • The drafting of “memorandums of understanding” between new hires and departments so that those new hires would have a clear sense of expectations in terms of how they would be evaluated for tenure.

  • A commitment to treating electronic work with the same respect accorded to work published in print.

  • The setting of limits on the number of outside reviews sought in tenure cases and on what those reviewers could be asked.

Comments by Charles Phelps, provost of the University of Rochester, are of particular interest for Biblical Scholars:
What the association is doing is “right on target,” he said, and from discussions with fellow provosts, he predicted that English departments would receive similar receptions in other administration buildings.

“The thing that is first and foremost to me is that these changes will happen when they come from the learned society in the relevant discipline — and the field buys into the idea of changing things,” Phelps said.

So, perhaps at the next CARG we should be lobbying for SBL to start a similar process?

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Thursday, February 22, 2007
  First $150 laptops arrive in Africa and the future of "the books"
Serendipity, according to the OLPC site the first OLPC laptops arrive in Africa, nearer to home Stephen pointed me (in the comments) to the Kim Hill interview with Chris Dibona which is a fun introduction to the whole project... and listening gave me a bright idea.

Soon, and very soon (since they have already begun arriving) these XOs (multimedia laptops, remember) will start to arrive in real quantity in villages in places where print cannot reach, indeed the parents and even more the grandparents of the proud owners of XOs will often be illiterate or semi-literate. So, why not do a PodBible for them? Arrange quick and dirty MP3 recordings of chunks of the Bible in their languages, and distribute them virally... The Bible reaching places it never could before!

XObible Bible for the 21st century? And since "Bible" is just an anglicisation of ta biblia (the books) perhaps a glimpse of (one) future of the book??

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  One Laptop per Child: Unforseen consequences?
According to the Reuters report, "Developing nations to test new $150 laptops" the One Laptop per Child project should start delivering the first few thousand innovative tough laptops to "to eight nations in February".

This project is smart enough, new enough and visionary enough that anyone with a love of technology and half an imagination is bound to be excited by the possibilities. But recently I've begun to think of the possible unintended consequences.

These first 2,500 machines will inevitably be concentrated in villages associated with prominent people. But what about the next million or six? If they too are concentrated in the hands of the villages, tribes, and language groups of the powerful will Western altruism in trying to bridge one "digital divide" widen another? Or will organisations like World Vision ensure that they also get in significant numbers to the least "advantaged"?

And, what about the effect on child labour? It takes very little imagination, and kids even in the poorest places have huge imaginations, to envisage thousands of ways these laptops can be used to make a buck (and adult daily wages are little more than that) using these machines. Will pictures like these:
merely be replaced by this (without the smiles)?

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Monday, February 19, 2007
  Selling the Harbour Bridge?
My Carey colleague Mike Crudge seems to have become a con artist. He's selling Dominion Road!

This scam will only work if lots of people bid, so do claim your piece of history...

If you are still suspicious try checking this out!

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Friday, February 16, 2007
  What is a family?
One of the many jobs that I have not managed to squeeze in (till now) in the rush to get caught up after the summer holiday and before that a trip to SBL and to visit family in the UK was to visit the blogs of my Tyndale Carey Graduate School colleague, Mark Keown. On his (almost?) eponymous blog Dr Mark K has a fine post on a topic that concerns me" What is family" (for my posts see: " What is a family?" "Does the Bible present a preferred pattern of family?" and "Reading the Bible: seeking teaching on family").

Mark and I seem (I only write "seem" because although we are now colleagues we work in different institutions and meek but rarely and have not talked about these issues face to face!) to be in profound agreement, but Mark's post presents a positive view that corresponds to and perhaps fills out what I wrote from a more cautious perspective.

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  Plagiarism and "The Ecstasy of Influence"
We were discussing plagiarism in the teaching staff meeting yesterday. It's a perennial subject, with a series of well remembered moans and gripes, as teachers battle with students. In the past we conducted a sort of Source Criticism by noticing changes of style, or unusually felicitous turns of phrase, and searching out half remembered passages from the textbooks on our shelves. Or in extreme and bothersome cases in the library. [I'll return to plagiarism as a student misdemeanor later... First I'll direct you to a fine, superbly written meditation The Ecstasy of Influence, by NY writer Jonathan Lethem, in Harper's.]

Art and life in a world of influence and dubbing

Lethem reminds us how Blues, Jazz and literature all exist through an "open source" style adapting and adopting by one artist of what others have done. Yet these artforms are merely well known examples where this phenomenon is overt and often recognised. They are examples of all art. If you enjoy reading and thinking, read the piece!

Gradually Lethem moves on to copyright, noting the early copyright battles over photography (another art that evidently only works by framing existing material in a new way):
Was the photographer stealing from the person or building whose photograph he shot, pirating something of private and certifiable value? Those early decisions went in favor of the pirates. Just as Walt Disney could take inspiration from Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr., the Brothers Grimm, or the existence of real mice, the photographer should be free to capture an image without compensating the source. The world that meets our eye through the lens of a camera was judged to be, with minor exceptions, a sort of public commons, where a cat may look at a king.
Introducing the delightful image that we are all born backwards into this world, experiencing the past through the present:
The world is a home littered with pop-culture products and their emblems. I also came of age swamped by parodies that stood for originals yet mysterious to me—I knew Monkees before Beatles, Belmondo before Bogart, and “remember” the movie Summer of '42 from a Mad magazine satire, though I've still never seen the film itself. I'm not alone in having been born backward into an incoherent realm of texts, products, and images, the commercial and cultural environment with which we've both supplemented and blotted out our natural world.
In such a world the iniquities of "copyright" are clear:
The idea that culture can be property—intellectual property—is used to justify everything from attempts to force the Girl Scouts to pay royalties for singing songs around campfires to the infringement suit brought by the estate of Margaret Mitchell against the publishers of Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone. Corporations like Celera Genomics have filed for patents for human genes, while the Recording Industry Association of America has sued music downloaders for copyright infringement, reaching out-of-court settlements for thousands of dollars with defendants as young as twelve.
Meanwhile back in the classroom

Students who - perhaps rightly in view of the experiences Lethem evokes - see reuse as thoroughly legitimate and teachers who strive to hold them to the rules of academic rigour, which include "proper citation", perhaps need to step back and ask why academics cite while artists remix.

Academics cite because the scholarly guild, like any guild worth the name, is built on community, tradition and authority. Citing sources is not as some non-Western students assume another example of Western individualism and private property running rampant across their lives, but rather the desire to document how one's ideas are built upon the work of others. It is precisely community that drives citation. Failure to record one's dept is not merely theft of ideas (from a member of the same guild!) but also lack of respect for the honour of another, and so dishonouring to the writer who fails to acknowledge that debt.

The three levels of citation:
  • page reference and quotation marks: for words that are being added to your remix
  • page reference: where particular ideas but not the other author's wording are being used
  • mention in a bibliography: for all works that were useful
are distinguished for more utilitarian reasons, the bibliography and page references allow another remixer (your reader) to benefit from your work, and so allow you to contribute to "scholarship" not merely through whatever small idea is "new" but also through your work in searching, sifting and evaluating the prior literature.

So, the academic sin of plagiarism remains a sin - even in the world that we enter backwards, where all our best thoughts and words are remixing the ideas and expressions of others - because it fails the rules of the scholarly guild and lacks respect for other members of the guild and fails to support them.

Plagiarism is individualistic theft, just as copyright is!

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007
  The Mouth Revolution!?
Here's a fun You Tube with a message even - The Mouth Revolution.

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Monday, February 12, 2007
  Using a codex
Funny video clip on You Tube, (Norwegian, but with English surtitles) showing a user interacting with the helpdesk as he struggles with the new technology.


And then perhaps join me in thinking about how we might script it differently...

One thing I'd do is add a sequence where the helpdesk guy (HG) explains how the new technology allows non-sequential reading, and the new user (NU) complains that this will mean that readers will never again experience a book as the author intended, from start to finish.

If I think of more I will add them here (dating them) and if you post ones that tickle my fancy I'll add them too...

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Sunday, February 11, 2007
  Online Biblical Scholarship
Two posts recently have got me thinking about why biblical scholarship online is so thin. The first was Tyler's Religious Studies Review: Religion and the Internet in which he reviews Religious Studies Review 32: 4, a special issue on "Religion and the Internet" (the editor was Christopher Helland).

I have not seen RSR yet (paper takes time to traverse distance - boy doesn't it just!) but Tyler sums up the article on "Biblical Studies on the Internet" by Matthew Mitchell:
The review of biblical studies on the web is pretty basic, highlighting only four resources, one relating to NT, one to OT/HB, one to the DSS, and the ancient world.

These are all great resources, though there are so many other excellent resources available on the Internet for biblical studies that I can’t help be a bit disappointed with the brevity of the list.
Sight unseen, and assuming the writer had more than a few hundred words to spare, I'd use stronger language! It is true each of these sites is really good. Chris Heard and Mark Goodacre point to most of the other really good material between them. KC Hanson has a lot of good material, and the Orion site is a good one on a popular topic. And yet... to describe these four sites as a review of "biblical studies on the web" makes "pretty basic" into a new epitome of litotes!

Then John (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) posted "Exploring the Frontiers of Online Biblical Scholarship" the point of the post is that the best of biblical studies resources online are in German not English. In making the point John highlights four projects (some of which could surely have been seen by RSR!
The four are:
These are each great projects, yet somehow John's recurring question "Why don’t we have anything like this in English?" becomes a lament.

Granted that the RSR article may have been horribly negligent, granted the existence of these fine projects (with so far adequate funding) in German, and again granted that there are others like them, I'm still left feeling that biblical scholarship online is a poor weak struggling thing. Most projects are little more than one person's hobby. Where are the teams, where is the funding?

Or to make the question more personal: Why do I find so few people willing to write even a short Bible dictionary article? (And it looks as if WILAT has the same problem, they still only have two articles one by an editor, and the other written in 2004...)

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Saturday, February 10, 2007
  Why Web 2.0 is more than a meaningless slogan
I was pointed to Michael Wesch's little Web 2.0 video on YouTube a while ago (it seems like weeks, but apparently the thing only went public on Wednesday, doesn't time fly on the web!) I watched the start, and thought "this is good, I must bookmark it to watch tomorrow". Of course, tomorrow never came - it only rarely does!

But then AKMA posted about the video and I watched all of it. It is brilliant, simple, short, low(ish) tech and it explains simply and clearly why "Web 2.0" is so much more than a neat - but meaningless - slogan.

Starts with hypertext, reminding viewers what all the hype was about once upon a time, then it makes clear the nature of the underlying revolution that XML generates by separating content and form. (Don't worry people I said the video was neat, quick and simple, he gets you to this point in under 2 minutes of the annoying repetitive techno music. At least if you haven't being living under a stone and you have spotted that webpages have some sort of markup that makes them work. If yiou have been living under a stone go |View|Page Source| right now! And then watch the video...)

By the third minute we are ready for the question "Who will organise the data?", and (almost) ready to spot the answer "We will!" (rather than giving the tired old "Google!").

And then... we've worked out, with Prof. Wesch's help why and how Web 2.0 means that everything needs rethinking.

And then... if we're me we have worked out that actually it is because Web 2.0 changes nothing - all that people producing content, machines linking people stuff was there in Web 1.0, it was even there in ARPANET - what has changed is how easy it is to get stuck in. The web changed everything because non-geeks could manage with a little effort to act like geeks... Web 2.0 changes everything because the effort required just dropped another order of magnitude. And at the same time the power of the results just got raised a power or two...

Wow, Web 2.0 ain't just an annoying slogan, and Michael Wesch's viral video deserves all the attention it's been getting. (I hope the Wayback machine has a good copy for when I need it in 10 years time for a class...)

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Friday, February 02, 2007
  Translating κύριος in YOUR languages
David (Lingamish) has just completed a five part series on translating κύριος (the Greek word often rendered by "lord" in English). The five parts are:
Well worth a read, and your chance to contribute! David concludes:

Now it’s your turn. Please share an example from another language of how this word is translated in the Bible. What are some alternative words that might better capture the meaning of the original biblical term?

You might consider looking through some of the previous posts in this series for ideas of how κύριος was used in the Bible. (See the list at the start of this post)

Please include the following in your comments:

  1. The name of the language and a bit of information about where it is spoken.
  2. How the word κύριος is translated in that language.
  3. Modern usage of that word.
  4. Alternative words in that language that might better capture a particular sense of the word κύριος.
He already has English, Portuguese and Nyungwe. I'll bet Wayne will chip in with at least Cheyenne, over the next day or four I'll hope to add French (unless somebody else beats me to it) and Lingala. So, what languages can you and/or your friends add? Here's a chance to send a really interesting email to those missionaries and other foreigners whom you know ;-) getting their help too!


Thursday, February 01, 2007
  Art and Exegesis: or What has Rembrandt's workshop to do with II-Isaiah's servant?

Stephen Cook has an interesting series of posts at Biblische Ausbildung in which he and several commenters explore issues around exegesis and art. Stephen begins with a painting, "The Descent from the Cross" , currently on display in Washington the gallery site dates it ca. 1651 and believes it to come from Rembrandt's Workshop (probably by Constantijn van Renesse). Stephen's meditation moves between the painting, theological works, and the Isaianic servant songs. For example (from his first post):
As in the artwork, The Descent from the Cross, the crucified one is lank and spindly, totally vulnerable. The crucified one is a true "Servant" in the sense that both testaments of the Scriptures labor to flesh out the nature of "servanthood."

In particular he and PamBG discuss what Eco called "Anxiety of Influence". The discussion takes place in that hinterland of reading where it is both true that "the author is dead" and yet true that the author's intentions (conscious and unconscious) shape the text and so any humble reading of the text. Eco's treatment of this is fun as he was responding to papers at a conference based on his own work.

So, do go and read the posts, and join the discussion.

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  BBB and the Cheyenne Bible
Wayne Leman (the founder of the interesting and active multi-author Better Bibles Blog) posted on the dedication of both print and audio versions of the Cheyenne translation he has been working on (as I remember it, he was working on it years ago, when I first got to "know" him through comments on the early drafts of Amos). A major translation project like this involves so much work, skill, compromise and commitment from so many people that the dedication day must have been a real celebration! (There was even TV and Press coverage.)

So, please pray that this translation will be well used!

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