Tuesday, November 24, 2009
  Degrees of Presence II: the backstory
Begging Boy - Agra, India by gregor_y
Discussions on "distance education" (the term is often a misnomer since I have had students living or working closer to the on-site classroom than my home is ;) often get bogged down in primitive notions of "presence". The idea of distance skeptics seems to be that we are only "really" present to each other when in the same room. This is evident nonsense. If Barbara and I are in the same room but she is playing Facebook Scrabble I will be lucky to get a sensible reply to any question I ask. If I am reading a book she will get one of those male grunts that merely means "I think I heard that you said something - but I have no idea what." We are virtually non-present to each other, though in the same room. By contrast if we are talking on the phione about some concern over one of the children, even though in different cities we are highly mutually present.

So, I got thinking about degrees and sorts of "presence" in online education. I remember vividly a long "conversation" between two students in the first class in which I used a blog assignment. Student A began from the position that anyone who was poor was poor because they were lazy, shiftless or anti-social. Student B was living in Thailand. B wrote about his family, a young son who saw a boy his own age "selling" flowers as a sort of respectable begging, and his boy's sympathetic response on learning more about the situation. Gradually over a couple of weeks A's attitudes changed and mellowed. He'll never be a bleeding-heart liberal, but the two students impacted each others' lives and were evidently and richly mutually present.

That got me exploring the research literature on the subject... (which will come in part III: Research findings).

Karyn Traphagen has posted about her presentation Taking the Distance Out of Distance Education to the SBL session: 22-201 Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies: Distance Learning: How to teach traditional topics in a non-traditional format. Here is a link to my notes.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009
  David Clines' SBL Presidential Address
It's almost the first time I've attended an SBL presidential address. I know I'm (getting) old, it's the first time I've known and respected an SBL president as more than a name on some papers and books (usually ones I have not read).

DJA Clines is an iconoclast, I vividly remember the time I met him, SBL International in Jerusalem in '86. He was sharing a room with Robert Carroll, one of my few friends from Glasgow, and a guru I admired, but never tried to follow. I had the room next door. (The rich occupied the flash SBL hotels in town, the creative, the European and waifs like me occupied student accommodation at the Hebrew University.)

It was at that SBL International (or at the IOSOTS that accompanied it) that David met Heather, but I remember it more for one phrase. I think it was Clines' but it could have been Carroll's. I've Googled it, but could find no attribution (if you try that NOW, Google leads to me, but I know I did not invent the phrase - I just wish I had). That phrase, picked up from whichever intellectual nomad from the neighbouring room actually coined it, has guided, or at least served as Leitmotiv for two decades of (my) biblical study.

But back, from senescent ramblings about times past, to David's presidential address, David is an iconoclast, and his address topples many cherished icons of the academic world: the dichotomy of teaching and research, and the primacy of the latter, the modes of teaching, the hierachy of teacher and student... David is an entertaining speaker, and most of us chuckled and a few even dared to laugh... David is a prophet, and his address may even (like Muillenberg's in 1968, an SBL even I am too old to have attended) provide a stimulus for years to come... But is was not NEW. And there's the tragedy, Biblical Scholars are still not listening to other disciplines, we "borrow", occasionally, an unfamiliar notion torn from its context (preferably non-Anglophone) in Psychology (especially the esoteric and academically dubious fringes of Psychology) or Literary Studies for these can provide the dillettant biblical scholar with a neat paper for many sections in the SBL program guide, but we systematically turn our backs on the professionals. Professionals in teaching above all ;)

And that may be the truly iconoclastic element in DJA Clines' SBL presidential addesss in 2009. If he stimulates a few younger scholars to toy with the ideas of teaching theorists and researchers as he once stimulated me to toy with ideas of the unnecessary "hypothesis of the idiot redactor" then thank God for SBL Presidents!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009
  Homeless in New Orleans: are fraudsters

I have just received an email from the Internet-based booking agency that I used to book my hotel for New Orleans. They have cancelled my booking. I am now homeless for SBL, and have only a week or so to try to find somewhere else. I was stupid I should have checked that the agency was honest :(

All I can do not is warn anyone considering using that they are a bunch of fraudsters! They have had the use of my money for months, multiply that by hundreds of other suckers and they are onto a really good deal.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008
  Historical Books (Hebrew Bible): SBL International
Today (Wednesday) was a short day at ISBL, nevertheless the section Historical Books (Hebrew Bible) produced some fine stimulation. The first paper scheduled was one of the disturbingly many no shows. (Perhaps the people did not all realise the distance involved in getting to NZ till too late to pull their names from the programme?) Each of the papers we did hear was stimulating:

In "Why So Reticent, Boaz?: Boaz's (In)action from an Identity Perspective" Peter H. W. Lau of Sydney University presented a reading of the book of Ruth that analysed Boaz' behaviour from a Social Identity Theoretical perspective. Using this grid enabled Peter to describe clearly the issues involved and throw considerable light of some of the gaps that we as listeners to the story are obliged to fill.

Next, Sunwoo Hwang of the University of Edinburgh offered a clear and organised discussion of "Bêtî in 1 Chronicles 17:14: Temple or Kingdom?" and in doing so drew my attention also to the interesting differences between not only 1 Chron 17:14 and its presumed source in 2 Sam 7:16, but also between the LXX and MT.

Rachelle Gilmour of the University of Sydney presented a lively and engaging analysis of "Suspense and Anticipation in I Samuel 9" and in doing so added still more to my appreciation of this most entertaining and rich passage. (For my take on the passage before Rachelle's paper listen to my 5 minute talks "Humour in the Bible: Part 1: Introducing Saul and Humour in the Bible: Part 2: Still Introducing Saul, incidentally there really are other 'casts in the Humour in the Bible series!

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  Genesis: SBL International
My vote for the "best paper" I heard yesterday does not go to the session I presented in, though (naturally) I thought "we" had some good stuff, but to one from the Genesis section. The presenter was a Francophone Belgian (a Walloon) from Louvain-la-Neuve and Arizona State.

Françoise Mirguet's topic was "The divine monologues in Genesis: An interrupted sequence". She presented the monologues, noted that the cease at 18:17-18, and explored their function in the telling of Genesis, arguing that the reason they cease is that the last monologue represents the moment when God elects a dialogue partner in Abraham.

I am not quite convinced by the case she argued, but convinced enough that I look forward to reading the published version to see if I am then convinced - at least I think there is a "case to answer"...

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008
  SBL International: The Bible in the Pacific
One really interesting session I attended yesterday was "The Bible in the Pacific", appropriate in a city which is home to more Polynesians than the other South Pacific Islands put together (I believe, if this is urban myth someone correct me!). I'll mention the two papers in the reverse of the order they were presented, since they represented two generations of Pacific Biblical scholarship.

Sione Havea is a well-established Tongan biblical scholar, now at Charles Sturt University. His paper "Displacing Bible, Drifting Homes, Restless Tellings" was a lively repeat of the usual post-colonial warnings about the ways in which the (Western) missionary enterprise of the 19th and 20th centuries left the Bible as a problematic book. It was engagingly delivered, and even the jibes at "Western Men" did not seem to hurt the Western males in the audience ;-)

The words were enlivened by "
works by artists from Oceania who expose the partnership of the Christian mission with Western colonization"). I somehow missed the argument of the second part, where he spoke about "how and why the Western bible [failed to] function as 'home' for the natives (for whom 'stories give home'). The third part, spoke of "the power of telling" this was a passionate plea, but sadly the example based on the "witch of Endor" (which was promised in the abstract) did not feature in the paper as presented.

Nasili Vaka'uta, a doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland (declaration of interest: I have co-supervised his thesis for the last few years) belongs to the next generation of Pacific scholarship. Nasili spoke on "Myth of (Im)Purity and Peoples of the (Is)Lands: A Tongan Reading of Ezra 9-10" To me Nasili's great achievement is to have prodcued a reading of his text which uses Tomgan vocabulary and culture as the categories that shape the reading. His "Tongan reading" is not merely a Western reading in Tongan clothes therefore, but more genuinely Tongan. I remember encouraging my Congolese students in the 80s to begin, trying to achieve this task, of discovering the thought patterns and processes that would lead to African readings that were African in their intellectual framework as well as their appearance! Back then we made little progress, but I think Nasili's paper represents a strong beginning to such a process for Tongan Tu'a readers. Here is his abstract:

Ezra 9-10 is narrated with a gaze. It gazes at the “peoples of the lands” not merely to identify, but also to belittle and discriminate against. In this paper, I offer a Tongan reading of Ezra 9-10 with attention to objects of deriding gazes, and the myth/ideology behind the gaze vis-à-vis the colonial construction of the Oceanic island 'natives.' This reading is situated in the social location of Tongan commoners (tu'a), and theorized with the Tongan notion of fonua (land, place, sea, and people). Methodologically, it weaves together insights from various methods and categories from Tongan culture. This interpretive framework provides the lenses for enga[g/z]ing (gaze back at) the text.

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Monday, July 07, 2008
  Society for Biblical Literature International: Powhiri
SBL International has begun. The first papers are not due for another half hour, but the conference began yesterday with a powhiri (Māori welcome ceremony) and a reception. For the SBL International in Auckland, the challenge was "Kamate Kamate" somewhat oddly since this haka was judged too bloodthirsty for international rugby matches (ka mate means death!) - apparently International Rugby is wimpy compared to International Biblical Scholars ;-)

It was great to begin this first ever SBL in New Zealand in a culturally appropriate way with the visitors being welcomed to the University Marae, to the University and to the country. As so often though my delight in powwhiri was tinged with saddness, of only Māori custom could unbend enough to produce a geniuinely bicultural powhiri one for example in which the speeches were tailored to the presence of 90% of the participants who are not fluent in Te Reo (the Māori language) so shorter and accompanied by brief summary statements in English (like subtitles) so that the 90% could understand and appreciate the ceremony. Such a powhiri if regularly adopted for bicultural occasions, would I suspect take NZ by storm and become the only appropriate way to formally welcome visitors. Instead too often what we have is a mere cultural show - which ends up turning Māori into museum exhibits, rather than partners in a bicultural society.

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Monday, June 30, 2008
  SBL International : Offline and accomodation
SBL International in Auckland starts next week, my last attempt here to get a group of people who are active online to meet face to face didn't exactly draw a crowd, so like Robert the Bruce (who my granny used to claim was an ancestor of ours) I'll try again ;-)

I'm proposing Wednesday evening, early (for those who are jetlagged), the last of the tours finishes at 5pm so maybe meeting for "tea" (i.e. an early informal evening meal) at 6pm... suggestions of better times/dates are welcome....

If there is anyone attending SBL who does not have accomodation booked, or who would prefer to stay in a home please ask as we have an empty spare room that we'd expected to be full, we live close to central Auckland.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008
  ... but the impossible takes longer!
Well not impossible actually, but the highly desirable (for biblical scholars) and unexpected, Zotero add-in that "does" SBL stylesheet citations and bibliography. There is a bug using the style with version 1.0.3 as Mark noted in his post Zotero: SBL style beta now available it crashes if you try to add a page number to the footnote :( However, it is said to work with the Beta version 1.0.4 of Zotero, so not long to wait...

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Monday, April 14, 2008
  Zotero does SBL
Just a note to any Bibliobloggers currently hesitating before starting to use a real and really simple bibliographical tool instead of EndNote, and thus reclaim the power they thought their PC had from that engulfing monster from the deep.
Zotero has begun to work on supporting the SBL Manual of Style as one of the many stylesheets it can output. At present it is "dev", but on a short test seems to be working pretty well...

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Monday, March 17, 2008
  SBL International Bloggers
In a comment on the post below Why I (usually) blog - and why I am not blogging (here) much this year Stephen asks:
Tim, do you know if there will be any SBL Biblioblogger gathering at the SBL international meeting in July?
Oh, yes Stephen, there will, the hereby announced, but as yet undated (since it was your comment that reminded me of the need to get something organised ;) Great, First Ever?, SBL International Bloggerfest. International (and indeed national, of any and all nationalities) bloggers with an interest in academic study of the Bible and/or Theology in any other of its (subsidiary? ;) forms are invited to share a meal and chat. All you will have to do is get yourself to Auckland at the time of the International SBL meeting this July. If anyone has a suitable microphone system we'll also tag on a meeting of the International Society for Theological Podcasting (and related disciplines) and do a podcast... Minor details like exact date, and location (our house, or some suitable eating house in walking distance of the conference...) to follow. But please (and seriously, folks) book the concept, and once it is announced book the date too!

PS: If you plan to be in Auckland in July and are potentially interested, please indicate this in a comment below, and say if there are particularly bad or good times for you. This may help plan the event!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007
  Elementary, my dear Watson!
cash advanceWell, they are all doing it, first (I think) in "our" circles AKMA, then JPS both of whom run genius level blogs! Susanne gave us a brief round up, though the best anyone except John (who, I am reliably informed, cheats by pasting lots of Hebrew into every post) could achieve on her tests was Postgraduate Level. So I gave in to the temptation (I blame it on the marking it makes me go all light-headed) and tested Sansblogue. You can see the result on the right...

So, for those whose heads are aching from reading all those Genius-level posts, just come over here for a rest!

In the meantime, I have four exegeses and about thirty blog assignments to mark, so you'll be on a diet of pictures for another few days yet, which will probably lower the reading age required even further ;-) but should encourage some of you to book for SBL International in this beautiful land next July!

Today's "wish I was there" photo is of Kaikoura (where we went whale watching and saw loads, but were very sick, they said the sea was "very lumpy", they were right :(

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ideas for the Bible Dictionary (from SBL) ::

This post is partly a note to myself, partly a hope that you will help me evaluate and work through a couple of ideas for the Bible Dictionary project that came out of sessions at SBL.

HBD and Bible Software

Someone suggested (sorry I never got a note of your name, if you read this please email me so I can note and remember you!) that we talk to Logos or BibleWorks about the possibility (once we have a first edition of articles) of putting the Dictionary into their software as well as making it available on the web. For the software company it would give them a good recent dictionary (currently they are all "aging", either old and out of copyright like ISBE, or elderly like The Anchor Bible Dictionary) that they could include even in basic packages. It would give us another funding source either for starting or (more likely) for running costs and development.

Semantic markup

As part of Sean Boisen's presentation for which he promises the slides soon, he showed us a cool implementation of his NT names data being used to sort and display names from the NT according to different categories. So, e.g. interested in Ephesus one could find out what other cities were in the same region, or which characters lived or visited the city (in the NT). I began to imagine making use of such a facility as part of the interface for the Dictionary...

Basically Sean's NT Names is (IT geeks please bare with my inaccuracies, ignorance and oversimplifications) a system of classifying names - of people and places so far - according to their relationships. So Timothy is an "associate of" Paul, but the "son of" Eunice, "lived in" Lystra, he "visited".... etc. A user who can navigate through this web of data while "inside" a Bible Dictionary has a whole load more options for exploring!

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Cheap(er) Hotels and WiFi at SBL ::

AKMA complains that his hotel charges per CPU for WiFi, so in "All But The Shopping" - his final post from SBL - he was unable to post what he wanted because he was using Margaret's laptop not his own (greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his WiFi for his wife? ;-)

The answer is simple and cheap, next time go to a cheaper hotel. Both last year and this I had free WiFi as part of the package at my hotels, not because I looked for it, but because I chose cheaper hotels who use free WiFi (rather than the size of the rooms or the armchairs) as another means to attract custom.

Incidentally, the Harrington Hotel has a burger bar Ollie's Trolley (on the corner of 11th and E) which does the best chips/hot chips/fries I've had - at least of the shoestring sort - as a bonus. Several blocks from the conference, but only two from a shuttle...

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Monday, November 20, 2006

SBL Podcast (info box) ::

A bunch of the bloggers at SBL got together and made a podcast Bibliobloggers @ SBL. We just sat and chatted, and despite our fears we did not run silent as soon as the mics were switched on. At times it sounds more Marx Brothers than Biblical Scholars on a Plane, but conversation included blogging and blogging tools, as well as current research and publications and of course Hebrew Tattoos.

The Firefox blogging plugin some of us plugged is Performancing, neat and cool, as we said it allows you to press F8 and then to drag and drop, type and edit your post live in the bottom of ther FF window as you surf. Then when you have finished (and I now have) just click to publish...

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Best paper so far at SBL award ::

For me, and any such judgement is bound to be gloriously subjective, though in this case supported (according to the clapometer) by the others in the room, the best paper so far at SBL has to be Sara Milstein's "Recapturing the Prophet: Identifying Amos' Call Narrative in 3:2-8".

Sara argued neatly and succinctly that the prey in Amos 3:3-8 is not (as is usually assumed) Israel, but Amos. The change of voice and form between 3:1-2 and 3-8 suggests that we not be too quick to identify the "two who walk together" as YHWH and Israel... None of the traps and disasters in 3-8 tells of the death of the prey, yet elsewhere Amos is not reluctant to proclaim Israel's death! The language of capture (4b & 5b) and fear (6a & 8a) serves suggest that the prophet is YHWH's prey (as Jeremiah will be in Jer 20:7ff. though the seduced Jeremiah is a human prey, while Amos the herdsman is an animal in a trap).

I haven't the space, or the memory to summarise Sara's agruments properly, sufficient for now to say that she neatly supported her claims till the conventional reading of the passage seemed forced and her reading natural. I am totally convinced by her reading, except for the name "call narrative", if Amos 3:3-8 describes or argues for Amos' call, and Sara convinced me it does, it is not a "narrative". But then as Sara points out, we name the genre after the versions in Isaiah and Jeremiah (perhaps including Ezekiel), yet Amos can (perhaps - I have doubts over the dating of the material in the book) claim "prior art". Maybe the genre already (if we include Ezekiel) quite diverse is not prophetic call narrative but something like "justification of a prophet's call".

The paper that followed Roger Nam's "Grain, Wine and Oil in the Northern Prophets:The Socio-economic Background of an Agricultural Metaphor" was also a prime example of stimulating work. Roger moved confidently from a summary recasting of the archaeological data to a comparative linguistic examination of the terms concerned. Another paper I must follow up... And perhaps more grist for a new edition of Amos ;-)

[In the interests of full disclosure of interest, I must confess that Sara cited my 1999 paper and it is always gratifying when ones work comes back to haunt one. On that, I'll wait till I read her paper at more leisure, to decide if I am convinced by her there too, or if I still stand by Bulkeley 1999!]

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Technology, teaching and biblical studies (SBL plus) ::

This post is not the promised report on SBL, but a note to myself first about the conversation I had over lunch with Thomas Naef (Lausanne, BiBIL) who has been teaching a course that sounds not unlike my Bible in an Electronic Context more on that when I have a chance to look at the material that he will be putting online when he has the time to put it up ;-) (Busy aren't we!) And second, by serendipity, somehow I missed the post on Hebrew Scriptures and More . . . . which pointed to David Hymes "Technology, Internet and Teaching" site. Here are two for me to follow up once things quieten down, and maybe there are some conversations to be had here in blogaria like the one with Thomas over lunch...

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Sunday, November 12, 2006
SBL Forum Wiki Edition ::

(With apologies to all the other contributors. Especially Bob Buller who wrote on Google Books so is also a must read for me - I can probably live without Samuel Thomas' Bible Scholar on an Airplane as I'll be one in a day or two!)

But given my limited time at this season, its the "In the Classroom" articles that deserve my first read. They all focus on Wikis!
Sight unseen (I have yet to begin to read any of them!) Kevin Wilson's is the most exciting as Tyler's post led me to Kevin's Blue Cord Bible Dictionary wiki project even before he led me to the SBL Forum. I do hope Kevin will be at SBL and we can meet up!

Now I must run, the day is breaking and Barbara needs coffee before church...

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Blogger meet at SBL ::

Rico (Informal Biblioblogger Get-Together at ETS and/or SBL?) proposed that those of us who will be at SBL meet up, he is now suggesting after the CARG session on Sunday, Nov 19th (in room 103A-CC). That session ends at 3:00, and others begin at 4:00. So it should us time to meet at least briefly. As "Rico" says: "Spread the word — See
you there?"


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