November 27, 2005

On the SBL Bloggers Discussion

Prior to SBL, I said in a post, that it's fine (and probably necessary) to ask the academic question of what is a biblioblog, "but in the end it doesn't prove entirely helpful." Wow, I mean it all the more now.

It was clear from the discussion at the CARG section that no sole mission of a Biblioblog need ever rise to the top. One panelist pleaded for folks to post only field-related material. Another got up and said he didn't know why he was there since he almost never posts field-related material.

As a linguist interested in the way a term is being used, as opposed to concerns for prescriptively classifying a group, I'd simply point out the two ways the term is being used. A biblioblog(er) as

  1. a blog that focuses a fair amount of time to issues related to the scholarly study of the bible, and/or
  2. a bible scholar who has a blog
I think the combining these two notions has contributed to confusion and even ill-will. The funny thing is, I don't think much debate is happening around dissecting this notion of "scholar(ly)" that distinguishes from "Godblogs".
The two main concerns have centered around the amount of personal, non-field related material and the clublike nature of "the group" that excludes others such as women. The first concern does come out of a misguided need to define a group, but it also includes a plea, really. There are some blogs I'd like to read, but it's just too muddled with other topics for me to invest the time to include it on my feed. For instance, I took AKMA off my feed list earlier this year. His children sound really great, but I have two of my own kids and it's hard enough for me to keep up with them.

The second concern came in the form of accusations of exclusivity. This seems to focus entirely on the person behind the weblog, and the desire to be accepted (or noting the exclusion) by the network of these peers. In the inaugural post of the Macintosh Biblioblog I asked,

Does the format necessarily emphasize the personality of the provider? Does the messenger become as important as the message? And, is that really a bad thing?
I'm starting to think yes. I think the use of the term 'biblioblog' is a common denominator, a convenience. We can always contrive otherwise. Have a look at It is a directory of bible scholar related blogs, but listen to the self-description:
...this site functions as a place which ties together biblioblogs in a single definitive list. A bibliobog, in short, is a weblog that focuses on biblical studies and similar studies. The column on the right displays a list of all the blogs (it's in progress) that we consider to qualify as biblioblogs and are worth persuing.
A single "definitive" list? A list of "all" the blogs that "qualify" and that are "worth" perusing? Well, if I were to judge this web resource in the context of this discussion, it's editors come out looking like tyrranical monsters interested in subverting all things not them. But you know what? They were just trying to be helpful. They didn't mean "definitive" as much as they meant "comprehensive". And by "worth perusing", I suspect what they meant were some combination of blogs kept by major bible scholars and/or or well-established blogs done by bible scholars and/or blogs that focus primarily on some aspect of biblical studies. In other words, a list of blogs that are most likely to be of interest to those interested in Biblical Studies.
And guess what? My blog isn't on their "definitive" list. Why not? I've no idea. It is probably for no real reason, but who knows and who cares? But I bet if I asked them to, they'd put it on the list.

What bothers me about the exclusivity debate at the CARG session and the ensuing conversation has been the tone. If one has a concern while at the CARG session, participate in the session and share the concern. But instead of throwing accusations at the CARG panelists, how about beginning the conversation by recognizing their attempts to get a woman blogger panelist. And instead of coming at this as colleagues, we throw mud at a panelist for using a 3rd person pronoun, with no graces offered for him speaking in a non-native tongue? And I see Tim has made a comment in reply to Jim comparing the naming of a Biblioblogger to the naming of Klansmen. Why are people being so nasty?

In a less incidiary moment, Tim of SansBlog is right on when he points out that, "by naming we create a group, by discussing who is in (and therefore by implication who is out!) we create exclusivity." So, I again conclude that it's a non-discussion, defining what qualifies as a Biblioblog, or more importantly, who qualifies as a Biblioglogger. But that doesn't mean that we need to make sure we never use a term as a common denominator for the sake of convenience. For Tim has also said, "Biblioblogger is simply a convenient name for a bunch of bloggers who read each other's stuff and comment on it!" He went on to warn not to make it a club hard to get into, and that warning stands. I loved Stephen's comment at the CARG meeting regarding the selective process of who becomes aware of which bloggers: If you link to my blog, I will check out yours. Weblogs were at their inception and continue as a network of connections made by linking into the network.

I think Mark's closing reflections serve as good advice. Blog what you want to blog, and read the blogs you want to read.
And I would add, any academic discussion of web resources should focus on the substance of the resources themselves, and not the person behind the resource. A valid "categorizing" or "limiting" or even "excluding" discussion in an SBL section might focus on the substantive contribution made to or with biblical scholarship. In contrast, a valid discussion about the people behind web resources could be something like surveying, "What are the kinds of things bible scholars are doing with their scholarship on the web?" and/or "How are scholars choosing to contribute to the field through their web resources/logs?"

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