Wednesday, December 21, 2005

On a Personal Note

Its been a while since I last posted - the realities of life before Christmas, visitors from England etc. But in that time, apart from simply enjoying the stream of great posts from many on my blog roll, I've been reflecting on blogging, what it has meant to me, and some hopes for the future.

Regarding the phenomenon of so-called biblioblogging, I am particularly encouraged. Here is how I see it (what follows is a bit of an overly-dramatic dangerous macro-history list of over-generalisations for you. And this will be for those with 'ears to hear' – I will have to leave much unexplained otherwise it will become too long):

The advent of the first written signs, the formulation of alphabets and the rise of literacy was a huge step in the evolution of humans, and one with huge intellectual and social consequences.

However, with the printing-press, knowledge and philosophy was taken a step further, language traditions were solidified and various schools of thought became important precursors of the Enlightenment.

Then, the onset of better international communication, the telephone and fax, the localisation of academic schools started to 'thin at the edges', but nevertheless remained firmly intact (cf. in chronological order, the Tübingen School, Bultmann and Heideggerian existentialism, Horsely and his anti-empire Boston based political readings. As I said, those with 'ears to hear'!).

Most recently, the internet, online discussion groups, and e-mail has furthered international communication and cooperation in theological research but blogging is playing a unique and important role in this development. Why?

To make this more personal, my theological agenda has been unquestionably shaped by the interests of my undergrad lecturers. E.g. In me is the social-scientific bent of Philip Esler, and yes, I admit, a flavour of Tim Gorringe's politics. Jim Davila's academic rigour, while impossible to simply copy, remained a bench-mark, and most important, Richard Bauckham's brilliance, methods and 'basic level questioning' will always leave a huge mark on me.

And the internet, despite its discussion groups, was always a bit of a disappointment. Instead of creative academic debate, we had, and impersonal discussion forums.

'Impersonal' is, I suspect, the key problem that blogging has changed. These days, with blogging, my own personal theological development has been energised through the development of friendships with those of theological persuasion that I have never, to be honest, seriously engaged with. And these developing relationships have opened the door to share unpublished works behind the scene – and this has been particularly important for my thoughts on the Pauline New Perspective. As my undergrad lecturers influenced me, so too now various scholars across the globe have been shaping my thinking - and most of them probably unaware they do so. And all because I have been building, for want of a better term, a 'personal history' with some of them.

Interestingly, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World-Wide-Web (who now happens to have started his own blog) writes that:

"In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the web if one had access rights a communication that has [...] Now in 2005, we have blogs and wikis, and the fact that they are so popular makes me feel I wasn't crazy to think people needed a creative space.
Of course, local situatendness and cultural embeddedness will always remain (this is no pining for a 'neutral observer'), but the international sharing and exploration and debate now occurring at a relational and personal level through blogging is perhaps one of the most important developments for academia since the telephone and fax machine. Blogging is fulfilling the dreams that many of us hoped for the internet in the first place.


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