The Future of Blogs and Blogs of the Future

Esteban Vázquez wrote a blog post not long ago, reflecting on a decade of biblioblogging on his part:

Biblioblogdom, as it once was, has ceased to exist. Which isn’t to say that no one is blogging about the Bible and theology—far from it! (Witness the monthly Biblical Studies Carnival, ongoing since 2006, and hosted this month by our old friend Jason Gardner.) But the community, with its vigorous exchanges across all levels so often chronicled in “round-ups,” seems to have disintegrated in favor of a more autonomous approach. While this is doubtless a cause for regret, there is also a certain freedom in it: it is frankly impossible to keep up with 200 or more posts a day, let alone to participate meaningfully in that many conversations, and less still to produce contributions that will keep the entire community engaged. The conventional wisdom these days is that, in the age of Twitter, no one reads blogs any more. I’m not sure that’s quite true, but perhaps this perception signals that the conditions are right to venture out once again, even if only occasionally.

The feel of the biblioblogosphere has certainly changed dramatically and perceptibly, although it is very hard to pin down precisely what has changed and why. But one thing, which Esteban mentioned, is the sheer volume of blogging that there used to be, and would be if all the biblioblogs that once were had been continuing their prodigious output. I’ve noticed a couple of blogs on which things had gone silent, but where activity has just revived. Sci-fi author Jack McDevitt has just started blogging! Whether any of that means the trend of decline in blogging may reverse remains to be seen.

Jack Vance also mentioned this in a blog post, in which he shared this image:

internet drink fire hydrant

But what is the appropriate response? To attach a narrowing funnel? To thin the herd? Or to find some other method of drinking effectively from such a source? Human beings are currently coping with the literal impact of things that were historically scarce – not only water but food and especially sugars – becoming abundant. And so we need to learn to cope with a shift from scarcity to abundance if we are to survive, in many domains and not just that of information in the internet era. And I think that blogs can likewise play an ongoing role as their place amidst the internet’s deluge of information shifts in the opposite direction, from a role of predominance to a more limited and select set of contributions.

Of related interest, see the First Monday article “Why Blogs Endure” and also Bill Caraher’s blog post, “The End of the Blog?” in which he reflects on how internet and academic culture have shifted in recent years, and how that impacts bloggers active at the intersection of the two.

 

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  • John MacDonald

    The experience on this blog and Dr. Ehrman’s blog are very different. On his blog, there are usually 30 or more comments for every blog post, and Ehrman tries to say a few words about most of them. There is little interaction between bloggers. Here there is rich discussion between bloggers, and Dr. McGrath engages in in-depth discussions. I think this blog is a much richer place for exploring ideas.

  • arcseconds

    I got in to blogging ‘before it was cool’ when a friend of mine created a little blogosphere of his own. That site was retired a long time ago, even before its demise people were moving on to other things, livejournal was popular.

    Now I think facebook has taken over for most of the people I interacted with online back then.

    (And I get the impression some people are tiring of facebook…)

    This basic pattern seems to me to also hold with people whom I don’t in any sense know personally but followed online a bit.

    I wonder whether there is anything more to any of this other than having a certain platform available which supports a vibrant community at a point where one has the time and inclination to engage in it. Another platform comes along and draws enough people to it that the older platform becomes a shadow of its former self. Eventually the stalwarts find other things to do, which is only natural, one can’t expect everyone to continue forever with something they were keen on at one point, but with each departure that isn’t matched by a newcomer there is less and less reason for the remaning people to continue.

    • John MacDonald

      arcseconds – You were away from this blog for a while before you came back. I’m glad you did because I like your posts. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Beau Quilter? He used to post here all the time. He had great ideas too.

      • arcseconds

        Thanks for this John.

        You said this earlier and I forgot to acknowledge it.

        I have to admit that blog isolation did mean I got to do a lot more other stuff!

        Beau hasn’t been away for all that long, has he?

        • John MacDonald

          I haven’t come across anything Beau said in a while, but maybe I’ve just missed his posts. I like your and Beau’s posts because you come from a secular point of view (which is my worldview as well). When we began as single cell organisms, there was no afterlife for us, and that never changed just because we have evolved to become more physiologically complex.

  • arcseconds

    OT, but I note that Fred Clark has written another ‘bad jackie’ piece:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2018/01/06/bad-jackie-permian-pompeii/

    the original parable involves Jackie believing there are poisonous South American spiders in international terminal toilets, and there are two versions of Jackie: ‘good Jackie’ who backs down and reconsiders when presented with contrary evidence, and ‘bad Jackie’ who doubles down.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2010/09/19/jackie-at-the-crossroads/

    Fred does fairly insightfully connect this to differences in character between the two Jackies. Good Jackie is reflexively honest, and has a sense of humour, for example, whereas Bad Jackie has a tendency to embelish the truth (by connecting spider stories to people she knows personally) and can’t stand embarrassment.

    However, the point that he keeps coming back to in the various reiterations of ‘bad Jackie’ is that the ‘bad Jackies’ of this world (young earth creationists, etc.) ‘agree to participate’ in the lies, and when they encounter something their ‘web of lies can’t withstand seeing’, t

    What happens then is up to them, but they’ll have a decision to make, and it will be one they cannot help but be fully aware of making.

    I am highly skeptical that it is necessarily this clear to anyone.

    So my question is, to James and any other former YECs or anyone else who got out from out from some similarly dominating doctrine, did it seem this way to you? Were you conscious at some point of making a decision to double-down on your position and push aside obvious evidence against it?

    (Remember that Fred’s language is quite stark: “fully conscious”, not “vague, whispering doubts on the edge of awareness” or anything like that…)

    (James, I know we’ve discussed this topic before, but my Google-fu was unable to conjure our previous discussions. I don’t recall discussing it from this angle — what I do recall is points from the other side of the conversation, e.g. that patient reiterations of the scientific position eventually did help. But if we did, my apologies for retreading the same ground!)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I was pretty sure that I had told my own story before, although it isn’t a very interesting one. I came to YEC subsequent to coming to a personal faith, and wasn’t brought up in it, and so it only took clear evidence that it was not merely wrong but deceitful for me to abandon it. But it took a well-argued case that was not perceived as an attack on my faith, and if it had been offered as such I might have responded to it very differently.

      Of related interest:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2012/08/young-earth-creationism-is-a-cult.html

      • arcseconds

        My impression from what you have said before is that you were a YEC for some non-fleeting amount of time, and you obviously did defend it to detractors.

        What I am interested in with regards to Fred’s comments is whether or not there was a point where you realised, quite consciously, that you were choosing to defend a lie, but continued to make that choice anyway?

        Fred seems to think that this inevitably happens. I on the other hand are unpersuaded, and therefore regard this notion as dubious, probably false, and actually quite unhelpful as it seems to be about interpreting the situation so that the ideologue is culpable.

        It’s not clear to me that people’s wrongheaded beliefs are always entirely their own fault…

        But maybe in your case the point it became obvious to you it was a lie, you simply made the correct decision and stopped defending it?

        What can we do to not be perceived as attacking faith? Creationists tend to suppose that a literal belief in Genesis is a cornerstone of their faith, so isn’t it the case that supporting evolution is always going to be perceived as an attack on their faith?