Jim W has posted my thoughts on where the Steering Committee needs to focus our attention over the next year, leading up to the first session in Atlanta. To place this in full context, I have appended the preface I had in my email to the group. I also have some additional comments about recent discussion below.
As I read the various objections to the affiliation/formation of this group they are some of the same concerns I have, what purpose does such an affiliation serve, what determines such affiliation and what would be the topics/subjects covered or addressed in a session? I believe there are answers to the first two questions, but the last? That we need to spend some time thinking about it.
- Purpose – camaraderie, sharing of best practices, reserving meeting space. These are the first reasons for affiliation that come to my mind.
- Affiliation – Anyone who cares to come to the session. Being on the steering committee is another matter. This is just how all other sessions at SBL work. We take care selecting our steering committee but anyone is welcome to submit papers and attend.
- Areas covered – this is where I think we need to focus our attention. Presumably papers would not be able, e.g., considering whether Gen. 1 contains the concept of creatio ex nihilo. There are at least three other sessions where that would be more appropriate. Ditto Jesus, Prophets, Paul, etc. So what would we discuss? I might begin with such suggestions as: value of online resources (e.g., Wiki v. NTGateway); maintaining an online presence as contributing (or not) to promotion and tenure; the value of online social networks (including blogs) for developing one’s research, and so on.
Tonight there is more discussion about the formation of this group and Chris Heard has an amusing and accurate depiction of how blogging will not help one get tenure. I think the question about “academic respectability” is a red herring, at least as far as I am concerned. Perhaps someone has argued that this affiliation will provide “respectability” to our blogging enterprise, but I am not one of them. How could it? We all know the nutters who belong to SBL and somehow they manage to get papers accepted and presented at our conferences. Affiliation is no guarantee of academic ability and quality. To put it another way, any respect that my colleagues have for me should come from my academic production. The articles, papers, and books produced are the coin of this realm.
So as far as I am concerned, as you can see my point #1 the reasons for such an organization are the same reason we have gathered for dinner over the last three years, it is to build friendships, placing faces with names, sharing experiences and best practices, and just being together. At the least, having this affiliation will enable us to better facilitate these gatherings.
None of that doesn’t mean that I don’t think there are other loftier goals that we might have as well. We have the perennial debates about women in our discipline and in the blogging community, whether or not online resources like Wiki are valid resources for our students (and how to provide valid internet resources), and the emergence of online, peer-reviewed journals. SBL sessions on this topics would be, IMHO, valid and relevant to our discipline.
And besides, I like meeting with you all. So order me a cuppa tea and let’s talk.