Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I'm indebted to the Chronicle's Daily Report for twigging me on to futureofthebook.org. A collaborative (and eclectic) group of authors, social scientists, systems engineers, programmers, bikers, graphic designers, and entrepreneurs have come together to chronicle the shift away from the printed page toward the networked screen, "and impact its development in a positive direction". They have an excellent blog -- if:book -- and support the "haystack" project -- http://www.futureofthebook.org/HASTAC/learningreport/about, a collaborative paper entitled The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.

There seems to be a glaring absence in all this collaboration of any input from theologians or clergy (or, dare I say it, librarians). Some of this, no doubt, is because many of us are still way behind the technology curve and are less than actively engaged in the digital dialogues blooming all around us. Some of this may reflect the internal bias of the collaborators themselves who, while not opposed to well-thought-out intellectual debate about religion and belief, seem to largely view that debate as passé as, well, television (witness their Without Gods project).

So where is a theological librarian to stand in the midst of this swirling change? That is one of the themes I intend to keep revisiting in this blog. I remain committed to God's Word as an enduring story that will live into the digital age and beyond. The history of that story is a written one -- a textual one -- but that does not mean that it is in opposition to networked media. Whether we want one or not, I'm sure someone will eventually put together an iPod Bible complete with video clips, "contemporary" Christian music, and links to web-based commentaries and resources. If the iPod Bible is to be truly well done and a benefit to the Church, we will need to listen carefully to the voices of people like the futureofthebook collaborators. People like me bring a passion for the biblical story; people like them bring a passion for networking information well. Hopefully, we can both learn from each other.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I agree that a good discussion of the place of religion in our digital and networked world is something we need. Especially discussions that are willing to look at the pros and cons of the new age. I would really like to see theological librarians take the lead on this and serve the Church by doing so.

A couple of books that I've found helpful are Shane Hipps Hidden Power of Electronic Culture and Albert Borgman's books Power Failure and Holding on to Reality.