The Society of Biblical Literature has been trumpeting its NEH grant to develop a site that promises to “improve public understanding of the Bible and its contexts.” I’m all for improving understanding of the Bible, and you know I’m pro-technology, so one might suppose I regard this as great news.
I’ve seen too many overfunded “great ideas” come to nought, though. The wrong people — enthusiastic about the wrong aspects of online technology, not having watched and learned from the growth of communities and constituencies on the web — think that it would be cool to have a highly-animated, mouse-over click-through explanation of what Hellenistic Sepphoris was really like, or some such project. Such projects spend thousands of dollars on outside consultants who don’t inhabit the world of academic biblical studies, so that technologically-un-fluent scholars are supervising biblically-uninformed web designers, and the heap of funding results in hardly any benefit to anyone except those who’ve received payments from it.
Very much on the positive side, Blogaria’s own Mark Goodacre is on the advisory board. I don’t know how deeply digital the other members are; I see several with some digital experience, and others whose technological insight I have reason to question. The S2N Media promotional website doesn’t encourage me, though, and I have the uneasy feeling that Mark’s voice may be muffled by other forces.
I’m hoping for the best, but it would take more positive evidence for me to be vigorously enthusiastic.