Karl and I attended BibleTech 2008 not quite knowing what to expect. I can say for my part that I was pleasantly surprised by some of the comradery and interaction that took place at the conference. The focus of our presentation "Building Community or Building Babel" (mp3) was to critically think about how the progression of technology has affected our reading of the text of Scripture. The thrust of our focus was on a shift that took place in the 12th century, perhaps best labeled the Alphabetization of the text. At that point texts became something more than the recording of speech and story, they started to become indexed and used much differently than before. Another point was to notice that the use of technology tools these days tends to silo us into experts rather than bring us together as a community to interact about the text. In the future I hope to blog more about a community text tool that helps move people to interact around the text instead of developing systematic weapons to defend and attack one another.
Here were the highpoints of the conference for me:
"Re-Making it Visible" by John Hudson (MP3 Audio) – John Hudson was commissioned by several people to create a new unicode Hebrew Font. His presentation was both philosophical and technical. He started by having us listen to a section of the book of Lamentations being chanted, reminding us that this is where the text has come from, and aural transmission that is being breathed out from person to person. He covered some of the technical aspects of font technology and talked about how font engines work. I think the most profound aspect of his presentation was the invitation to overlay technological, font based versions of the text on the actual images of the text fragments. This allows us to visually interact with the "stuff" of the texts while at the same time makes them serachable, parasable, etc.
"Web Standards: Speaking in Today's Vernacular" by Nathan Smith & Christian Bradford (MP3 Audio) – Nathan and Christian made a compelling presentation on the use of web standards in developing web sites that speak about the gospel.
"Open Source Bible Software: The Re:Greek Transition" by Zack Hubert (MP3 Audio) – Zack's presentation was a personal journey of how he came to publish his original zhubert.com and how it transitioned to re:greek. His presentation included a call to action for those who may want to participate in the refinement and development of this tool in the future. The highlight of this presentation was Zack's discussion of how technology and online "community" is tending to fragment real face to face community. This is an evaluation that I heartily agree with. He previewed a project from Mars Hill Church called "the city" which appears to be a social networking site that moves people toward face to face rather than terminating on online shallow relationship. I am looking forward to seeing this tool develop.
"Visualizing Micro and Macro Structures in Scripture" by Bob MacDonald (MP3 Audio) – This presentation was the highlight of the entire presentation (the best was saved for last). Bob's simple, immersive approach to the Hebrew text was yield fruit that was evidently a deeper affection and relationship with Jesus Christ. The wisdom of his approach was being born out in the the speech that was coming out of his mouth!! He was using a tool that his company developed to look for patterns and structure in the Psalms. One of the most inspiring aspects of his presentation (from a technological perspective) was his use of color. He used color to help him chart what was happening in the text. You can follow Bob's progress here: http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com/
All in all it was a great conference. Some things were encouraging, some things were down right frightening. Perhaps best of all were the conversations and relationships that were started with people who are trying to understand how to live faithfully in a culture that is overwhelmed with technology. Instead of whining for a day when things are better, there are many who are struggling to be coherent to live with the confession in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
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