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December 4th, 2009

Transmedia and Biblical Storytelling

There’s an interesting article in Wired UK on “Transmedia tales and the future of storytelling“. “transmedia” is my new word for the day: in the article, Henry Jenkins (former MIT professor and author of  Convergence Culture) is quoted, defining transmedia storytelling as

“a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels.”

The basic idea is to go beyond the traditional print medium (a novel) and deliver stories through a combination of print, video, TV, on-line activities, and even real-world artifacts, all working together to engage the reader consumer. The article provides a nice overview of some ways this is happening today.

This is all well and good for contemporary fiction, and it seems like an interesting approach for stories that are unfolding afresh for the first time. The fundamental difference from telling the Biblical story (aside from the fact that we don’t treat it as fiction) is that the narrative itself isn’t “new”: it’s already been “out” in the culture for thousands of years. But that doesn’t mean everybody knows it (clearly they don’t), nor does it mean the presentation can’t be new.

How might transmedia be used to communicate Biblical stories in a way that’s faithful to the text, not speculative (i’m not convinced we need more of these), but still engaging for today’s media-savvy younger generations? As an example, i could certainly imagine a transmedia re-telling of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, his subsequent murder of Uriah, and Nathan’s confrontation of him (2 Sam 11:1-12:26). This highly dramatic story could be unfolded in (compressed) real time, both to give a sense of the time scales involved, but also to bring home more clearly the tensions, uncertainty, and emotional impact of the narrative. For example, a sequence like this (with suitable delays):

  1. introduce the scene from the Biblical text (2 Sam 11:1-4a), perhaps in a Sunday sermon, and invite people to follow along
  2. twitter 2 Sam 11:5
  3. release a video retelling of Uriah’s visit to David (2 Sam 11:6-13)
  4. email 2 Sam 11:14-16, David’s letter to Joab
  5. email Joab’s news flash (and the context)

and so forth.

I’d love to hear about any examples of this kind of interactive, media-engaged Biblical storytelling.

Some related activities:

  • The Network of Biblical Storytellers (my wife is a member, and we attended the 2008 festival gathering) is one group seeking to bring the text more dramatically to life, primarily through oral re-telling that stays close to the Biblical text.
  • The American Bible Society has several initiatives to expand Bible reading and interest in the younger generation, some focused on contemporary music and personalities. This isn’t quite transmedia, though it does combine several media channels in a contemporary fashion.
December 2nd, 2009

Greek Skills Test for Bible Software

I’ve been reading an enormous amount of user feedback lately on the Logos Forums about Logos 4. A lot of it is immensely helpful, as our passionate users tell us what they like, what they hate, what they miss from Libronix 3, etc. It can also be immensely frustrating, as it’s often full of misunderstanding, misinformation, second-guessing about our motivations and actions, hubris, bluster … just the things that characterize many other human communications (along with many refreshingly positive interchanges where people speak kindly, counsel understanding, and plead for cooperativeness).

One result of all this is a new appreciation for concreteness in such forums: reading for the 100th time “Logos 4 is so slow” just doesn’t help as much as a careful description of what the circumstances are (including the hardware environment), what operation is slow, what “slow” means (a few seconds? a few minutes? it just “feels” slow?), etc.

So, in the spirit of concreteness and positive contributions rather than complaining, and following up on some blog-chatter about the recent “shootout” at SBL, i’d like to tackle a nice “pop quiz” i recently found here about keeping your Bible software skills sharp. The original context was performing these tasks with BibleWorks. But i thought it might be useful to identify how to perform these same tasks in Logos 4, both for honing my own skills (i’m not just an employee, i’m a user), and for other users. Please note that i’m not trying to start (or fuel) any “my software can beat your software”-type competitions, or take pot shots at other products (i assume BibleWorks can do all these tasks just fine). I just liked the practical, objective orientation of this list as a learning exercise.

So without further ado, here’s the test (reproduced verbatim except as noted), the process i used to tackle each item, and the results i got.

  1. paulinesearchFind all ESV occurrences in Paul of words beginning in, but not the word in.
    I opened the Search pane, selected Bible Search, and set the search scope to a custom range “Rom-Phil” that i called Paulines. I selected ESV as the Bible, and used the wildcard search expression in* ANDNOT in.
    This returned 94 results in 84 verses, in about a minute (wildcard searches tend to be slower).
  2. formsearch How many Greek OT verses are there with the forms g:kurios AND g:theos? [note: i haven't figured out how to render Greek in my WordPress-backed blog, so i've represented these the way somebody without a Greek keyboard would enter them into Logos. Just to be clear, this is an issue with WordPress, not Logos.]
    I opened the Search pane, selected Bible Search, and set the search scope to Old Testament (Gen-Mal). I selected Septuagint (with Logos Morphology) as the Bible, and used the search expression g:kurios AND g:theos.
    This returned 1367 results in 592 verses, in less than a second.
  3. lemmasearchHow many Greek OT verses are there with the lemmas g:kurios AND g:theos?
    Same steps as above, but using Morph Search this time. As above, i used g:kurios AND g:theos in entry, which the search dialog then converted to the proper Greek forms as before. Then i edited them to have lemma: (not greek:) as the prefix, and @N as the morphological class. There’s a minor gotcha here: you might think you could use search syntax like lemma:kurios in Bible Search rather than Morph Search, but you’d be wrong (or at least you wouldn’t get the results you expect).
    This returned 3319 results in 1335 verses, taking about 3 seconds.You can see some inflected forms in the last verse included in the screen shot.
  4. What’s the difference between these two searches? BGM .?????? and BGT .??????[again, i can't reproduce the Greek, but i'd enter it in Logos as g:iesous]
    Not being a BibleWorks user, i don’t actually know what this means. Maybe it’s searching two different texts? If somebody can translate this for me, i’ll see if i can determine an equivalent.
  5. searchfrominterlinearHow many times does the word translated “creation” in Genesis 1:1 appear in the Pentateuch?
    I assumed “word” here meant lemma. I opened the NRSV, clicked the Interlinear button to display the interlinear text, and selected “created” (not “creation”, but i assume this was the intent) in the English text, which highlighted the corresponding Hebrew term. Then i right-clicked on that term, selected the Lemma tab in the right-click menu,  and selected Search This Resource. That searched the whole Bible (2 seconds), but the question said only the Pentateuch. So then i just changed the scope from All Passages to Pentateuch (i may have created this custom range before, i don’t recall).
    14 results in 11 verses.
  6. frequency of g:agape relative to book sizeg:agape is most common in what book of the Bible, when judged with regard to the book’s size?
    Here i used the Bible Word Study: the Lemma section provides a small sparkline-style graph with relative frequencies. Clicking on this opens up a larger pie chart that’s much easier to understand, but the counts here are absolute, not relative. However, the bar and column chart options let you select various display options, one of which is number of hits/number of verses in book (which i think is the intent of the question).
    Since i had a nice option to export the graph to PowerPoint, that made it easy to reproduce the results here. The winner is 2 John (i had assumed it was 1 John!).
  7. How many times does g:agapao appear in the LXX vs. the GNT?
    Again, Morph Search using lemma:agapao (which magically turns into Greek), over two ranges: LXX, vs NA27, all passages in both cases.
    LXX returned 272 results in 256 verses. NA27 returned 143 results in 110 verses.
  8. louwnidag:agape is in how many Louw and Nida semantic domains?
    Since i know Volume 2 of Louw-Nida has a Greek-English index that lists the domains for each term, the direct way is to just navigate there (using the table of contents) and count. That felt a little like cheating, but i don’t know of another approach that’s closer to the spirit of the exercise.You can of course search the resource for the term, but that produces lots of additional hits. There may be some deeper search magic that could be applied here.
    Two domains: 25.43 and 23.28.
  9. How many ESV occurrences are there of words beginning inter or enter?
    This is pretty much like task #1, but with the range as All Passages, and the search expression inter* OR enter*.
    This was a slow search (76 seconds), which returned 450 results in 413 verses (assuming “enter” was to be included in the set).
  10. prefix searchHow many GNT verses are there with g:uper alone vs. g:uper as a prefix?
    Like the search above, once you appreciate that wildcards word in Greek too. So these are both Morph Search operations, one with (the result of) lemma:uper, and one with greek:uper*.
    As a lemma, 150 results in 135 verses (2 seconds). As a prefix, 209 results in 184 verses. The screen shot is of the latter.

Some closing reflections on this exercise: overall, though it took a little time, i feel like i have a much better understanding now of how to perform tasks like these in Logos 4. The g: prefix syntax for entering Greek terms proved very handy (both for using the software and for blogging about it!), and performed just the way i’d want it to. There are some subtleties about Bible vs Morph Search on original language texts, but they make sense to me in retrospect. These counting tasks aren’t really the heart-and-soul of Biblical studies, but of course all the counts reflect a concordance that gives direct access to the verses in their context. So i’m encouraged that Logos 4 was able to address all these tasks quite easily, quite quickly, and with what i will assume are accurate results (until somebody lets me know evidence to the contrary :-) )

Update (12/3): please see the comments below for discussion of a few things i got wrong.

  • for #1, the range expression should be Romans-Phile (Philemon, not Philippians)
  • there are some subtleties about selection order in Logos that matter to getting the Greek text right for #2 and #3, as Mark Hoffman explains in his comment

Also, credit where due to Charlie Gibson, BibleWorks trainer, as the source for some elements of the quiz (thanks for pointing that out, Mark Ward).