What do you think a state-of-the-art electronic journal in biblical studies would look like?
This question lives right where so many interesting discussions are currently taking place around topics like
- the future of publishing and the book
- how collaboration, user contribution, and social media change the nature of publication
- open access journals and publishing (see for example this list of 63 open access journals in the broad area of religion from the Directory of Open Access Journals)
- how vendors and publishers might facilitate this new world: Microsoft is definitely thinking about it, and Dave Weinberger has some rough notes here from a talk. Science publisher Elsevier is working toward the (research journal) article of the future.
It’s still too early to know the answers, but here are a few areas of interest to me:
- The value of search, hyperlinked information, and other digital conveniences seems indisputable.
- There’s a lot of momentum from openness so far. Wikipedia has clearly won the day against the Encyclopedia Britannica, through its combination of free access, timely update of content, and tremendous scope – and despite criticisms of its lack of authoritativeness and editorial control (a caution to those who want peer review to be a control gate). But clearly part of Wikipedia’s real success is its ability to motivate and manage an enormous community of volunteers: it remains to be seen how easily others can replicate that feat. Hobbins rightly questions how this will all work with databases that are behind pay walls.
- In the five years of Web 2.0, we’ve all learned the value of having a community that can tag, rate, and comment on content. But the network effects here require a certain critical mass to pay off: how would that be accomplished in a field like Biblical studies? How will authors feel having others leave comments directly on their articles (including those of a contrary nature)?
- Can such a thing really work out on the open web, or does it need a rich community of resources like Logos to really thrive?
The technical issues aren’t likely to prove stumbling blocks: there are plenty of solutions there. I expect the tough problems will have a lot more to do with community building, rethinking scholarship and publication, clarifying the value propositions and business issues, and gaining traction.