Digital Journals for Biblical Studies

John Hobbins over at the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog has been musing about this question:

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

It’s still too early to know the answers, but here are a few areas of interest to me:

  1. The value of search, hyperlinked information, and other digital conveniences seems indisputable.
  2. 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.
  3. 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)?
  4. 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.