Last Thursday, I attended Tim Hutchings’s ‘CyberBibles’ seminar, organised by Francesca Benatti for the Digital Humanities Research Network at the Open University (this is the same seminar series within which Ann Hewings and I spoke about the teaching of corpus linguistics a couple of months ago; like Ann and I, Tim is more of a social scientist than a humanist, but nobody seems to have complained so far about this dilution of things digitally humanistic). If you weren’t there, you missed a treat. On one level, this was an extraordinarily in-depth study of electronic reading and its differences from the reading of print, using a highly specific case study. On another level, the Bible will always be at the same time one of the most interesting possible case studies in textual culture and something rather more than a case study, regardless of whether you’re interested in the digital, print, or manuscript eras. On yet another level… no, this is just silly. I don’t have to say why it was an interesting topic; that should be obvious. And in any case, the current introductory preamble is in danger of overwhelming this entire blog article. Just read the rest, it won’t take long. It’s mostly tweets!
Context, context. In sympathy for those who couldn’t make it on Thursday, I thought I’d give live-tweeting a go (always one to try an academic fad!). However, I couldn’t get any signal, and my phone has problems with the university wifi system. Fortunately, I had the idea of live-tweeting with a time delay, scheduling my tweets 120 hours into the future. And here they are, because I always intended to use this blog as a way of writing up responses to other people’s research presentations, and these little 140-character notelets form a concise record of what I found most provocative in Tim’s talk. So, dissatisfied with merely missing the point of live-tweeting, I’m going to extract it completely and throw it out of the window.
Two further bits of contextual information necessary to understand these tweets are: (a) that the ‘CyberBibles’ Tim studies are not just Kindle or ePub editions of the Bible, but dedicated Bible apps (and in some cases, single-purpose Bible e-readers) with a huge range of features, often featuring multiple Bible translations as well as copious additional materials (for example, maps and virtual reality reconstructions), and (b) that Tim surveyed and interviewed users of these programs and devices as well as interviewing their creators and designers.
For those who missed it, I will be live-tweeting @tim_hutchings‘s @DH_OU talk on digital bibles with a time delay of exactly 120 hours.
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 12:10 PM – September 24, 2013
Digital equivalents don’t replace traditional religious activities – except for paper Bible reading. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:08 PM – September 24, 2013
“Bible dipping” is a codex-based practice that Bible apps deliberately reject. Not “random verse” but “verse of the day”. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:11 PM – September 24, 2013
Most Bible apps “offer only those options… that Evangelical Christianity considers appropriate and beneficial.” (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:16 PM September 24, 2013
Bible apps allow surveillance of reading, poten’ly other behav’r. Ethics depend on standpoint: some Christians welcome this (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:18 PM September 24, 2013
Survey: “It’s wonderful because it’s like I’ve got someone looking over my shoulder.” But in interview, opinions more neg. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:22 PM September 24, 2013
Phones in church: where pastors have accommodated (e.g. “tweetable moments”) this was in recog that it was going on anyway. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:25 PM – September 24, 2013
Academics have exaggerated potential for access to new ideas through e-reading of bibles (but did same with politics etc). (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:26 PM – September 24, 2013
Many res subjects emphasised negative aspects of e-reading the Bible (lost context, sequence) – despite doing it regularly. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:28 PM September 24, 2013
Regret over “loss of visible witness of faith”: holding a Bible MEANS something. Holding an iPad means something else. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:32 PM – September 24, 2013
The most bookmarked verses of the Bible are not those typically preached, nor those relating to major points of doctrine. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:41 PM – September 24, 2013
Rather, they are verses of reassurance, etc. (@tim_hutchings)
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:42 PM – September 24, 2013
End of time-delayed live-tweeting of @tim_hutchings‘s @DH_OU seminar on digital bibles. Wish you’d been there?
— Daniel Allington (@dr_d_allington) 1:46 PM – September 24, 2013
If anyone's interested in my research on digital Bible-reading, @dr_d_allington not-quite-live-tweeted my @DH_OU talk today.
— Tim Hutchings (@tim_hutchings) 9:44 PM – September 24, 2013