On my blog that I refuse to name or link from here any more, I mentioned something I think I can helpfully point out here.
Jandy has a really helpful review of blogging and 18th-century periodicals. What I want to point out is that the technology and the aura of institutional authority go hand in hand. I’m not going to reduce authority to technological monopoly, but I am saying that the technology helps a great deal.
When those 18th-century journals started, they were an amazing revolution in communication and shook up the status quo with the beginning of a new world. But that new world was still one that encouraged centers of authority. Publishing and circulating journals required money and tools. It also required some inherent prestige because no one was going to pay for a subscription to the What-I’m-Thinking-About-During-Breakfast-on-Tuesday Review written and edited by Joe Blow.
In other words, it was still very much a part and reinforcer of modernity. There was the high-culture of literary magazines and then there was the other stuff, bar songs, weirdo opinions that never got published, etc.
When Charles Hodge attacked John Williamson Nevin in the Princeton Review, it took Nevin two years to get together a forum for responding. He wrote an amazing response. I wonder how many who read Hodge in the Princeton Review ever learned of Nevin’s reply.
Can you imagine what would have happened to Hodge today at the hands of Nevin’s Mac and a blogger account? Internet, google, blogs; they spell the end.
We still see people trying to sneer at the blogosphere and favor some sort of academic pedigree. Peer review and all that. But these same persons find themselves forced to blog and go to comments just to keep up. They can’t just tell people to stop listening to any voice but their own monthly output. If they want to be heard, they have to blog. And so they do. And any pretensions of peer review are clearly unfounded.
There is no peer review beyond people telling you what they think of what your wrote. There is no more high culture of the theological academy. It is over. It is done.
We still see some attempts to do “web magazines.” Why? Imitating what was required for the medium of the era of print simply is not a good use of the web.
So all we have is the ghost of modernity where there was an authoritative culture that could decide whether or not to allow you to reply in their pages to someone who attacked you, and tell you who would have the final reply, and dictate to you what your word count must be. The afterimage burned momentarily on our retinas but fading.
This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Would Nevin’s reply have been as amazing if he had been able to respond immediately? The sheer pace expected by the medium is probably conducive to carelessness and second-rate work.
Remember this radio interview with Guy Waters? FM radio shows are still great for local outreach, especially drivers. But if anyone is interested and does some google research, suddenly we have a two-part “radio” interview responding to it. No advertisers. No FCC license. Just some guys wanting to get the truth out with some affordable equipment and a lot of hard work. The mystique of “having a radio show” is still around, but not forever.
I’m hoping there will always be some place for theological journals, but if so, the only ones that survive will be the ones that show they are careful about the truth and will give time to those whom they criticize. Only theological journals that could prosper as blogs will make it.