They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but for those who attended this September’s GodBlogCon (God Blog Conference) at the Las Vegas Convention Center, nothing could be further from the truth.
Throughout the three-day Biola-sponsored event — now in its fourth year — attendees were treated to a practical lineup of panel discussions, seminars and plenary talks on various aspects of “Christian blogging,” offering attendees advice on everything from the ethics of editing to strategies for increasing the civility of online discussion.
Speakers included everyone from Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio, who spoke on the impact of technologies on human identity, to Wade Tonkin of Christian Affiliate Marketers, who spoke about how to financially support a blog (without “losing your soul”).
The original GodBlogCon convened in October of 2005 on Biola’s campus. About 135 Christian bloggers attended the event to discuss blogging’s potential for Christianity as a major emerging communication form. The conference moved to Las Vegas in 2007 and returned there this past Sept. 20-21 as a “mini conference” within the larger Blog World Expo, the world’s largest blogging trade show. This year’s GodBlogCon included about 80 participants, while the larger expo had more than 2,000 registered attendees.
Housed in a makeshift “theater” in the midst of the Blog World convention floor, GodBlogCon offered sessions that were less “how to” than they were “think well,” said Dustin Steeve (’08), senior director of GodBlogCon.
“The goal is to get people thinking about blogging from a Christian perspective,” he said. “What are the challenges? Opportunities? Questions we should ask?”
A major theme at this year’s GodBlogCon was the shared feeling that blogging is undergoing a transition. Whereas in the early years of blogging’s existence it was viewed as a singular pursuit — a sort of online diary where one could pontificate about any and every topic — it now seems that those types of blogs are on the decline, while online communities and collectives focused on particular issues or interests are on the rise.
Several such sites were represented at the 2008 GodBlogCon. One successful “collective of bloggers” is the Scriptorium Daily, where faculty members of Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute offer daily posts on a variety of issues from philosophy to politics. The Scriptorium’s most regular contributor, John Mark Reynolds, founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, spoke on “The Art of Online Conversation” at the closing session of the conference.
Even if the initial novelty of blogging has worn off, it is still a significant form of cultural activity. A Spring 2008 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that 33 percent of Internet users say they read blogs, with 11 percent of Internet users doing so on a typical day. Approximately 12 percent of Internet users say they have at some point created a blog.
The GodBlogCon is put together entirely by Biola students from the Torrey Honors Institute. Sophomore philosophy major Barak Wright was a member of the student staff, and although he considers himself a consumer rather than practitioner of web media, he has interesting thoughts on the value of an event like GodBlogCon.
“It can be easy for the incarnational, physical elements of Christianity to be lost in the digital world of blog communication,” he said. “This conference is about adding a physical place to come together and meet people.”
Ultimately, GodBlogCon was about creating and enriching a Christian community of blogging that has the potential to stand out in the increasingly overcrowded chorus of Web voices.
“Everything we do, we hope is God-breathed,” Reynolds said in his closing remarks. “We hope that we can learn from one another and be charitable.”
A sampling of Biola faculty and alumni who are active bloggers
- The Scriptorium Daily (featuring Biola faculty members John Mark Reynolds, Fred Sanders, Greg Peters, JP Moreland, Matt Jenson, Melissa Schubert and Paul Spears)
- Doug Geivett (professor of philosophy of religion and ethics)
- Mere Orthodoxy (featuring Matthew Lee Anderson (’04) and Keith E. Buhler (’04))
- Mark Joseph (’90)
- Josh McDowell (’66)
- Jan Lynn (’80)
- Carrie Marie Allen (’08)
- Christians in Context (featuring Norman Jeune (’05, M.A. ’07), Andrew Faris (’05), Jeffrey Bruce (’06), Jenny Bruce (’02))
- Biola Blogs (featuring several current students)
- Conversant Life (Featuring 10 Biola alumni and faculty members)