A Blog of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf’s seminal “A Room of One’s Own” argues that women have not produced great literature historically because of culturally-enforced poverty. Historically, women have not had independent power or prestige or wealth, and so could not, as a rule, write great works. Though Woolf’s point is contentious (African American literature is a prime example of a body of work shaped by protest of oppression, rather than utterly silenced by it), it has some real heft: poverty of body often bespeaks poverty of opportunity and breeds poverty of soul. People desperate for their next meal are not also preoccupied with writing The Great American Novel. More subtly, Woolf argues, those who must self-abase and submit themselves to those who could supress their writing will have a far more difficult time writing courageously.

Woolf may well have said the same of any group who has historically been denied the power to disseminate their perspective through writing. If we apply her thesis more broadly (to poor and marginalized men as well as women), the invention of the printing press may be seen as a major historical advancement, not only of technology, but of liberty. By making printing radically cheaper, the printing press made it possible for the writings of even the powerless to be read by a general audience .

The advent of the internet is akin to Gutenburg’s printing press in terms of its importance to the distribution of the written word. Incontestably, it is another quantum leap in terms of the ease and availability of publication, reproduction, and dissemination of literary works. You don’t have to be an annual participant in NaBloPoMo to realize that a 14-year-old in a Michigan basement has potential access to a world-wide readership, even though she has no access yet to a job or a car. Most blogging systems are free, and incredibly user-friendly. Chances are if you have opposable thumbs and are under 40, you have a blog-or at least a reason for not having one.

If Woolf’s thesis is correct, then the internet is yet another door thrown open to those who previously would never have been heard. While certain discourses are priviledged in academia, politics, and journalism, a blogger need not conform to these larger power structures in order to write and publish. This is affirmed by the wild popularity of blogs like Dooce, where an individual succeeds in garnering a readership by journaling about daily life and motherhood. The blogosphere is perhaps especially noteworthy for the number of women who write there, particularly mothers; there is an ease, a casual spirit, and a freedom to write in a different voice that seems to attract people who wouldn’t be heard otherwise.

Blogging is not arduous and does not demand the conformity to literary convention the way the publishing industry does, and the fact that it can be done casually in one’s spare time may prove Woolf’s point. For those voices that are still marginal in terms of the mouthpieces of culture, blogging is a radically “less expensive” way to write. Because it costs less in time and money, it does attract someone like a stay-at-home mom, who otherwise would probably not have the social resources to write-or to be listened to. Of course, book offers are made to successful bloggers, welcoming them to what is still the mainstream of literature. But such opportunities only come after they’ve established that this different way of speaking through their blog can draw an audience. And, to Woolf’s rousing cheers, it does. ‘

A Word from our Higher Powers: The MLA Seventh Edition

There is hardly a student in the United States whose work remains wholly untouched by the influence of the Modern Language Association. Whether a fledgling upstart or a seasoned scholar, anyone doing academic work in the humanities has been guided through the massive collaborative effort of the MLA. Opinions about the MLA are as diverse as the organization itself, ranging from perceptions of it as a benevolent body to polemics seizing upon it as an intellectual monopoly.

It is impossible deny that the MLA’s contributions to modern academe are both palpable and far-reaching. Specifically, it is the MLA’s Handbook for Writers of Research Papers that serves as its primary mode of delivery. Recently, the MLA unveiled the seventh-edition of this resource, and contained in its preface is an epochal shift in the organization’s official stance on print media, one that carries implications for its future academic preeminence.

In this preface, David G. Nicholls, Director of Book Publications for the MLA, writes that “the MLA no longer recognizes a default medium and instead calls for listing the medium of publication in every entry in the list of works cited” (Nicholls xvii). This marks a landmark shift in the MLA’s position. With this official shift–accompanied by a web-based iteration of the handbook–the MLA is making strides toward ensuring both its relevance and practicability in an academic environment that is increasingly techno-centric.

The most immediate result of the MLA’s decision is that the status of non-print media has been bolstered. This move implicitly acknowledges the growing corpus of wisdom available in online and graphic resources. It is good news for information outlets like blogs or other digital publications, which have hitherto been regarded suspiciously. Given this official sanction, we may expect to see a flourishing of online academics, and thus a new richness to web-based information.

Optimism aside, however, there may also be more sinister implications to the MLA’s shift. Non-print media has become inexpressibly influential on a majority of students for whom the Handbook is designated. This policy-change may represent the MLA’s attempt to exert its already sizeable collaborative structure upon another major medium, thus expanding the borders of its academic empire.

It remains to be seen as to whether the MLA’s move is a vindication of new media or intellectual imperialism. What is clear, though, is that this shift in official stance regarding non-print media makes for an exciting opportunity for academics in the digital world, who have been given the chance to seize upon a bolstered respectability of medium. To what extent this prospect will pan out, time will tell. Meanwhile,



Nicholls, David. G. Preface. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: Seventh Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2009. xvii. Print.

The Christian Web Conference: Incarnating Digital Relationships

Last weekend’s Christian Web Conference put flesh on the disembodied personas of several well-known online Christians.  While internet technologies continue to help people form increasingly complex relationships online, nothing has yet replaced the richly unique dynamic of face-to-face meetings – that’s why conferences like CWC are so useful.

This year’s conference, an expanded version of GodBlogCon, added to the previous years’ conversations about faith and blogging while successfully expanding the discussion to include other online presences like facebook and twitter.  Conference speaker Mark Roberts commented,

I was impressed by the maturing of Web-based ministries. When we first got together at GodBlogCon, most of us were just beginning to explore the power of the Internet. Now, many of the participants and leaders at the CWC are wise and sophisticated users of the Internet. The original euphoria about the power of blogging and the Web is mostly gone, replaced by a more grown up perspective on its benefits and detriments.

The line-up of speakers was as impressive and diverse as the topics they spoke on.  Attendees learned, for example, how to “Tweet the Truth in Love” from Tim Challies, how satire can change the way we talk about faith online from Stuff Christians Like author Jon Acuff, how best to collaborate and connect with people on twitter from Rhett Smith,  and how to choose the best medium for your message from our own Joe CarterMel McGowan, Visioneering Studios President and former Disney architect, spoke about theology of place and the marriage of the old archetypes of the garden and the city in his eye-opening walking tour of Downtown Disney.

The conference culminated in a rousing discussion of the topic that underpinned conversations the entire weekend; namely, what is the proper place of the church online?  Can real communion with the Body of Christ be had via the internet?  There were opinions and experiences from all sides of the issue, resulting in several thought-provoking conversations both offline and online – see, for example, Charles T. Lee’s post arguing that one may be really present without being physically present.  Unfortunately, Andrew Jones was unable to attend the scheduled debate about online church; however, our own Matt Anderson did a great job explaining some of the pros and cons of the practice, arguing that advocates of church online utilize a problematic theology of place – at least in America.

It’s not too early to start planning to attend next year’s Christian Web Conference; while it’s all well and good for us to interact with you online through the Evangelical Outpost, we’d rather sit down with you face-to-face and have a conversation. ‘

The New Evangelical Outpost

In the very first post on EO—in October 2003—I noted that the inspiration for this blog was Hugh Hewitt’s book, In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World. At the time I wrote:

This blog was inspired by #32 (Start and maintain your own Web log (blog)). “At present,” Hewitt notes, “no great blogger has emerged with a distinctly evangelical worldview.” Point noted, Mr. Hewitt.

I’ll be here, holding down the fort, until such a blogger shows up.

I have to confess that I initially harbored delusions of grandeur, thinking that maybe I might become that rarefied blogger. But that—as anyone who has followed this site can attest—never happened. Instead, I found my true role as a blogger in another section of Hewitt’s vade mecum, chapter #33: Find Interesting People.

Over the past five and a half years I’ve found hundreds of interesting people—including dozens of great evangelical bloggers. The real value and benefit of EO has always been in helping to introduce readers of this site to the interesting people I’ve found.

In keeping with that mission, I’ve partnered with John Mark Reynolds and Dustin Steeve to change the format of this blog into an online journal. The change reflects our intention to introduce you a broad lists of young, up-and-coming evangelical authors who hail primarily from the site’s sponsors, the Torrey Honors Institute and Biola University.

Matthew Anderson—one of my oldest blog buddies—will be joining me as a senior editor. Together we hope to help shape these young writers, honing their writing and reasoning skills and preparing them to provide thoughtful reflections on culture, politics, and religion from an evangelical Christian worldview. Our goal is to make EO an incubator for developing intriguing opinions and introducing interesting individuals.

In the process, we plan to bring you an engaging and entertaining mix of content, from book reviews and essays to opinion pieces and link lists (i.e., the return of 33 Things) and much, much more. We especially want to provide critical reflection on matters—daycare, cremation, etc.—that few of us stop to consider.  Most of all, though, we plan to introduce you to interesting people—our contributors, our commenters, and our friends in the community of Christian bloggers. ‘

Twitter: Narcissism Meets Networking

Is twitter the next best marketing and networking tool, or merely another way for that annoying guy at work to brag about his mundane life?
It’s really up to you.
Dustin’s post about the iphone-skype marriage reminded me of what Os Guinness had to say at a recent conference on Francis Schaeffer. Guinness spent a fair amount of time discussing the largely unexamined aspects of technology. He argued that our uncritical acceptance of the idea that more machines make a better society has ultimately made it more difficult for us to spread the Gospel; for one thing, there is so much “background noise” in our daily lives that it is difficult to hear Truth when it is spoken. Our culture-wide addiction to newer and faster sources of knowledge has not made us more knowledgeable so much as it has made us more inattentive. Everyone speaks, and no one listens… just like in the video at the top of this post. It’s not easy to share the Gospel with people who don’t know how to listen well.

Continue reading Twitter: Narcissism Meets Networking

Better Than Fiction

Has our culture lost the ability to foster honest public discourse?
Sometimes it appears so. One blogger had this to say after one of the campaign debates last fall:

What is it about politics that tends to reduce normal, presumably at least quasi-thoughtful journalists (and others) to insult-slinging, cliche-hurling, party-line-toeing ideologues who all mysteriously sound the same with the sole exception of which party line they’re toeing?

Great question!

Continue reading Better Than Fiction

Attention, bloggers!

Are you trying to launch the next best place in the blogosphere? Hoping to attract a few new readers? Or perhaps just experiencing writer’s block (blogger’s block?) and looking for some new material?
Boy have I been there. That’s why I was so excited when Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt announced a shiny new book review program.
It’s very simple: just go to http://brb.thomasnelson.com, create a free account, and request your first book. All they ask is a 200 minimum word review to be posted on your blog, sent to them, and posted on consumer retail web sites like amazon.com.
I haven’t requested my first book yet because I want to catch up with my quickly-growing stack of review books from elsewhere first… but stay tuned!

Possibility Junkies

By Ken Myers
Ideas, we are frequently told, have consequences. We are less often encouraged to reflect on the equally significant if more elusive relationship of ideas to their antecedents. Ideas come from somewhere, and they are able to take up residence in our lives because they find friendly surroundings. So if bad ideas are plaguing our society (and having bad consequences), we ought to ask about their origins. And we need to ask what it is about the shape of our lives that make bad ideas seem plausible.

Continue reading Possibility Junkies

Culture11 and the Future of EO

A long time ago I learned that it was vanity to apologize for not blogging. As one longtime blogger famously said, “I hate to be the one to tell you … but we will survive. Really. With support of my family, I think I will be able to get by the next day or two without an update from ‘YourDailyNanoBlogPundit.com.”

Still, I can’t help but feel guilty for running off and abandoning this blog without giving an account of what I was doing. So here is my long overdue explanation…

A few months ago I took a job as the managing editor for Culture11, a new online magazine/social network. We launched the site last Wednesday with the goal of building a community around 11 key areas of culture: arts, commerce, community, education, faith, family, ideas, leisure, media, politics, and technology.

One of the reasons we started Culture11 was to provide an online destination where cultural conservatives could reunite content and community. I believe this is the future of new media.

When I started EO (almost five years ago) my network of friends and acquaintances was limited to my neighbors, high school buddies, and my fellow Marines. Because of blogging I was able to establish regular contact with pastors, professors, lawyers, doctors, journalists, engineers, editors, stay-at-home parents, scientists, theologians, etc. While I still maintain contact with these people, the interactions now tend to occur on social networks (socnet) like Facebook and LinkedIn or on social tools like Twitter. Although I still read blogs, my contact with the bloggers now almost always occurs on a socnet; the content and camaraderie have been separated.

Part of the reason for the changes is the emphasis on RSS feeds. Five years ago I relied exclusively on my blogroll to keep up with the blogs I read; now the posts come to me and are saved in my Google Reader. This has led to a shift away from the medium (an individual blog) to the individual content (whether a post, mass email, entry on a Facebook Wall, etc.). The future of the new media, in my opinion, is moving away from personal sites toward online collectives that are focused on particular interests. (The political left has been doing this for years (see: DailyKos) but the other areas of the blogging community have been slow to follow this approach.)

One of the reasons we started Culture11 was to provide an online destination where cultural conservatives could reunite both content and community around both broad topics and niche interests. We’re still in the beta stage and working out a few bugs, both in our content and features. we also recognize that we are a long way from rivaling Facebook (though over the next few months we’ll be rolling out an number of innovative features). But we believe that we’re slightly ahead of the curve and that the future of online activity will move to “planned communities” rather than, for example, the “ghettos” that Christian bloggers have been trying to break out of for years.

However, such a project is built from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down. Which is why I need your help to make this a reality. I hope that you’ll visit and engage in the site. Read, rate, and comment on the articles; create a profile; start and join groups; and most importantly for bloggers, cross-post your blog entries on our “Diary” section (remember to put a link to your site on the bottom so that readers will learn where they can find more).I really encourage you to make this your online “third-place” (even if its your second or third, third place).

You’ll also be able to find me there full-time. I’ll be doing all of my blogging (real blogging for a change!) on Kuo & Joe, the blog I share with Culture11’s CEO, David Kuo.

As for the future of EO, this site will also be moving toward a group content format. My friends at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute have generously offered to take over and refurbish this blog into an online destination for evangelicals and other Christians. How that vision is implemented is still being fleshed out, but I have the utmost faith that they will transform this site in a way that will be invaluable for the blogging community.

Finally, I want to say that I am incredibly thankful for each and every person who has ever read this blog. God has used your encouragement and friendship to help me achieve successes in my life that I never could have imagined. You are the ones that are responsible not only for giving me a career, but for helping me land the job of my dreams. I can truly never thank you enough for all you have done for me.

Rather than saying goodbye, though, I’m merely inviting you to to follow me as I move to a new neighborhood. Ironically, leaving this blog will mean that my blogging and interaction with readers will increase tremendously. I’ll be reading more, linking more, and engaging with you more than ever.

So while I hope you won’t abandon EO, I hope you’ll join in my new online home. We have a community to build. Let’s get started.