New Landscape of the Religion Blogosphere

Paul Harvey

While the tsunami of the semester rushes over my office and has made it hard to keep up at ye olde blogging, a couple of substantive links to explore. Some of the editors at Immanent Frame have prepared a full-length survey, summary, assessment, and critique of the religion blogosphere. It's an interesting, if daunting, read. Here's a snip which surveyed religion bloggers on gaps in the religion blogsophere:

When asked about gaps in the field, perhaps understandably, some bloggers didn’t come forth with a great many suggestions; after all, most of them started their blogs in order to fill the gaps they perceived. Fredrick Clarkson says, on the other hand, that there are “Too many to count.” But the group had a number of more concrete ideas as well:

  • High quality academic writing from known experts in the field is still missing.” (Robert P. Jones)
  • “I’ve had a hard time finding good writing in English about Islam as a lived religion.” (Jeff Sharlet)
  • “It seems to me that, just as foundations have been stepping forward to underwrite investigative reporting, so thought ought to be given to doing the same for reporting on religion.” (Mark Silk)
  • “At least among theology blogs, there’s an overwhelming predominance of white males; and I think the bigger blogs only represent a relatively small variety of theological viewpoints. So it would be good to see some a lot more diversity.” (Benjamin Myers)
  • “I wish that there were more and stronger progressive religious voices, but that’s just me.” (Daniel Schultz)
  • “It is a shame that Christianity Today’s daily round-up of news links [by Ted Olsen] has stopped running.” (Richard Bartholomew)
  • “Good blogs on the history and philosophy of religion, I think, are still missing.” (Salman Hameed)
  • Perhaps it is time to “convene bloggers with a goal of enhancing and expanding their impact and outreach.” (Diane Winston)
  • As the blogosphere survey of 100 religion blogs points out, the fact that there is much "missing" means that there is "more data to consume" yet, a daunting conclusion since most everyone feels the surfeit of data and "to be read" pieces is enough already. The piece concludes:
  • The key variable for the future of the religion blogosphere is the same as for the Internet as a whole: connectivity. In what ways will people interact, share ideas, form hierarchies, and gather social capital? There are certainly content areas that need to be filled, as the bloggers quoted above suggest. But just as important is the kind of infrastructure within which they work. There likely is, somewhere on the Internet, the great writing on Islam Sharlet is looking for, or the diversity Myers sees as lacking, yet they don’t have the means for finding it. While Web 2.0 brought vast, user-generated content-creation, the challenge of Web 3.0 will undoubtedly be finding ways to make all that information even more accessible, useful, and social—“taming the deluge of data,” as one observer puts it (Griner 2009). Even the nearly 100 blogs discussed in this report are more than most people can afford to keep track of on a daily or weekly basis. The bloggers’ suggestions—more diversity, more investigative journalism, more metro coverage, and so on—all amount to more blogs, more data to consume. The question then becomes: what to do with it all?
  • And if that isn't enough for you, the Huffington Post has gotten religion, and has come out of the gate with a strong lineup:
  • The bloggers who will be posting on HuffPost Religion will be a great mix of religious heavyweights and up-and-coming voices in the field. Today's thought-provoking lineup includes Rev. Jim Wallis on the spiritual crisis of the recession; Deepak Chopra on the continued importance of spirituality; Eboo Patel on the crucial importance of interfaith relations; Sister Joan Chittister on the future of the Roman Catholic Church; Rabbi Or Rose on the role of religion when it comes to the environment; Dr. Eddie Glaude on the declining power of the Black Church; Sharon Salzberg on Buddhism's "middle way"; Brian McLaren on 'new Evangelicals'; and Steven Barrie Anthony on technology and spirituality.