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Is there a Christian blogosphere?

28 March 2012

One of my blogging friends referred to this link, which prompted me to ask whether there was a Christian blogosphere Is there an Australian blogosphere?:

Europeans can’t blog‘, reads the headline from a newly created blog by the Brussel-based think tank Bruegel. One phrase in particular stuck out at me from this lament about the poor state of European blogging: ‘Europe has bloggers, but no blogosphere’.

It seems to me this might be true of Australia also, at least in the political sphere in which this site operates. The distinction between blogs and the blogosphere is that, on its own, a blog is a platform to push out ideas, information and links to other sources. That’s a powerful thing in and of itself, but it’s when many blogs form a blogosphere that you get, in Bruegel’s words, ‘a living ecosystem to exchange and debate’.

There are also lots of Christian blogs, but I would question whether they form “a living ecosystem for exchange and debate” I think that things have actually declined from such a state since this blog started five years ago. Five years ago there was an incipient Christian blogosphere, but it has failed to develop, and seems to be disintegrating.

Five years ago there was a fairly healthy South African Christian blogosphere, with people linking to each other’s blog posts, and even, on occasion, meeting face to face for coffee on a Saturday morning, at least where they lived in the same town.

I think one of the things that produced the incipient Christian blogosphere was the “Emerging Church” movement, which I learnt about through blogs, and seemed to exist primarily in the blogosphere, so it was really only possible to learn about it through blogs. With the decline of interest in the “Emerging Church” there has been a corresponding decline in Christian blogging.

Synchroblogs also had the potential to promote a Christian blogosphere — back in 2006 Phil Wyman proposed a synchronised blog on syncretism, which brought together bloggers from different countries and different Christians backgrounds and traditions, blogging on the same topic, with links to the other synchrobloggers. This produced an interesting variety of views and exposed many of us to different ways of looking at the topic. So it was decided to hold another synchroblog, and another, and soon they became quite a regular occurrence. But now it seems that culture wars have even struck synchroblogs, with people outside the US thinking they have become too US centric.

Some bloggers have migrated to places like Twitter and Facebook, and blog much more rarely. But Twitter and Facebook are a very poor subtitute for a blogosphere, and perhaps their popularity has been partly responsible for the decline in Christian (and other) blogging. Twitter and Facebook do have their uses, though — one of which is to publicise blog posts. In that way they are complementary to blogging rather than being seen as a substitute for blogging.

There have also been some innovative developments in Christian community in places like Twitter. One of the ones that appeals to me was the extension of the flashmob concept to Christian gatherings. Twitter is an ideal medium for publicising them — just check the hashtags #flashevensong or #flashcompline, or read about them here. They are also announced on a Facebook page. One of the more interesting ones was when St Paul’s Cathedral was closed during the Occupy London protests, there was a flash evensong on the cathedral steps. I wish I could have been there. Perhaps what we need is some kind of a flashblog.

That, I think, is a good and creative use of media such as Twitter and Facebook, but neither of these offers “a living ecosystem to exchange and debate” as a Christian blogosphere would.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard permalink
    28 March 2012 12:44 pm

    My question would actually be ‘should there be a Christian blogosphere’? Shouldn’t we be salt and light within other blogospheres?

  2. Doug permalink
    29 March 2012 12:54 am

    Christian engagement with the Australian political blogs is minimal – there is the prevailing cultural assumption in those quarters that thoughtful, socially critical reflection and Christian commitment would be mutually exclusive

  3. ckuniholm permalink
    29 March 2012 3:37 pm

    Steve, I came across your blog a while back and discovered the current Synchroblog through one of your posts. I joined it because I was hoping to be part of a global Christian conversation, but as you suggest that goal has been a bit elusive.

    There are definitely strong Christian blogospheres in the US, some more expansive than others, but as you know, its far too easy for US Christians to think and act in an insular, self-congratulatory way. We need to be challenged by others living in different contexts or we begin to believe our own assumptions. I’d be very interested in some kind of global synchroblog with topics explicitly geared toward eliciting points of view from a mix of countries and cultures.

    And while I do believe we’re called to be salt and light in other blogospheres, part of that salt and light involves providing an inviting, accessible community for those who read our posts and begin to wonder if there may be other Christians thinking about similar things.

    In my US context, I have quite a few non-Christian friends reading my blog, interested to find that I don’t fit the mold of the traditional US evangelical, and wondering if there are other Christians who care about the things they care about.

  4. 3 April 2012 8:55 am

    Steve, I think the blogosphere as a whole has declined, the Christian blogosphere along with it. I suspect a range of factors are behind it, including: the professionalization of blogging (pro blogs tend to shun blogrolls, outbound links and other social niceties to maximise search engine rankings), the emergence of Facebook as the melting pot of online social activity (including link sharing and commentary) and the increasing popularity of online activity. In essence, blog to blog linking has declined and Facebook has emerged as a mediator. I’ve found this has a corrosive effect on niche communities as niche communities find it hard to survive in the glare of the popular stare.

    • 3 April 2012 11:01 pm

      The main problem with Facebook is that it is completely ephemeral. You can post links there, but try to find them two days later or find a link someone posted a week ago, and you’ll waste hours.

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