The Importance of Archaeological Provenance – BAR Sept/Oct 2018

My First Person editorial for Sept/Oct 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR 44/5) is titled “The Importance of Archaeological Provenance.” I hope you can give it a read and learn about some new policies we’ve instituted at BAR regarding newly-introduced unprovenanced objects and our publication of them.

BAR-SO18-FP_Provenance_all

One of the major issues facing archaeology is the issue of provenance, or specifically the lack thereof, with regard to archaeological objects.1

The word provenance (alternatively spelled provenience) comes from the Latin provenire, meaning “to come forth, originate.” Thus, archaeological provenance refers to the verifiable information regarding the origin of an archaeological object—the dig site or location in which it was discovered, its locus, stratum, dating, etc., as well as its chain of custody, that is, who possessed the object since its discovery.

Conversely, an unprovenanced object is an object whose origin and chain of custody is unknown or partially unknown. These objects may have been looted from an archaeological site, forged, or otherwise acquired, legally or illegally, by a private collector, who often keeps the objects out of the hands of scholars. Some collectors, however, do offer their collections to scholars for study, but this process often merely increases the value of the objects for the collector, who then sells the objects for a greater profit. Other collectors sell their collections but demand that their identities be kept anonymous for fear of criminal prosecution or the stigmatic consequences of dealing antiquities on the black market.

Once the archaeological context of an object is lost, it is worth far less academically, as it can no longer reliably tell us anything about the people who made it. This is because the archaeological context—the place in which it was found in the ground—offers archaeologists as much information about the object as the object itself, like clues as to who was using the object, what it was used for, how old it is, etc.

Scholars and the Israel Antiquities Authority have condemned the purchase of unprovenanced objects by antiquities dealers for decades because it encourages the looting of archaeological sites by providing a financial incentive to those who would attempt to sell them to unwitting tourists and treasure seekers. Because objects discovered in licensed archaeological excavations belong to the state in which they were discovered—the most important of which typically end up displayed in the various states’ archaeological museums—those who wish to collect artifacts often turn to antiquities dealers. And while some antiquities dealers are licensed by the state to sell legally obtained objects, many others engage in the sale of illicitly obtained objects and, in turn, often collaborate with shadowy middlemen to acquire their goods (i.e., the black market).

Claims (typically made by licensed antiquities dealers) that the purchasers of illicit antiquities often act as “rescuers,” who ransom the looted artifacts from a life of shrouded anonymity on the black market so that they can be researched and published, are unconvincing. Continued illicit purchases only fuel further demand on the black market, which inevitably encourages looting. And even if a particular object has already been looted and is already on the black market, the sale of these antiquities, both legal and illicit, drives future looting, as stock must be resupplied. Reducing the demand by banning the non-state sanctioned sale of all antiquities and obstructing their transport is the only true way to begin to curtail looting. Furthermore, the damage done to potential and excavated archaeological sites by unscrupulous thieves far outweighs any benefits gained by the research and publication of these now decontextualized objects, which have been stripped of the valuable contextual data derived from a verifiable provenance.

One might object, “But what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? They began as unprovenanced objects before they were systematically excavated!” This is true, as did many objects that are now prominently displayed in the world’s greatest museums. These objects, as well as the additional problem of the transport of cultural history objects out of their homelands, contributed to the establishment of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Simply put, since it went into force in 1972, nations of the world agreed not to trade in illicit cultural heritage objects. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered beginning in 1947, prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, but you can understand why news of the recent acquisition of scrolls by the Museum of the Bible from contractually anonymous black-market dealers caused so much furor among scholars.

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have all established policies on unprovenanced antiquities that prohibit participation in the trade of undocumented antiquities and the activities that give sanction to that trade, including exhibiting unprovenanced objects in museums, publishing articles on them in their respective journals, and presenting professional papers on them at annual conferences.2 This is all done in an effort to discourage the looting of archaeological objects. By scholars refusing to participate in research, the unprovenanced objects lack the professional credibility required to authenticate the objects—authentication that enhances their monetary value. Thus, in theory, by scholars refusing to authenticate the illicit objects, their value is diminished, which results in lessened demand, leading to less looting.

It is for this reason that last November at the SBL annual meeting in Boston, I announced that BAR would no longer publish newly discovered or introduced unprovenanced archaeological objects in its pages. BAR occupies a unique place between the academy and the public. While it is our primary mission to convey the latest archaeological discoveries and research to the public, we also have a responsibility to discourage looting and the forging of archaeological objects by not promoting them in our magazine.

If and when the next sensational unprovenanced archaeological object is introduced to the media, BAR may use its position as a media outlet to explain to our readers what the claims being made are and why the unprovenanced nature of the discovery makes the discovery problematic. But as a practice, BAR will no longer publish newly introduced unprovenanced objects in an effort to play our small part in guarding against looting and forgery.—B.C.

1 A portion of this column was adapted from an earlier blog post (robertcargill.com/2017/07/19/the-museum-of-the-bible- why-are-archaeologists-and-bible-scholars-so-mad/).

2 ASOR and SBL provide an exemption for cuneiform tablets (see, e.g., www.asor.org/ initiatives-projects/asor-affiliated-archaeological-projects-2/standards-policies/policy-on- cuneiform-texts-from-iraq/).

where shall the bloggers congregate at sbl in sf?

Texting while eatingas we have not yet decided upon a place for bloggers to congregate to imbibe quaffable adult beverages and consume artfully prepared, yet affordable kickshaws, we must decide two things:

  • when (date and time)
  • where

as for the when, please comment what day (sat, sun, mon) and time you can meet up. i’m thinking something like between 6-8pm, so those who want to stay can stick around and those who need to get off to other meetings/dining obligations can still get away. remember, we can’t accommodate everyone, but we want to do what’s best for most folks. but we need to decide on the best day.

as for the where, i’ve done a little research. all suggestions below are within walking distance of conference hotels and union square, and i tried to keep them affordable.

please let me know if any of these sound good. or, suggest your own place.

The Irish Bank

The View (in the Marriott Marquis)

The Press Club

Johnny Foley’s

First Crush

Lefty O’Douls

Library Bar

or what say you? suggestions?

bloggers, please spread the word, and have suggestions come here. then, based upon what most people want to do, we’ll meet there.


AND DON’T FORGET, there are two SBL sections that bloggers should highlight:

S19-314 – Blogger and Online Publication
11/19/2011, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Golden Gate C2 – Marriott Marquis

Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa, Presiding

Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa
Welcome and Introduction (5 min)

Alice Bach, Case Western Reserve University
Can Blogging at 3 AM Be Considered Scholarship? (25 min)

Madeleine Flannagan, University of Auckland and Matthew Flannagan, Independent Scholar
Blogging a Short-Cut to Peer Review: How to Do It Effectively (25 min)

Juhana Markus Saukkonen, University of Helsinki
Sense and Practicality: Building a Historical GIS Online (25 min)

Richard Price, Academia.edu
Academia.edu: The Past, Present, and Future of Scholarly Social Networking (25 min)
This session will conclude with a Q&A discussion period with Academia.edu CEO, Dr. Richard Price.

Discussion (25 min)


S19-320 – Engaging the “Wired-In Generation”: Knowledge and Learning in the Digital Age
11/19/2011, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 3000 – Convention Center

Theme: Hosted by the Student Advisory Board

Teresa Calpino, Loyola University of Chicago, Presiding

Mark Goodacre, Duke University
Pods, Blogs, and other Time-wasters: Do Electronic Media Detract from Proper Scholarship? (15 min)

Christian Brady, Pennsylvania State University
On the Internet No One Knows You’re a Grad Student, Or How Social Media Can Help You, Build You Up, and Tear You Down (15 min)

Kelley Coblentz Bautch, St. Edward’s University
Videoconferencing in the Classroom: Broadening the Horizons of Students through Interactive Scholarly Exchange (15 min)

Discussion (30 min)


cheers and see you in sf!

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

Bloggers in Atlanta

Bibliobloggers in Atlanta

Founder and CEO of Academia.edu to speak at SBL (via Targuman / Christian Brady)

Chris Brady writes:


I am very pleased to announce that Richard Price, DPhil (Oxon) will be speaking at the Blogging and Online Publication session at SBL this fall. I had the chance to have a cuppa with Richard last fall in SF and he is a wonderful young philosopher who also has a keen sense of what is happening in the wired world. If you are not familar with Academia.edu it is somewhat like Facebook for academics. They describe the site in this way:

Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share and follow research. Academics upload their papers to share them with other academics in over 100,000 research areas. They can also follow other academics, and see new papers and other research updates from those academics in their News Feeds.

I know many in our community are already on the site. (If you like, you can follow me on Academia.edu.) It appears to be a promising platform for collaboration and collegial interaction without being barraged with cute kittens, total depravity, or Top 50 lists. Please do come for the whole session, we have great speakers lined up, but be sure to stay for Richard as well.

S19-314


Blogger and Online Publication
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
11/19/2011
Room TBD

Robert R. Cargill, University of Iowa
Welcome and Introduction (5 min)

Alice  Bach, Case Western Reserve University
Can Blogging at 3 AM Be Considered Scholarship? (25 min)

Madeleine Flannagan, Independent and Matthew Flannagan, A _Not Found
Blogging a Short-Cut to Peer Review: How to do it Effectively (25 min)

Juhana Markus Saukkonen, University of Helsinki
Sense and Practicality: Building a Historical GIS Online (25 min)

Richard Price, Academia.edu
Academia.edu: The Past, Present, and Future of Scholarly Social Networking (25 min)

This session will conclude with a Q&A discussion period with Academia.edu CEO, Dr. Richard Price.

Discussion (25 min)

society of biblical literature awarded 300k neh grant for interactive website

Society of Biblical LiteratureCongratulations to the Society of Biblical Literature for being awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the development of a new interactive website that will connect biblical scholars to one another and to the public.

This is valuable because it will allow scholars “to speak directly to new audiences and to gain a stronger voice in the public square when questions arise about the Bible and its contexts.” In short, the website will connect scholars and their research to one another, and will provide an avenue for credible scholars to disseminate scholarly research and commentary directly to the public.

Congratulations to both the SBL and the NEH for their vision and hard work!

Read the announcement below:

ATLANTA — We are pleased to announce that the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to build an interactive website that invites general audiences to engage with
biblical scholarship.

This is a rare opportunity for the SBL to speak to the continued importance of the Bible in modern culture and to communicate the value that biblical scholars bring to the study of the Bible and to the humanities.

The NEH review process includes peer review along with deliberation by the National Council on the Humanities. The award announcement described the grant recipients as highlighting the breadth of high-caliber humanities projects and research supported by the Endowment. “These projects represent some of the most innovative work happening in the humanities today,” said Jim Leach, Chairman of the NEH.

The site will begin production immediately, with a planned launch in 2013. Once completed, the site will become a powerful public platform for SBL members to speak directly to new audiences and to gain a stronger voice in the public square when questions arise about the Bible and its contexts.

“This is a huge opportunity for SBL to showcase the work of biblical scholars, educate and engage the public, and foster biblical scholarship,” said John Kutsko, executive director of SBL. “It also goes without saying that this award comes at a time of increasing pressure on the public support of the humanities at the state and federal levels. Thus, the award commitment is all the more significant in this context, and we are all the more grateful that the NEH has made us stewards of their support of scholarship, education, and the humanities.”

A strong team of SBL staff and members, led by Kent Richards, executive director emeritus, advised the project to its current status, and S2N Media developed the prototype site. For further information contact: Moira Bucciarelli, mbucciarelli@sblsite.org.

* * *

The Society of Biblical Literature is the oldest and largest non-sectarian international scholarly membership organization in the field of biblical studies. Founded in 1880, SBL’s membership includes scholars, teachers, students, and individuals from all walks of life who share a mutual interest in the critical, academic study of the Bible. SBL’s mission is to foster biblical scholarship.

“The world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies” (and other highlights from Raphael Golb’s appeal)

After his arrest, Raphael Golb lied about sending emails he later claimed were "parody." Now, in the appeal of his conviction on 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer, Dr. Golb is making more false statements. One must ask, at what point will he begin to resemble the main character in the famed tale of a boy who couldn't stop lying?

After his arrest, Raphael Golb lied about sending emails he later claimed were "parody." Now, in the appeal of his conviction on 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of forgery, criminal impersonation, identity theft, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer, Dr. Golb is making more false statements. One must ask, at what point will he begin to resemble the main character in the famed tale of a boy who couldn't stop lying?

As I was perusing Dr. Raphael Golb’s appeal of the 31 guilty verdicts against him in the case of the People of New York v. Raphael Golb (in case you missed it, Dr. Golb was found guilty of 31 felony and misdemeanor counts of identity theft, criminal impersonation, forgery, aggravated harassment, and the unauthorized use of a computer), I stumbled across this interesting claim on pages 69-70:

‘”And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that “the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he
dies.”‘ (Appeal of guilty verdict in the case of the People of New York v. Raphael Golb, § Argument, IV, A)

I chuckled. I did so because I specifically remember this very issue coming up during my testimony when Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby, cross-examined me. Before we examine whether or not the above statement is true, here is the transcript of the exchange from pages 763-768 of the corrected court transcripts of my cross-examination by Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby:

Q (from Golb Defense Attorney Ron Kuby to Dr. Robert Cargill):  Earlier on cross-examination, Dr. Cargill, I made reference to a paper that you had prepared related to this case and your experiences. Do you recall this?
A (Dr. Robert Cargill to Golb Defense Attorney Ron Kuby):  This is the paper to which you referred in November?
Q.  Yes.
A.  Yes, I think you mentioned that paper earlier.
Q. Is it fair to say that that was entitled “Scholars Behaving Badly?” It’s got a longer title to it but that’s part of it?
A.  That’s the principle portion before the colon title, yes.
Q.  And this was an exclusive to Archaeology magazine?
A.  I’ve never published in Archaeology magazine.
Q.  I’m sorry? Dr. Cargill, just take a look at the document marked page one, scan it silently to yourself if you please, and after you’ve satisfied yourself and you know what it is.
A.  (The witness complied.)
Q. What do you recognize that to be, sir?
A.  This is a document that I wrote for consideration of publication for Archaeology magazine?
Q.  So you sent it to Archaeology magazine for publication; is that correct?
A.  I was working with an editor there.
Q.  And did they publish it?
A.  No, sir.
Q.  Could you hand it back, please?
COURT CLERK:  And that is marked as?
MR. KUBY:  H-1.
Q.  And with respect to this article, you’ve delivered variations of this article in the form of a lecture; is that correct?
A.  I have not delivered variations. I’ve delivered one redacted variation of that article, the one that we’ve already described at SBL.
Q.  And this article, you wrote this article, right?
A.  Yes.
Q.  Did you end the article by saying, “Unfortunately the words of Shrine of the Book Curator, Magen Broshi, still appear to echo true today.” Quote “When will be we free of Golb? When he dies.” Close quote. You wrote that?
A.  I’m sorry?
Q.  You wrote that?
A.  Magen Broshi wrote that.
Q.  You were quoting Magen Broshi?
A.  In the initial draft, in the first draft of this article, I had a lot of things, and things that we ended up redacting out of the article thinking the article is too long.
Q.  But in the Society for Biblical Literature lecture that you gave on November 23rd, you included that portion in the speech that you gave, did you not?
A.  I do not recall.
Q.  You do not recall?
A.  Including that portion.
Q.  Well, we’ll hold that for now. Magen Broshi – you identified him in this article as the Shrine of the Book Curator, correct?
A.  I believe so.
Q.  And what is the Shrine of the Book?
A.  The Shrine of the Book is a building that contains many of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It’s a part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Q.  So it’s an important institution in your area of work?
A.  In my area of work, yes, it’s an important place.
Q.  And you were aware, were you not, that in an interview with the newspaper Ha’aretz, Magen Broshi said, “When will we be free of Golb? When he dies.”?
A.  I read that quote in Dr. Golb’s book. That’s when I learned of that quote.
Q.  And you saw fit to quote it in your papers, correct?
A.  No, I did not. I saw fit to include it in the original draft of the paper, which was later redacted from the paper. No one every publicly saw that.
Q.  Pardon me?
A.  No one ever publicly saw that.
Q.  I’m not asking you that question, you wrote those words, correct?
A.  I quoted Dr. Broshi in the early draft of a document that I wrote.
Q.  And when you say you included it in your paper, that is the portion that you had said, simply to quote, “Unfortunately Broshi’s words are still true,” you mean by that it’s unfortunate that you wouldn’t be rid Norman Golb sooner than his death?
A.  No, sir, that’s not what I meant.
Q.  Do you know how old Norman Golb is?
A.  I do not.
Q.  Do you have any idea?
A.  I would have to speculate.
Q.  Any notion of how long you have to wait to be free of him?
(District Attorney) MR. BANDLER: Objection.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q.  You also wrote, did you not, that Norman Golb will, quote, “fight his litigious losing battle until the bitter end?”
A.  I’m sorry, are you quoting from a draft of a manuscript I wrote?
Q.  I am asking you if you wrote the following words?
A.  I don’t recall. I mean, we would have to see if it’s in a draft of a manuscript that was never published.
Q. Did you ever deliver those words to the Society of Biblical Literature on November 23rd?
A.  I don’t recall.
Q.  You don’t recall. Is this the kind of thing you would remember if you had done it?
A.  No.
Q. Because it’s so commonplace to attack Norman Golb, it just doesn’t ring a bell anymore?
THE COURT: That’s an extraordinarily large…  I will direct the jury to disregard it and the witness not to answer it.

In the above exchange, we find Dr. Golb’s defense attorney, Ron Kuby, doing his job: attempting to impugn my credibility to the jury. But it quickly became obvious to the judge and the jury that Mr. Kuby (or Dr. Golb, who many suspect did much of the “research” for his own defense) made a mistake. The defense mistakenly thought that I had read the draft article I had submitted to Archaeology as my 2009 SBL paper. They obviously had not attended the lecture or heard it, but simply assumed that I had read the draft article to the SBL session. At one point, they even bluffed and asked me if I wanted to hear a CD audio recording of the paper:

Q.  Now you lecture from time to time as well, is that correct?
A.  I do.
Q.  And one of the lectures that you gave was on November 23rd of last year, correct?
A.  Yes, sir.
Q.  The Society Biblical Literature is that where it took place?
A.  It was either ASOR or SBL, they meet together.
Q.  And you have sort of turned your experience with this case into a academic paper, haven’t you, if that’s an unfair characterization, please correct me.
A.  Yes, I wrote about, I think it’s safe to say I wrote about the proceedings of this matter, yes.
Q.  And you did it in what I’ll call a formal paper?
A.  I did it in a paper presented, I believe – and I’d have to check if I’m wrong – at the Society of Biblical Literature. It may have been ASOR but it might have been SBL.
Q.  And you published a review of this as well in the Archaeology Review as well?
A.  Of this paper? Not to my knowledge.
Q.  At the November 23rd lecture? And this lecture was before whom again?
A.  It was again to my recollection the Society of Biblical Literature, it was a session on online research. There are different sessions within the Society of Biblical Literature. You can give a lecture on the Books of Samuel, a lecture on the prophets, and they have one on technology and the use of research.
Q.  And in that lecture did you say the following, quote, “Despite Norman and Raphael’s many criticisms, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits were experiencing tremendous success and Norman Golb was still not being invited to speak at the museums lectures. Our patient vigilance had begun to payoff and the Golbs were experience increasing difficulty in getting out their message,” end quote?
A.  If it’s not word for word, that’s consistent with something that I said in the lecture.
Q.  Well, would you like to listen to a CD of that?
A.  Sure. No, but I guess you’re going to play it anyway.
Q.  No, I’m not.
(Court transcripts of the cross-examination of Robert Cargill, p. 759-760)

Golb’s defense attorney, Mr. Kuby, didn’t want to play the CD of my SBL paper because he didn’t have it. Had he actually been in possession of the conclusion of my 2009 SBL paper entitled, “Scholars Behaving Badly: ‘Charles Gadda,’ Raphael Golb, and the Campaign of Anonymity on the Internet to Promote Norman Golb and Smear His Rivals,” he’d have heard the following conclusion:

Finally, scholars should be reminded that they cannot force their legacies upon history; rather, our legacies are the product of a lifetime of research, instruction, publication, and collegiality. Today, scholars must collaborate and work together—within the parameters of peer review and professional conferences—and must not attempt to substitute these established practices with self-published articles and campaigns of online intimidation. The days of the old scholarly model of ripping your opponent’s position (and them personally) are over. Today, it is important for scholars to work cooperatively, with colleagues to bring about responsible scholarship. Because you must never forget: the island is always watching.

Thank you for your time.

Obviously, the conclusion of my SBL paper was different from the unpublished draft article that I had submitted to Archaeology. But that reality didn’t fit what Dr. Golb’s defense wanted to argue. So, he attempted to mislead the jury into thinking that I read the draft Archaeology article as my SBL paper, which was simply not the case. But, we see again that Dr. Golb’s defense team was not interested in the truth, or even the facts, but rather in continuing their attempt to smear me (and Dr. Schiffman) by simply making things up.

So, back to Dr. Golb’s appeal. There are ultimately two problems with the statement, “And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that ‘the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies’,” in Dr. Golb’s appeal. First, Dr. Golb’s defense again intentionally misleads those unfortunate few interested enough in reading through the 111 pages of rehashed red herrings and irrelevant excuses presented in the appeal by failing to inform the reader that this statement is actually a quote from Shrine of the Book Curator, Dr. Magen Broshi, which he made to the newspaper, Ha’aretz, on October 4, 1991.

In fact, the defense counsel knew this, because they had not only asked me about it during my cross-examination, but had quoted it and properly attributed it to Dr. Broshi in their earlier Motion to Dismiss the charges against Dr. Golb, pages 4-5:

This suggestion was accompanied by widely reported defamatory statements, including the assertion by Magen Broshi, director of the Shrine of the Book museum in Jerusalem, that Norman Golb was a “revolting polemist, an opinionated trouble-maker” who had “filled the world with his filth,” and of whom “we will be free … when he dies.” (Haaretz, October 4, 1991.)

The defense counsel contradicts reality (and its own court filing!) by claiming in their appeal that *I* made the statement they themselves correctly attributed to Dr. Broshi earlier in their motion to dismiss.

Go figure.

Of course, what’s ironic about Dr. Broshi’s quote is that I would have never known about it had Dr. Golb not published it on page 230 of his own book, Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So Dr. Broshi said it. Dr. Golb repeated it on page 230 of his book. Dr. Golb’s defense team repeated the quote in their motion to dismiss, and specifically asked me about it during cross-examination. But according to Dr. Golb’s appeal, *I* made the quote.

I shake my head.

But, there’s another problem with the statement, “And Cargill concluded a lecture at the Society of Biblical Literature by suggesting that ‘the world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies’,” in Dr. Golb’s appeal: I NEVER QUOTED THE QUOTE!

The defense mistakenly assumed that I had read from the draft of an article that I had written and sent to Archaeology for publication. However, we decided not to publish the article, which means no one ever read the draft of the article except me and the Archaeology editor, and apparently Mr. Kuby (who somehow managed to obtain a copy of the draft of the article). The defense was attempting to make me look bad by trying to argue that I read Dr. Broshi’s quote to a session at SBL. The only problem is, I didn’t use the line in my SBL paper! I told Dr. Golb’s defense counsel that I couldn’t recall using that line during cross-examination. Unfortunately for Dr. Golb’s defense counsel, I did not. But that didn’t stop the defense from attempting to tell the jury that I quoted the quote in my paper. And when the jury saw through Dr. Golb’s lies and found him guilty thirty-one times, it didn’t stop Dr. Golb’s defense from stating the flat out lie that I concluded my SBL paper with the words, “The world will be rid of Norman Golb when he dies.” It never happened, and yet, there it is in Dr. Golb’s appeal, presented as if it were fact. Simply amazing!

The defense is not only misleading the court (and the public by posting the appeal online anonymously), but it is also flat out lying when it claims in their appeal that I said something in a lecture that I did not.

Of course, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Dr. Golb can make up whatever he wants in his appeal because it is “protected speech.” But the NY DA will simply point out that the appeal is full of lies and misstatements, and the appellate court will make the appropriate judgment.

But this just shows once again what we’ve come to expect from Dr. Golb and his defense team: the demonstrated, repeated willingness to mislead any who will listen, misrepresent facts, and flat out lie in a desperate attempt to blame someone – anyone! – for Dr. Golb’s own crimes.

maybe sbl can follow malawi’s example and fine people for farting

Malawi No Farting Lawi mean, why should the sbl stop at projector fines? if they’re really looking to raise some money, sbl should consider taking a page out of malawi’s playbook. the african nation is considering passing new “gas laws” that would fine people for breaking wind in public. i guess this means i won’t be visiting lilongwe any time soon.

but seriously, this would be a quick way for sbl to raise a lot of money quickly. think about it: fining sbl conference attendees for cuttin’ cheese is a sure moneymaker. conference attendees are usually on the run, sitting for long periods of time and ‘holding it,’ irregularly eating fried, greasy foods, drinking coffee in between sessions, standing around talking and ‘shifting their weight’, crop dusting each other as they hurriedly pass each other on the way to sessions, breaking wind at the biblical archaeological society booth simply out of spite, and staying up late drinking. and that’s before they get back to the hotel room. quite frankly, i am fearful of my hotel room at the san francisco marriott marquis come this november. what if the malawi police are in there? or worse yet, sbl fine collectors? it could result in citation after citation with the roommates i have. and only heaven knows how many citations would be handed out in the ‘blogging and online publication‘ section. heck, sbl could raise enough money in the blogging section to buy projectors for every conference attendee. they could just put one in every free tote bag you get when you walk in along with the israel travel brochures and continuum/t+t clark ads you immediately throw away.

so come on sbl, take the next logical step and do like the malawis do: fine ’em for flatulence.

call for papers for the ‘blogging and online publication’ section at the 2011 sbl annual meeting is now open

Biblioblogger logoThe call for papers for the ‘Blogging and Online Publication’ section at the 2011 SBL Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA is now available. The meeting will be held November 19-22, 2011.

SBL members wishing to present papers should submit proposals on the SBL website here by March 1, 2011.

The SBL Blogger and Online Publication section invites proposals for papers for its 2011 annual meeting session. The open session calls for papers focusing on any area of blogging and online publication in relation to biblical studies, theology, and archaeology of the Levant. Special consideration will be given to those papers addressing:

  • the politics and etiquette of blogging professionals
  • issues dealing with anonymity, identity, and authorship
  • the utilization of blogs by professionals for creating, responding to, and redacting content for publication elsewhere
  • podcasting and video blogging
  • issues examining solo blogging vs. community blogging

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact:

Dr. Robert R. Cargill
Center for Digital Humanities
UCLA
1020 Public Affairs Building
Los Angeles, CA, 90095-1499

or email cargill@humnet.ucla.edu.

Introductory Remarks for the Inaugural Blogger and Online Publication Session at the 2010 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting

Introductory Remarks for the Inaugural Blogger and Online Publication Session at the 2010 Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting
Robert R. Cargill, Presiding
November 22, 2010, 1:00-3:30 PM
Room: A702 – Marriott Marquis

Society of Biblical LiteratureI’d like to welcome each of you to this inaugural “Blogger and Online Publication” section at the 2010 SBL annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Each of our presenters today represents a specific look at the history, present state, and future of blogging and online publication.

We shall also be passing around a plate to take up a collection for the use of this projector, which apparently sets the SBL back about $400 a day.

Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge two people who are largely responsible for this new session. The first is the SBL Manager of Programs, Charlie Haws, who worked diligently to make this session possible. His foresight and recognition that the academy must embrace the reality and power of blogging and online publication was not only courageous within the established academy, but an acknowledgment of the reality that this new medium brings an interactive, scholarly discussion about biblical literature, religion, theology, and archaeology directly to the public from each of our own unique points of view. So to Charlie Haws I offer my heartfelt thanks.

The other individual I’d like to acknowledge was here for ASOR last week, but had to return home. He was the driving force behind guiding this Blogging and Online Publication session from concept to reality. That man is Jim West. Jim’s persistence and hard work behind the scenes made this session possible. Whether you love him or hate him, you read him, (whether you admit it or not), and Dr. West has easily become the most widely read Bible-related blog online (as he regularly reminds us). I’d like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the ever vigilant, ever present commentator of all things Zwingli and totally depraved, and if I may proudly add, my friend, Jim West. Thank you Jim.

We’ll have time for a few questions at the end of each presentation, but there will be an additional few minutes for discussion at the end of the session where you may direct additional questions to any of the presenters.

With that, our first paper will be presented by Dr. James Davila of University of St. Andrews in Scotland entitled, “What Just Happened:  The Rise of “Biblioblogging” in the First Decade of the Twenty-first Century.”

Our second paper will be presented by Dr. Christian Brady, Dean of Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania entitled, “Online Biblical Studies: Past, Present, Promise, and Peril.”

Our third paper will be presented by Dr. Michael Barber of John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California entitled, “Weblogs and the Academy: The Benefits and Challenges of Biblioblogging.”

Our fourth paper will be presented by Dr. James McGrath of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana entitled, “The Blogging Revolution: New Technologies and their Impact on How we do Scholarship.”

Our final paper will be presented by me, Robert R. Cargill of UCLA, entitled, “Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies.”

Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies – SBL 2010 Paper by Robert Cargill

Instruction, Research, and the Future of Online Educational Technologies
Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
UCLA Center for Digital Humanities
Monday, November 22, 2010
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Atlanta, GA
(audio)

I’d like to conclude this session by speaking for a moment about instruction, research, and the future of online educational technologies.

Patricia Cohen's New York times article entitled, "Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches"

Patricia Cohen's New York times article entitled, "Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches"

Just this past Tuesday in the NY Times, Patricia Cohen wrote an excellent piece about how instructors like many of us in the Humanities are beginning to embrace online digital technologies, which are now commonly referred to as the “Digital Humanities.” Like many previous new innovations in education, early adoption of the Digital Humanities as a legitimate and perhaps stand-alone field of study has seen a mixed reaction.

There are those like Princeton historian Anthony Grafton, who argue that the Digital Humanities are means to end, and not ends in themselves. However, I’d like to argue that while a definition of “technology” as a set of tools most certainly satisfies that characterization, “Digital Humanities” has quickly become a burgeoning discipline in its own right. That is, while various technologies can be used as tools to improve instruction and research within existing higher education pedagogical approaches, the Digital Humanities as a field of study proposes new pedagogical approaches to education. So while many scholars are asking how technology can assist with their existing courses and approaches to instruction and learning, Digital Humanities scholars ask how these new technologies fundamentally change how one does instruction. It is the difference between laying technology on top of a course, and rethinking a course from the ground up in light of these new technologies.

In addition to instruction, instructors embracing the Digital Humanities are leading the charge to discover new forms of research that were simply not possible prior to the advent of modern technology, crowds, clouds, and social networking. Brett Bobley, director of the National Endowment of the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities stated to the New York Times, “Technology hasn’t just made astronomy, biology and physics more efficient. It has let scientists do research they simply couldn’t do before.”

Qumran through (Real) Time by Dr. Robert R. Cargill (Gorgias Press, 2009)

My research with the digital reconstruction of Qumran developed a new, quantitative approach to dealing with very large quantities of archaeological data that had previously been offered to the public only as in disparate chunks or individual reconstructions pushing particular viewpoints and interpretations. A new approach, specifically, a way by which to model multiple interpretations for multiple archaeological loci at multiple periods in time, each preserving the archaeological remains in a transparent and easy-to-access manner, was only made possible by employing the Digital Humanities, specifically, three–dimensional digital modeling, to capture the archaeological data published in primary and secondary literature in a database, model it, and make it available in real time. Thus, in my research, the Digital Humanities did not replace archaeology; it was a tool, a methodology by which to process and represent the data used within an existing discipline. However, the capacity to do this kind of visualization research, and to use it not only for instructional display, but for research as well, was only made possible by the advent of modern visualization technology. In that regard, the Digital Humanities can be said to be an independent field and approach to the processing of archaeological data in its own right.

Regardless of which way you lean on the Digital Humanities debate – a set of tools within existing disciplines or a burgeoning, independent field of study of its own – the greater problem has been the dissemination of this information. There simply was no established outlet to publish my data – either in a public or academic setting. Imagine attempting to communicate an idea to another person, but not being able to speak, write, type, or sign. That is to say, the technology used at the cutting edge of research in some fields has outpaced the vehicles needed to publish the results appropriately.

I lamented this in my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, when I stated:

A problem of scribal technology persists. While technology for gathering and processing information has advanced almost exponentially, the accepted means of communicating this new information is stuck in a scribal format that is literally thousands of years old: the written word. Scholars have yet to adopt alternative means by which to receive and redistribute information developed and communicated in three-dimensional format. Far too many scholars are insisting that technologically minded scholars communicate digital information by analog means. Digital journals and online publications are a step in the right direction, but even these new digital publications are made to look like the traditional written pages of journals in many instances, rather than harness and utilize the interactive connectivity and visual capabilities available on the Internet. (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 69-70.)

Later, I lamented:

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217.)

We are left with problem of trying to convince and perhaps compel an academy that clings to tradition and traditional ways of doing things to adopt modern forms of digital publication. The root of this problem lies in the fundamental incentive and motivation for scholars to publish: profit on the one hand, and tenure and promotion on the other.

In order to alleviate the academy’s resistance to adopting digital forms of online publication, we must target the motivation. Few scholars make large sums of money selling academic books. Those who have discovered ways to make money by selling books are facing the reality of a shifting publishing industry.

However, for most scholars, the motivation for publishing articles and books lies not in the income generated by studies of the variant forms of Aramaic verbs in Targums, but in the potential for promotion and tenure at our universities. Unfortunately, many tenure-granting universities still only acknowledge print-published volumes as “legitimate” when considering tenure and promotion, thumbing their noses at “digital” or “online” publications, which causes many scholars considering publishing online in digital formats to resist and instead publish their work in traditional paper and ink peer-review journals. Academic prestige still lies in the print-published textbook, not in digital, online course, and therefore, young scholars – those who are most likely to adopt new technological approaches and methodologies – opt for the status quo and publish their work in traditional journals, thereby thwarting progress and innovation in exchange for the safety and acceptance of an academy, which is only now beginning to experience the manifestation of its failure to adapt to and embrace the advance of online and digital forms of publication.

Let us look at what has happened to different forms of publishing.

  • Dot coms obviously were empowered by and embraced digital publishing and communication and have thrived.
  • Brick-and-mortar businesses panicked when they first saw that Internet start-ups were quickly eating into their business. They solved this dilemma by buying up the Internet start-ups and re-branding them as their own.
  • Newspapers did not and perhaps could not adapt to digital means of publication, and many have failed fantastically in record numbers. Those news outlets who have made the transition to online print may have survived, but not before yielding their market position at the top to upstart news outlets, integrated blogs, and news aggregators like the Drudge Report, Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast, which by the way just this week announced it had merged with Newsweek (remember them) and will be the online face of the venerable Newsweek, which only earlier this year was purchased for one dollar.
  • Book publishers saw the writing on the wall and are only now embracing e-books. As evidence, I’ll point you to this statistic: this year marked the first year that Amazon.com sold more e-books than it did printed books. If this stat is shocking to you, you probably work for a university. The world has transitioned to e-books, online journals, and handheld devices.
Dr. Jim West debunks the myth that scholars "curl up by the fire with their leather bound books." Here, Dr. West curls up on the couch in his Snuggie and laptop.

Dr. Jim West debunks the myth that scholars "curl up by the fire with their leather bound books." Here, Dr. West curls up on the couch in his Snuggie and laptop.

This leaves the academy, which is only now beginning to seriously ask the question: “what’s happening?” As scholars, we cling to our books, and recite the now classic line that “I can’t curl up next to the fire with a laptop like I can a book.” And despite the romanticism of fireplaces and leather-bound books filling libraries smelling of rich mahogany (thank you Will Ferrell), the fact is that we scholars now get the bulk of our news online, do our research on JSTOR, digital libraries, Google, and even the ever-improving Wikipedia, we write in Microsoft Word, teach with PowerPoint or Keynote or Prezi, we email one another without end, and have not only have joined and created academic networks on Facebook, but have adopted our own scholarly version of Facebook complete with an integrated content management system called Academia.edu. The fact of the matter is, scholars do not do their research, teach their classes, or talk to colleagues curled up next to the fireplace. We do it in our beds with our laptops, online like everyone else.

The world has gone online. It did so ten years ago, and the academy is quickly being left behind. In fact, we are so far behind, we are quickly being replaced by online universities, who have embraced and been empowered by online publication. And while we mock online universities, they are raking in record profits and expanding their course offerings, while traditional brick-and-mortar universities are standing idly by watching their funding being cut, their endowments shrink, their lecturers laid off, their scholarships trimmed, and their tenure-track positions not being re-opened as the last generation retires.

The academy must embrace online publication before it goes the way of the Library of Alexandria – a noble memory about which proud legends are told, but that no longer exists!

Thus, the challenge is to convince tenure-granting committees to accept digital forms of publication as not only legitimate forms of academic publication, but to accept it as the preferred vehicle for publication – one that not only publishes the results of research thereby creating knowledge, but effectively markets this knowledge by disseminating it in a manner that can compete with rival forms of lesser-informed knowledge being peddled to students and the public by various political, religious, and business entities.

It is to the university’s advantage to publish in a form that best disseminates new ideas and research, while preserving a university’s most important asset: its brand, which is the symbol of a university’s credibility.

There has been a paradigm shift in the management of knowledge. In the past, the credibility of an institution, be it a university, temple, or secret society, resided in how one hoarded and preserved sacred knowledge. However, modern repositories of knowledge like Google and Wikipedia are evidence that this paradigm has shifted. Today, knowledge management credibility lies with the institution that gives the most information away for free. Today, while we still may brag about how many $140 Brill volumes we have in our libraries, the truth is we more often tell one another about the latest place online to get tons of new, credible information for free.

The paradigm has shifted from one of hoarding knowledge to one that freely disseminates knowledge. As such, the number of scholars using blogs, message boards, wikis, and social networking are increasing exponentially. And as a greater number of scholars publish online, the credibility of online publishing is raised. Likewise, scholars are slowly realizing that it is better for their scholarship to publish their research online where it is available for free or at very low cost, than it is to limit the visibility of their research to $140 volumes that only libraries purchase. Publishing online and marketing one’s research with meta-tags and keywords that push this research to search engines puts the research in front of the eyes of other scholars and the public, spreading the ideas widely, and therefore maximizing the chance that a scholar’s new idea is adopted as a consensus view. This is the new paradigm of the creation, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge, and it is only made possible by the efficiency and speed of socially networked online publication.

In my book, Qumran through (Real) Time, I offered a challenge to universities:

The present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research. (Cargill, Robert, Qumran through (Real) Time, (Gorgias, 2009), 217-18.)

If we can convince tenure-granting committees of the benefits of online publishing, the profit motive or benefit will have been altered in such a way to incentivize digital publishing, which will in turn market and promote the research of scholars who publish digitally.

Now that we’ve identified the problem, allow me to offer three solutions to the question: how do we go from traditional, ink-on-paper volumes that tenure-granting committees love, but few people outside of professional conferences read, to online, digital publications that a) preserve the brand and credibility of the institution, the scholar, and the data; b) enhances the published research by disseminating results in such a manner that simply could not have been offered in traditional ink-and-paper printed volumes; and c) promotes that research online so it can compete with the information peddled by religious hucksters, alien enthusiasts, and the RNC (or DNC – either way, they’re both totally depraved)?

You have heard many other ideas about blogging here today. The three solutions I propose now directly address publishers, authors, and instructors.

The first solution addresses publishers. Quite frankly, we need more online journals, better online journals, and authors need to publish for them. There are many journals that have online presences like the Journal of Biblical Literature or the Journal of Semitic Studies, but one must pay or even join these organizations in order to read their online versions of these journals. However, online journals like the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures and Bible and Interpretation solicit credible, scholarly research and make it available directly to all audiences – scholars and the public alike – for free. I would like to suggest that online journals (who may or may not also publish printed versions) who make their content available for free will not only experience a wider readership, and thus experience greater exposure for the ideas of scholars publishing in them, but will gain a reputation as the source of new, credible ideas, and because of this will gain a loyal readership and may, if they have one, experience increased membership because people like to be affiliated with successful, credible organizations like the SBL. In this sense, the free dissemination of information drives a journal’s or an organization’s credibility.

In addition to requiring a dedicated editor to publish these journals, the problem with publishing online journals is soliciting quality material from credible scholars to publish with them. Therefore my second solution addresses authors.

"The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions" by Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, USC.

"The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions" by Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, USC.

When appropriate, authors need to publish data digitally using media that best convey the results of their research. This is especially true for those of us in the Digital Humanities doing digital research that can only be done with the rise of computers, virtual reality, and the internet. One excellent recent example of this is a paper published by my friend and colleague at USC, Dr. Bruce Zuckerman, entitled “The Dynamics of Change in the Computer Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Ancient Inscriptions,” available at the West Semitic Research Project’s Inscriptifact website. This paper, seen here, is a perfect example of a digital hybrid article.

Note how Dr. Zuckerman, with the help of USC’s Institute of Multimedia Literacy, created and article that preserves the look and feel of a traditional print media academic journal complete with page numbers, thereby doing nothing to undermine the credibility that is conveyed by the appearance of the traditional format. However, Dr. Zuckerman has embedded within the article digital media, including video animations that convey digital research and information that a traditional ink-and paper journal simply cannot. By publishing in this fashion, Dr. Zuckerman offers a transitional solution, which allays the fears of traditional scholars and publishers by preserving their format, but also harnesses the new technological advances available to scholarship. This form of publication will serve as a bridge or even perhaps the very vehicle transporting scholars from traditional forms of publication to the online world of digital publication.

My third solution addresses online instruction. It is now possible given technologies like iTunes U, to capture university lectures, assessments, and reading and resource materials in a digital format. Capturing these courses digitally via video lectures and free content management systems like Moodle, allows the technology sits atop the course, capturing it in such in a manner that it can be taught in person or online. By designing courses in this way, the same course can be taught by the same instructor to a room full of 100 students, or online to 10,000 students. This eliminates the apprehension exhibited by many tenured professors who worry that if online and distance education infiltrates brick-and mortar universities, they will have their jobs outsourced to online adjuncts or worse yet, to online, for-profit universities. Designing and capturing courses digitally, with an eye toward the hybrid or blended instruction, allows existing, experienced professors to become the distance learning instructors. By allowing the technology to capture existing university courses, the Digital Humanities can play a role in reclaiming undergraduate instruction from the for-profit universities and perhaps even eradicate them by offering better courses both in person and online.

I should also add that I believe the future of textbook publication is the future of online course management systems. The two will become integrated to such an extent, that the digital textbook will include online animations, hyperlinks to all key words and definitions, and assessments designed to test the reader’s comprehension of the material. The course management system, be it Blackboard, Sakai, or Moodle, will be the textbook. Students could pay to license the book, or will get the book as a part of the course tuition (creating a new pricing model for textbooks). In this manner, scholars and publishers can work together to embrace the changes on publishing, and write digital textbooks for courses that are inextricable from each other guaranteeing the integrity of the course content, and ensuring the jobs of the existing university faculty who agree to teach online.

If we can embrace this understanding of the Digital Humanities, and can convince university instructors – and specifically tenure-granting committees – to embrace digital publication as legitimate, then universities can establish the appropriate incentives needed to make online publication credible, and thereby save traditional universities from threats posed by cheaper, for-profit online solutions. The Digital Humanities will be less understood as a threat to existing disciplines within the Humanities and their scholars, and will be embraced more as a new tool in the ever-progressing evolution of Humanities instruction, if not a discipline in its own right.

Thank you.



thoughts on the sbl’s pay-per-projector policy

SBL Data Projector with Coin Slot

Is the SBL also among the tax collectors?

The Society of Biblical Literature has instituted a new policy at the 2010 annual meeting in Atlanta that charges presenters $25-$75 for the use of a data projector during a presentation. You heard me correctly, that’s $25-75 per presenter, per presentation, depending upon whether or not the presenter pre-paid by September 17.

Please allow me to express my profound displeasure with this decision in my own unique way.

Now, this fee is no surprise. The SBL actually unveiled this new revenue-producing scheme before the call for papers, and it was included in the online proposal form. You may remember this gem on the SBL website:

This year a nominal fee ($25 per item prior to June 15th) will be charged for each piece of Audio/Visual equipment requested. This will assist the SBL in covering a portion of the A/V costs for your session. Please request only the A/V equipment essential to your presentation to help us keep the meeting affordable for all members. Upon your paper’s acceptance, you will receive additional information on how to confirm equipment and pay for your A/V needs.

Most scholars either didn’t pay attention; read it, but didn’t bother to do or say anything about it (as scholars are oft wont to do); ignored it and planned on simply not paying when the bill came; or figured they’d do what faculty always do: complain about a new (albeit ridiculous) policy a week before crunch time rather than proactively write in dissent or objection to the policy in the early stages.

As the chair of the Blogger and Online Publication section (whose presenters, as one might expect, might actually employ the use of technology during their presentations), I was aghast at the notion that I needed to pay extra to give a presentation, when other presenters and attendees, who also benefit from other technologies like electricity, microphones, speakers, podiums, chairs, etc., were required to pay nothing. I chose not to pay the fee, and instead arranged to bring my own digital projector, extension cord, cables, etc., which I do every year. (Jim West has offered to do the same.)

SBL Data Projector Meter

This is what it has come to: the SBL is taxing those who create visually compelling presentations to accompany their papers.

Perhaps the new SBL email confirmation can read as follows:

“Congratulations!
Your paper has been accepted in the Johannine Literature section. Please send us $25 additional if you plan on actually creating a visually compelling presentation to accompany your paper.
If you’re just going to stand there and read a boring paper, well then, that’s free.
Again, congratulations.

P.S. Send money. We’re broke.”

The SBL is attempting to exact a tax on digital projectors. At some level a strategic decision was made to surcharge presenters, perhaps because they knew that most people attending SBL would be receiving some sort of reimbursement from their employer (whether university, bookseller, or non-profit organization), and would simply pass this expense along to their employers. (Airlines get away with charging extra for bags because most major carriers know that the bulk of their business comes from business travelers on expense accounts.) We know SBL has been collecting reimbursement data. (Remember filling out the question during registration that asked if you would be receiving 100%, some, or no reimbursement from an employer?) A decision was made to tax presenters above and beyond the already high conference registration fees, SBL annual membership, hotel costs, and additional skyrocketing hotel taxes (check your hotel bill before you hand it to your office manager for reimbursement)!

However, the SBL may be at fault on more than one level. I am hoping it is not the case that the SBL signed a deal with hotels that it either knew was bad (because it did not include data projectors), but needed to sign quickly for one reason or another. Worse yet, I hope it is not the case that negligence played a role and SBL simply overlooked the fact that data projectors were not included, signed a deal, and then got caught off guard when it realized it would be hit with the surprise charges, and scrambled to recoup some of the additional expense.

Scott Bailey has pointed out the absurdity of the SBL hotel’s claims regarding the costs of data projectors. Most data projectors can be purchased outright for less than $450 these days, (click here for a selection of digital projector options), yet the SBL hotel is charging SBL $450 per day(!!) to rent its data projectors. AND THE SBL AGREED TO THESE TERMS!!! It appears that SBL either signed a bad deal without doing its due diligence regarding the actual cost of data projectors, or simply missed the fact that projectors were not included. Given that the SBL is headquartered in Atlanta, one would think that they would know their local hotels and could negotiate a decent deal.

A $25-75 surcharge for what are usually 25-minute presentations comes to $1-3/minute! For standard technology!

The SBL should immediately rescind its policy of charging presenters $25-75 per presentation for using a data projector.

SBL and Projectors

$450/Day. (Photo by James McGrath)

SBL should not begin charging presenters for projectors. Data projectors have become a staple of all good presentations. I can’t wait to see presenters reading papers without PowerPoints simply to protest the policy. A more likely solution is that given the compact nature of today’s projectors, most scholars will bring their own projectors along with their laptops, as we are doing for the Blogger and Online Publication session. (Thank you James McGrath!)

This policy especially hurts younger scholars and graduate students, the very demographic SBL is attempting to reach and the group SBL must reach to ensure its long-term viability! SBL annual meetings are already very (almost prohibitively) expensive, especially for graduate students, who do not have secured positions at universities to whom they can submit reimbursements, and who are the most likely to use technology to present papers in an effort to procure jobs. Because the “data projector tax” hurts young scholars, the SBL is essentially taxing the poorest of the poor (because after all, we’re all in the humanities), and exacting a tax on those who are least able to afford it.

If SBL is going to fine anyone, it should charge presenters who do not use data projectors. If you wrote your SBL “talk” on the back of a napkin in the bar just before your session, you should have to pay $75 in order to present – money that can be distributed to those of us who have to listen to you drone on about hiphil middle-weak verb forms without any form of visual aid whatsoever. Don’t punish those presenters who have spent the time to write a good paper and create a helpful accompanying presentation.

The SBL should not disincentivize the production of effective, visual presentations at its own annual meeting!

Jesus Cleanses the SBL Registration Booth

An angry Jesus, upset about the fact that SBL is charging presenters to use data projectors, cleanses the SBL registration booth. (Mashup of Carl Heinrich Bloch painting by Robert R. Cargill) More on Bloch here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Heinrich_Bloch

Nickel-and-diming the attendees gives the SBL a real black eye at a time of nation-wide economic cost-cutting at universities, and when the SBL is attempting to market to a new range of scholars. Higher education really can’t afford the additional cost burden right now, especially if the revenues raised from the data projector tax are simply being passed along to hotels.

I’m seriously waiting for Jesus (Christ, not Jones in hotel facilities) to show up and “cleanse” the SBL registration booth. I’d like to see him overturn a table full of data projectors or two.

I can hear it now: as soon as a projector goes dark, someone will say,

“Will you put another quarter in the data projector meter for me?”

Church Collection Plate

Seriously, we should take up an offering for use of the data projectors. A section with 5 papers would cost $125, and that’s if you pre-reserved them back in June! We could pass a plate down the rows.

Solution

The SBL should immediately announce that it is rescinding its data projector fees for this year’s annual meeting.

Itemizing the data projector costs as an additional surcharge only highlights the fiscal trouble of the SBL.

Placing the fiscal burden directly on those scholars who are doing and presenting higher-end research that requires modern forms of technology to communicate their findings disincentivizes innovation.

Nickel-and-diming its own participants for participating makes an otherwise professional organization look cheap and does not send an inspiring message of fiscal viability to SBL members.

It would be better to spread the cost of data-projectors evenly across all participants, whether they use them in presentations, or watch presentations that use projectors. This minimal cost (say, $5) could be added to the already absurd annual meeting registration cost. It would be less burdensome to the presenters, and would not advertise SBL’s financial woes by highlighting the need to exact a surcharge for a service that is now standard in higher education and professional conferences.

Rescinding the decision to impose fees on those using data projectors would buy the SBL a year to debate the role of technology in scholarship, properly assess the real costs of technology, and give SBL a year to communicate the need, if any, for higher fees to subsidize technology costs.

SBL could also agree not to do business with hotels who insist on exacting absurd usury fees on conferences. It’s SBL’s home town for crying aloud! SBL should be able to negotiate a fair deal.

In Sum

In sum, charging presenters a fee to present their papers in a modern format is a very poor decision on the part of SBL. Then again, a digital image is worth a thousand words (and I’ll let you see it for free):

SBL Pay-for-Projector Policy

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