Tuesday, May 25, 2010

E mail to the Mormon Archipelago

Since I am now looking more into the bloggernacle and connecting it to "Cathedral" and the symbolic value of the cathedral as a place of communion, I've been exploring the bloggernacle. An important resource I found is the "Mormon Archipelago," which describes itself as "a gateway to the Bloggernacle...designed to be a useful real-time guide to the best Mormon blogs" where "Recent posts from these blogs are aggregated and divided into separate groups (of "islands") that make it easier to keep the most recent content available." I'd like to email the people who run this site (and perhaps some major Mormon blogs like "Feminist Mormon Housewives" and "By Common Consent") and ask them questions like the following:
  • Where did the name "bloggernacle" come from? In what ways is the "bloggernacle" conceptually similar to a tabernacle, cathedral, or other place of worship/communion?
  • How does the "bloggernacle" create a sense of community that would be impossible through other mediums or settings?
  • How is the personal or the sacred mediated electronically, authentically? (From Gideon Burton's comment in response to my post "Bloggernacle")
Any suggestions about how to improve these questions? Or even better, any additional questions, perhaps some that would help with others' research projects?


  1. Mormons have had a significant online presence ever since Web 1.0. (See the early Mormons on the Internet (http://www.amazon.com/Mormons-Internet-LauraMaery-Gold/dp/0761511482). The Bloggernacle is featured regularly in a column on the Mormon Times (Deseret News). You might get some meta-info about LDS blogging there, or directly from the blog writers at Common Consent. I'm interested in other ways that Mormons self-organize online. As a bishop, I've found that facebook is a way that local members find out about and see to one another's needs (sometimes complementing, sometimes skirting traditional information channels within the church structure). And of course there are broader modes of LDS online cooperation, too. Always interesting to see the borders being redrawn on how/where people combine their interests and abilities in common causes. Think of those youth that self organized at the death of Pres. Hinckley to all wear Sunday clothes to school the following day. Viral LDS text messaging for a religious purpose.

  2. Ben, excellent questions. Bloggernacle was coined by a commenter during a thread at Times and Seasons. It evolved from calling us all members of a Bloggernacle Choir, I believe. It does reflect a community, by definition an insular group gathered together. I don't know that "worship" in the sacramental or traditional sense is the goal, though I suppose writing and discussing Mormon themes can be considered worship in a broader sense.

    As for how the Bloggernacle creates a sense of community, I think first you need to make the case that it does, in fact, create a sense of community. I don't believe that there is a unified feeling of community throughout the bloggernacle. There are pockets of cliques and friends, and borderline communities, but we are fledgling at best and still fragile. I do believe that there is a sense of community, but this is not a view that is universally shared. So I think there is a legitimate line of research that must be followed before we can dive into the particular methods of community-building. Similarly, your second question also presupposes a uniqueness to the sense of community developed in the Bloggernacle, and I believe before addressing the question you pose, you must first establish what you consider that unique quality to be.

    The last question is a difficult one. Again you ask a "how" question when you must first arrive at the "is" question -- IS the personal or the sacred mediated electronically, authentically? What do you mean by "authentically"? The term must be defined before we can start to approach the more narrow question you lay out.

  3. Furthering Steve's comment the thread is found here: (http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2004/03/the-nameless-mormon-blogosphere/)

    I think the sense of community depends upon which blog's you participate in and/or write for. I have been at two (Mormon Matters and BCC) and the experience of both was positive but they were also very different.

    For example it might be interesting to look at the many 'Niblets' threads over the last few years which have discussed what exactly the bloggernacle is and what that community stands for and does. Go to the Mormon Archipelago and there is a search function and type in Niblets.

    In particular I would look at this thread (unfortunately the most recent discussion was lost):


  4. Hi Ben, I blog at By Common Consent. For me there is definitely a sense of community, but I feel it most keenly with other bloggers I've met in real life. The BCC permas make it a practice to get together physically once a year, which has made us all real life friends, not limited only to our extensive electronic communications.

    I try to comment on other blogs when I can, and I've met quite a few other bloggers as well, usually at Mormon studies conferences I attend such as the Mormon History Association (which I'll be traveling to tomorrow) and Sunstone. These are people I interact with on Facebook as well. So for me, it is the people I have actually met in the flesh with whom I feel the deepest sense of community.

  5. Hey Ben- While I am good friends with Steve and we write for some of the same blogs-Primarily BCC- even in our small communities you'll quickly see there are many ways of looking at the same set of questions.

    Your first question has been answered- and it's even been discussed on many a thread since.

    Your next one is a little tougher. I do believe (and experience) a sense of community within the bloggernacle. But it is an ongoing evolution, and the boundaries ebb and flow. It also takes some time and work to get to know people, and create a frame in which to interact. It's not hard- but those of us who have devoted years to building up these blogs are naturally protective of what we've helped create. As Steve pointed out, the very nature of community is an insular group gathered together. Those very parameters make some folks occasionally question our communities- and make accusations of cliquishness.

    All those caveats aside, the people behind almost every blog I've participated at or commented on have been open, frank, and -personal idiosyncrasies aside- have been good, decent human beings.

    The blogs have provided a place where people can discuss things pertaining to their faith that they may not have an outlet for in their every-day lives. For me, they saved my testimony and my membership in the church- no joke. To me, that is absolutely a community.

    How is the personal and sacred mediated electronically? Some might legitimately ask if it happens at all. Experientially, I find this varies depending on the site. Again, creating a history and coming to know the people with whom you are interacting contributes to the whole. Just as at a real-life party you wouldn't blast into a room and yell your opinion about someone else's spiritual experience, it's also bad form on the blogs. Some people don't easily get that message. You have to socialize a bit to find the group of writers and commenters with whom you best mesh. The blogs that do moderate and mediate to their specific audience seem to have keep the keel even longer and attracted wider readership- and again, created a community.

  6. Hey Ben, this is an interesting project. I like the way that you're framing it. I also blog at BCC, and have been around the bloggernacle since the times and seasons thread. I don't know if my experience is unique, but when I first discovered mormon blogging, I couldn't get enough, and would regularly check all the big sites, and try to keep up with new ones. I quickly started to edit though, and limited my time to the few that I agreed with philosophically. I found that once the major debates had been hammered out (i.e. same sex marriage, feminism and the church etc) online it was pretty much just aggravating to revisit them on a site that I disagreed with philosophically. Now I pretty much just follow BCC, private blogs of BCC bloggers, and occasionally times and seasons and FMH when someone mentions something interesting there. I do think this behavior is a type of community building, though. Discounting the lurkers (and we would love it if they participated more often) you keep seeing the same people at BCC. It's self selection. I think that type of self selection happens more sharply in the online world. I don't feel a need to interact with people who annoy me. It's perfectly okay to ignore them, whereas in a real life church community, I would feel obligated to build relationships with people with whom I didn't have much in common. Karen H.

  7. Thanks so much to everyone who has commented so far! This is great. How did you find my blog?

  8. Hey Ben,

    I just wanted to put down some of these thoughts I brought up when we were speaking about different imagery/metaphors that are used to define relationships on the "web."

    Obviously you've got "internet" and "world wide web" as a sort of starting point, and perhaps even "network," as in "internetwork." Such terms also brings to my mind images of fishing nets and spiderwebs; the first is cast wide to catch things in an infinite ocean, and the second could be like a spiderweb or just an indicator of things connected in myriad different invisible ways.

    "Host Software" for "Internet Protocols and systems," "Routes and Routers," have interesting imagery, and then you've got the browser names: "Netscape Navigator," "Internet Explorer," "Safari." These all imply journeying into the unknown. And then there is "Cyberspace" and the "Information Superhighway," the first sounding very futuristic, the second almost dangerous (don't play on the superhighway!). "Search Engine" is also interesting, eliciting an industrial, mechanized need because humans on their own just couldn't search well enough.

    So, all the previous are interesting to think about...but your specific direction is with the "bloggernacle," the "mormon archipelago," etc. "bloggernacle" implies to me a grouping under one roof, and archipelago implies islands that are self-sufficient but that still have loose relationships with other islands that distinguish a whole island chain from the mainland. Are there other ways that people in general, or mormon bloggers, try to indicate the intangible connections they have with others over the internet? It would be interesting to compare the difference between structural, "cathedral"-like imagery, and more ephemeral, "web"-like imagery.