This "Theology Project" category is intended and reserved for updates to my now ancient Web coverage of my now defunct DMIn project. I was doing that work in an online group that once a year, met at Dayton when all the other DMin groups met together. That started in 1993, and United was giving me a kind of fellowship to do this, becuase it wasn't costing me anything. I may have been considered doing and attempting something that was, at the time, considered "out there" enough to perhaps put the Online DMin idea a boost. Thing is, ironically, I didn't finsih the final stage of the program (the Project Stage, which was to set up some sort of test online community to explore the issues faced when trying to do spirituality and/or church things online. What kind of "comunity" would it be; what is "virtual" and what is "Real", or "face to face"; and while we're at it, is it right to call the face to face type "real" , when there seem to be plenty of examples of "Face to face" community that come across feeling and seeming like anything but community, in the deepest theological sense, or sometimes in any sense whatsoever.
That was TEN YEARS ago! Well, the project stage was starting around late 1996. While I kind of waded around in the sea of web -based forum applications, and the cost of them, and seeking to work out a place to "host" this experiment, the job in Nashville came calling, and I jumped at the chance. After all, here iwas a Church related eneterprise, seeking me out as a webmaster, presumably on the strength of my theological interest in the Web possibilities for the Church and for Theological Education, since this was all I was writing about on my Website (and still am, for the most part). The real task I was to have, however, was in learning the nuts and bolts of combining HTML and Data (via various Web-to-Database scripting applications. Early on , it was a CGI based script against a flat-text file database, hosted by our ISP which hosted the company's pages. Later, as we moved inside, it was ASP (Active Server Pages). All of this was good experience, and I've been able to bring all that learning with me. But I find myself still without much of a Church-related audience who are interested in my concerns about how far the Church still finds itself from "getting it" about the Web and the communication tasks that lie before us.
Now, over 6 years after leaving the academic test ground and upcoming project, and wandering in the widerness of new technologies for those years, I have more experience and "survival skills" in Web development (except that it's not putting any food on the table righ tnow), but the "promised land: I seek to set foot into is not yet much in the vision of most Church communicators.
The Web has changed quite a bit since 1996 (most everything that has been developed now in use was started after that), and now there's Web Services, XML, Weblogs, RSS, Flash as Web Applications, and more arriving. New developments raise new sociological and psycho-spirtual issues, like the way Weblogs have created new kind sof conversations, and how databases and forums and the whole mix can be dynamically linked so that Books can be a base for a small community (and yet the publishers don't see it ).
I haven't really nailed down a coherent analysis of the way this "Project" is different, Have I? The project is the Final Stage of that old DMin, which was to be the "prototype" online theological community. I remember that I had Church communkties and Theological Education both in mind. The way Church memebrs could carry on various communications using online media, a nd the way that Theological Education could augment and perhpas change theological education cirriculum and teaching environments. These seem to still be very much "up in the air". The advanatage now is thatthere are more opinions from which to draw, and a whole host more "luddite" reaction from both the academic institutions and the CHurch establishment about what consitutes real learning and what constitutes real community.