Monday, February 18, 2008

The Bible and Visual Media

Okay, this is a bit off-topic, but part of my interest in biblical studies and technology is the ability that is now within the reach of just about anyone to create visual representations of biblical texts. I am not thinking of 'literal' representations of the text. Rather, I am intrigued by ways that the text is recast so that it re-performs its original impact.
The American Bible Society (ABS) did some fascinating work in this regard in the early-mid 1990s--Out of the Tombs based on Mark 5.1-20, A Father and Two Sons based on Luke 5.11-32, and The Visit based on Luke 1.39-56--but these projects were technological ahead of their time. (And 5-10 years later when the personal technology finally caught up, sadly, they looked a bit dated.) There are some interesting remnants of this work on the web at The New Media Bible which include a video 'representation' of John 20 (starring Jim Caviezal long before his "The Passion of Christ" fame) and an incredibly rich site on The Good Samarit
an with video and much more. Others have continued to pursue this line of biblical 'performance.' Check out The Work of the People: Visual Media for Ministry and 36 Parables for some interesting approaches. All of these projects which I have cited are professionally done, but you can see how, in this YouTube-ization of everything period, it is quite possible for anyone to create a video performance of a text. (Whether it is a good performance...)
These new performances are also available in a variety of non-video graphic formats and have been the subject of considerable study. (Check out the articles posted under the "In Popular Culture" heading at the online Society of Biblical Literature Forum. Especially check the article by Dan Clanton on "The Bible and Graphic Novels.") Here is wher
e the personal technology that is available really becomes effective.
I teach a class on "Experiencing the Gospel of Mark" where we look at variety of critical approaches, but the goal of the class is to create some kind of 'performance' of a passage. Some of the examples I use are Marked by Steve Ross or Manga Messiah. Using software like Comic Book Creator, students can create their own graphic representation. (HERE is a great example Seth Novak did on Luke 7.11-17. It is more fun, of course, that the people are all members of the class.) And this finally brings me to web post at Jane's E-Learning that got me started on this topic. She identifies three free, online comic strip creators:

Take a look and see if you get inspired!

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