Posted by: rogermitchell | June 1, 2010

Am I accessible enough?

Hi to all friends and blog travelers! A fellow blogger and friend has raised some helpful questions and suggestions about my blog and I would welcome some wider discussion and feedback. The main points follow below:

“I have to say that I have, in general terms, appreciated the postings on Roger’s blog and the comments that have been provoked by the postings. However may I make, perhaps, a personal plea? Could the language register be lowered just a little at times? I speak as someone who does not have the linguistic and literary skills that have been displayed in the blog content and comments. This language register, and the accompanying technical vocabulary from a variety of disciplines, is fine if the blog is to be ‘grist to the mill’ and/or act as a provocation for Roger’s PhD research, but it is not, in my view, quite so user-friendly for folk more generally . Particularly for those who may struggle with such a language register and wide-spread vocabulary in a manner similar, but parallel, to say, on Roger’s own admission, the struggle he has with maths and science. I think you may be in danger of not attracting or maintaining a wider readership if many do not find it very accessible … However, I do appreciate that it does depend upon who you are seeking to communicate with I guess … I hope this is a constructive suggestion, because that is how it is meant …. The issues you raise, as I am sure you appreciate, are far too important to ‘fly over the heads’ of those born and being positioned for such a time as this!”

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Responses

  1. Hi Roger, that is a courageous thing to ask but I have to agree with your friend. I think what you have to say and what you are trying to do is important and so I stick with it, but to interact with it I don’t really feel able. I have no problems with a range of subjects but I feel out of my depth in this field. I would like my kids, who are in their 20s, to be able to gain something from this but I am afraid that they would not understand at all.

  2. I agree. I understand some big words like wheelbarrow but dumming it down a bit would make it easier for me to get it.

  3. Hi Roger, my comment would be: yes, if you could take it down a ‘wee notch’? At times there are 2 or 3 words in the one sentence that make my head spin…and that’s too much to remain in the gist of it. It’s probably that you are so much ‘at home’ in study/writing and teaching, yet I do know your heart is to reach people!! I read some blogs to keep sharp in my mind on the transition, which is difficult for a lot of us, and they do help, so thanks for your writing/sharing!!

  4. Hi Roger,

    I like the fact that sometimes I haven’t got a clue what you are saying because it makes me want to learn more. I was listen to a marketing guy talk about two types of customers that you sell to. Those who see the big picture and those who need every detail before committing to buy a product. I am a big picture type so even thou i don’t get everything I am happy cause I understand the overall picture of what you are saying.
    If I was a detail person, with my size of vocabulary I would either need to buy a bigger dictionary or pull out all my hair!!!!!

    Just keep on inspiring us!

  5. Some interesting comments, Roger. You’re obviously too clever by half!

    One problem that you’re up against, of course, is that in being so counter-church culture you are having to suggest new words and new ways of understanding old words. This makes it very difficult for you and sometimes the reader.

    But since you bang so many nails on the head I suggest you keep going!

    Dyfed.

  6. I’m reminded of the adage often attributed to Einstein: ‘if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough’. That’s not a criticism. Rather, it’s a recognition that really good thinking has to go through the stage of being complicated before it makes any real sense.

    To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “for the simplicity on this side of complexity I wouldn’t give you a fig; but for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have”. The mystics called this the second naïveté.

    That doesn’t really help this dilemma, except to say that, to some degree, it is inescapable and healthy that there is such a dilemma. The challenge is how we all navigate through that complexity of half-formed thought. Wanting to be accessible and wanting to engage is half the battle. The rest? Hard work?

    That said, I’m pretty much a fellow culprit on the register front, so my comments should be read in that light!

  7. Hi Roger, I must agree with your friend as sometimes I do struggle to understand what you are saying. I, like others, also feel that what you have to share is important and so I keep on reading your blog. Please keep on writing but it would be good if you could bear in mind that not all of us live in the academic world.

  8. Hmmm…not sure I want you to tone it down. If your work were art it’d be my favorite kind – the kind that makes me have to stare. I have received so much inspiration/stimulation from your writing even when I have had to work hard to understand.

  9. Yes Roger I would deeply appreciate if the language could be a more simple. If it was my first language I think it would be different but I struggle to follow the thoughts especially since I don’t have the time to “study” what has been written – I try to read it and bring some thoughts with me to digest while I’m doing other things….

  10. Hi Rog – when I first started reading your blog I did it with a three-inch thick Chambers dictionary beside me – soteriology, pneumatology and kenotic were words that just stumped me. (Your overview was very helpful as I printed it off and put interpreting notes in the margins!) But, I can say now, being challenged by the words you’ve used has been useful and enlightening. Firstly, as someone else said, it’s important to stretch our minds with inspiring writing/stimulation – when I first started reading broadsheet papers as a teenager I didn’t understand half what they wrote about but…well, I kept on and now I do. Secondly, creating new language is always difficult but must be done if we are to express with any accuracy what we feel/believe and understand, especially in a new season where maybe some new ideas/revelations are being born. (Who coined the phrase ‘theory of relativity’? Not sure, but someone must have done. And who understood it then? Probably nobody except Einstein, but we understand roughly what it means now even if we don’t understand the theory itself. It’s been a pointer to something that changed our world.)
    We are in such a time of change and need new language to express it. So, I am in favour of you going with the flow generally speaking. However, it may help people if you were able now and again to perhaps do a few definitions – time-consuming I know – and regroup us as you move forward. I am so looking forward (now I understand a bit of the language!) to reading this stuff when it’s published…and the dialogue is vital to refine and develop what you’re doing.
    My last point is that I don’t want you to dumb this down at all…it’s important you have the freedom to reach the heights of what God’s given you to do, in my opinion.
    I feel we’ll need every word in the future and if what God’s having you do is of him, it’s worth the hard work to understand it…
    Bless.
    Jane

  11. Hi Roger,
    I have only recently dicovered your blog and I do find the language difficult at times.But that does no put me of because if we want to learn then we need to be streched.
    As I have known you on a personal level I know you to be accessible so maybe its about us being willing to use this type of platform .We can and should stop you and ask you to “explain” as we might do if face to face.

  12. Oh, you are going to have so much fun with this Roger! Writing is thinking. And Stephen is spot on with the phases of simplicity. We are engaging with you as you press into something new, with your research and analysis and interpretation. And you are blogging which is very immediate and inevitably pushes you to write short, which makes technical language attractive because it stands for whole phrases and ideas. So it’s probably going to be a couple of years before the ‘second naivete’.

    One thing I would note, that I do not think should change, is the way you are seeking new terminology in order to disturb the assumed understandings of more familiar words. Soteriology might be learned in theology 101, but it is important not to say ‘salvation’ because the baggage that comes with that word is the problem you are working on.

    I suspect though that you do not speak as you write. (I’m afraid that I do!) So perhaps the appeal of metaphors and visual imagery that will almost certainly pop up in conversation might be helpful for some readers.


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