Friday, September 05, 2008

An Interview with Joe Carter: Culture11, Evangelical Outpost, and Web 2.0

I was recently able to ask Joe Carter a few questions:

Can you confirm or deny the rumors that you have left the blogosphere to run as a third-party candidate to beat McCain and Obama?

Although there is a growing national movement to draft me as a third-party candidate, I have no intentions of running at this time. At least not now that McCain stole my pick for a running mate.

Tell us a bit about Culture11: when did it start, what is its purpose, who started it, who contributes to it, etc?

Culture11 is a new online magazine/social network for "cultural conservatives." We launched the site last week with the goal of building a community around 11 key areas of culture: arts, commerce, community, education, faith, family, ideas, leisure, media, politics, and technology.

Bill Bennett, David Kuo, and David Gelernter started the project because they wanted to create an online destination where cultural conservatives--conservative people who think culture is more important than politics--could find both engaging content and a vibrant community.

Our motto is "Be irresistibly interesting," so we try to fine original and entertaining stories from some of the country's most dynamic voices. We also rely heavily on user-generated content and encourage bloggers to cross-post their work into our "diary" section. There is too much good content that gets overlooked because it is hidden on blogs that haven't been able to generate the traffic they deserve.

What is your role?

I'm the managing editor, so I'm responsible for finding compelling content and building our online community.

Why is this something you wanted to be a part of?

For years I've been frustrated by the lack of interesting cultural commentary from a conservative perspective. While there are a number of small-to-medium size blogs that cover these topics, they are drowned out by political discussions.

Obviously, politics is an important part of our culture, and Culture11 does focus on this too (especially during this election season). But we need a place to talk about TV and movies and PTA meetings and mission trips and the almost infinite variety of interests shared by cultural conservatives. That's why we want to build a "planned community" for these niche interests so that people can find each other and gain exposure for their ideas rather than be confined to the "ghettos" as Christian blogs have been relegated to.

Any Culture11 plans for the future that we might be interested in?

Every day we have, in my humble opinion, some great content that can be found nowhere else online (I'd encourage people to check out our archives to judge for yourself). We are constantly expanding our offerings so that we'll have something that will be of interest to almost everyone. We also have a number of social network tools to help people engage with others. The tools don't yet rival the functions of Facebook, but we have a lot of exciting features in the pipeline that will be coming out over the next few months.

There's a lot of talk about Web 2.0. Is it possible to give a brief overview of what it is, how it's different from Web 1.0, and why it's important?

Web 1.0 was that era of the "Web-as-information-source." Websites were very static, and information flowed in one direction. Web 2.0 is the buzzword for the concept of "Web-as-participation-platform." Blogs were the beginning of the 2.0 phase; social networks like Facebook are the latest example. The ability for more communication and interaction between people is very empowering. It shifts the power from a class of elites (or at least people who are tech savvy) to common people.

Culture11 is building upon this idea by using the tools of social networks to engage around specific types of content, rather than just building a list of online "friends." We truly believe that this is the future direction of the web.

What does this mean for

My friends at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute have generously offered to take over and refurbish this blog into an online destination for evangelicals and other Christians. How that vision is implemented is still being fleshed out, but I have the utmost faith that they will transform this site in a way that will be invaluable for the blogging community. They are an amazing group of young thinkers, so I'm excited to see what they do with the site.

You and John Coleman have a book coming out in early 2009. Can you share with readers a preview?

Philosopher Dallas Williard once wrote a brilliant article about how Jesus is the "greatest thinker of the human race." Thinking about that comment made me realize that Jesus was also the most effective communicator and persuader in history. So my buddy John and I decided to see what we could learn about rhetoric and persuasion by studying Christ's methods and compiled what we found in How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.

This isn't a scholarly work but rather a book for businesspeople, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, students, and anyone else who wants to improve his or her communication. We truly believe that if you want to be a better communicator, there is no better place to begin than examining the life, words, and rhetorical strategies of Jesus Christ.

And while we're on the topic of plugging books, can you tell us a little bit about the new book that you contributed to, The New Media Frontier?

For the past few years a number of bloggers have been going to the annual GodBlogCon to share ideas about how to use new media tools to advance, demonstrate, and utilize the Christian worldview. Two of GodBlogCon's key people, John Mark Reynolds and Roger Overton, spearheaded the effort to turn what we had learned into The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ.

Whether you are completely unfamiliar with new media or are a tech savvy veteran, you'll find valuable information in this book. It is a great guide for learning specific ways to expand your reach to a lost world.

Many thanks to Joe for the interview, for his friendship, and for his pioneering work in the evangelical blogosphere and beyond!