Editor's Note: Technology and the Journal of Southern Religion
Welcome to the JSR’s new home. We have spent the past year in a series of transitions. This time last year Mike Pasquier and Luke Harlow asked if I would be interested in becoming editor of the journal. With little track record for these kinds of things, their choice appeared odd, at best. With their encouragement and blessing, I took the reins shortly after Volume 15 was released. These parting words have rung true for me: make sure you do whatever it takes to keep Emily Clark. With her successful defense of her dissertation, Emily packed up her belongings and moved to Spokane, Washington this summer to begin a tenure-track position at Gonzaga University. In the process, I made Emily associate editor of the journal to signify her workload and acknowledge her talents as an editor. We were not done with changes, however. Shortly after I assumed editorial duties, Art Remillard announced his desire to find a replacement as book review editor. We approached Carolyn Dupont at Eastern Kentucky University about the position, as well as podcasts, and she agreed. With Emily’s move to the West Coast, we have enlisted the help of two graduate students at Florida State University, Adam Brasich and Charlie McCrary, to do the important work of copy editing for the journal. One final transition is in process as I write. Lincoln Mullen, web editor, will step down after we have set up the new server and launch Volume 16. In many ways, the changes coming to JSR over the next few years are part of Lincoln’s vision for the journal. By the time you reach the end of this paragraph, Lincoln will be on to new adventures in digital history at George Mason University.
We hope this platform allows us to carve out space between peer-reviewed
print journals and the ever-expanding world of blogs for the
interdisciplinary home of religious life in the American South. The
sixteen-year history of the journal’s online presence reveals two
important aspects of JSR: dedicated staff and technological
innovation. There are a group of dedicated folks who understand the need
for helping scholars and non-scholars alike understand the wonderfully
complex nature of religious life in the South. While the JSR was not
the first online academic journal, it was part of the initial wave to
explore this new medium of online publishing. These folks are
continually trying to figure out new, innovative ways to make the
content as accessible as possible. The JSR has been served by
platforms from West Virginia University to Florida State University and
by volunteers willing to learn html and other coding processes. In our
efforts to bring digital content that is open to all, we make one more
transition with Volume 16 that highlights both dedication and
technological innovation. JSR now resides on a dynamic server with a
The JSR’s mission for the past sixteen years has been to create a place for important work on understanding the American South’s many histories and the multitude of religious experiences found within its borders. We hope over the course of the next few years to expand how we think about those borders in the technical sense of geography but also in the sense of academic disciplines and how journals respond to the waves of social media. The early advocates of this platform can rejoice because the avenue of content delivery has come to the platform. We, however, need to utilize the platform in ways that benefit all who come to the site. In order to make this move, however, we needed something we had not had: money. To begin to rectify this situation, JSR received a seed grant from Mercer University’s Office of the Provost to find new ways to support the work of the journal. Under that grant, we have purchased and migrated to the new server. The server allows us to do several important components of online publication that we have been unable to do. From its inception, JSR has functioned like a print journal with an online format. We produced one volume per year with a specific release date. The reasons for this fact are many, but the most significant hurdle is the intense labor that goes into formatting files for placement on the host server. With the new domain, we will keep all software on the server and the site will be generated on the server side, shortening the amount of work that is required for publication. The importance of this point is that we can begin to publish book reviews as they become available. In the next two years, we intend to produce book reviews within one or two months of a book’s publication date. The domain and the mechanism of the review process will eventually allow us to enter into relationships with presses to produce book reviews within weeks, or even days, of the book’s publication. The plan is to generate revenue for JSR from this capacity. We will also look to produce dynamic-content articles as the tools of digital humanities become more widely used. The technological side of the journal is not the only change envisioned in the coming years.
At its heart, the JSR strives to be an interdisciplinary journal. We will begin to enlist a group of junior-level academics from a variety of disciplines to serve as assistant editors. Literature serves as the most obvious discipline where we can expand our content. The list is longer, however, than just that one area. We would like to bring sociologists, geographers, political scientists, and fine arts into the fold. There are a group of scholars exploring the contours of southern religion across the many professional conferences, which means two editors cannot engage the journal beyond the small number of meetings we go to in a year. Rather than wait for articles and other content to come to us, we will be going out through the work of these assistant editors to find that content and bring it to you. The fruits of this process are beginning to pay off when we found an article in this issue presented as a conference paper. In a more extensive way, work has begun on a Forum that will appear next year that examines the religion in the American South in the context of the greater global networks found in the Caribbean and beyond. We hope to have the assistant editors in place within the next year or so to expand our scope and our content.
The transitions that are underway are built on solid foundations laid over the course of the past sixteen years. In many ways, this volume will look no different than the previous issues. But behind the scenes much has changed. We are dedicated to finding the best scholarship on southern religion and placing it before your eyes. The difference moving forward is that we can expand our digital footprint and heighten our presence to bring more folks into contact with the good work of scholars whose time in archives, with texts, and through interviews sheds light on the variety of religious expressions in the American South.
Douglas E. Thompson, Editor
Journal of Southern Religion