Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why I Blog - Notes from a Rookie in the Geoblogosphere

Brian at Clastic Detritus asks about what the science blogs are, and whether they seem to fall into categories: blogs about science, or blogs by scientists? It's an interesting question, and I don't think I've been here long enough to put myself in one category or another. Mostly I started this blog after spending a great deal of my online time following politics in the blogosphere, and realizing slowly that we now have an alternative form of communication that has some great potential in my field of education and earth science.

Consider that in politics, blogs pretty much didn't exist in the public conciousness prior to the presidential elections in 2004, but they have grown in influence to the point that many people get their news there instead of the mainstream media, because of a perceived corporate bias (take your choice, left or right). These blogs have been able to influence the direction and intensity of public discussion on a number of important political issues, and have even successfully changed the expected results of a number of elections (just ask Joe Lieberman in Connecticut). The blogs have become a sort of ultimate democracy, and sort of an ultimate anarchy at the same time. You have to be able to filter out the accurate information from the garbage.

I have been watching the fledgling geoblogosphere from the margins for the last year or so, and was disappointed that it didn't seem to include much of anyone at first beyond Andrew Alden's About Geology (apologies to everyone I missed...), and I sort of wandered away during a very busy spring and summer, and when I came back, I found that the number of interesting and active geoblogs had vastly increased.

What is the role of the geoblogosphere?

At conferences and in the journals, our science is presented in a very formal way, and there are the very appropriate guidelines and buffers and peer reviews that promote an intellectual honesty that our science disciplines must maintain at all costs. I love going to conferences when I have the chance, but I also note the some of the best parts of the attending these gatherings is the chance to meet other teachers and other geologists over coffee or beer, and getting to know them as individuals and friends. We can toss out our opinions and jokes, and trade teaching ideas, all in an informal atmosphere of give and take.

As I observe the Accretionary Wedge carnival, and the Where on (Google) Earth contests float through the geoblogosphere, I realize that I am participating in the same kind of friendly communication that I previously did during the off-moments of conferences. It is a chance to find out something else about our colleagues that doesn't emerge in a formal paper or session. Sometimes just plain fun, but I also see great potential for a rapid mobilization when major issues arise. I am remind, for instance, of attempts to shut down the USGS to save a small, small portion of the federal budget. I can recall a few times when very famous geologic outcrops were threatened by short-sighted road beautification projects. It is good to know that if such problems arise, a concerted effort by geobloggers can make a significant difference in resolving the problem.

In my own case, it really boils down to the fact that I have a whole bunch of pictures that I want to share, and I enjoy discussing geological/educational stuff in a setting that allows for informality and the occasional stupid comment (NOVAblog, I was kidding about the coal-burning power plant). I've been enjoying it so far, and hope to continue making contributions. And I would really like to see more people make the plunge and start their own geoblogs. There should be more of you participating, both students, teachers and researchers. I found it to be a very straight-forward process starting and adding to the blog, and truly a lot less hassle then maintaining my formal website. It actually is a great deal of fun. I am living proof that you don't have to be particularly smart or sophistocated to do it.


Callan Bentley said...

A nice thoughtful post. I got the power-plant joke; No worries! -CB

BrianR said...

yes, I agree...nice post