Dave Bressan (History of Geology and Cryology and Co.) has posted a call for a new Accretionary Wedge episode with the grand theme of the geoblogosphere, geology, and society. David and I have corresponded on various topics, including this one, and so here I am in a kind of supporting role in this carnival. A few months ago, I put up a commentary on the geoblogosphere that I had written for the Geological Society's online discussions; Chris Rowan, of Highly Allochthonous, contributed to this piece, and it was our hope that it might stir things up a little in the relatively sedate worlds of not only the Society, but also the UK geoblogosphere in general. Alas, this hope was not to be fulfilled - the response was not one that required earplugs.
Having been scribbling away on Through the Sandglass for some twenty months now, and following as many science blogs as I can, I find the dynamics and issues around the whole process and product fascinating. I write the blog because I enjoy it and because I am put in touch with people that I never otherwise would have known, even vicariously. And I learn a lot in the process. This satisfaction is derived from a very modest scale of things - I note that a typical post on Pharyngula receives more comments than I have over the entire life of my blog; but then I also note that many of the comments on Pharyngula are not ones that I would want to publish anyway - I enjoy his posts, but have no desire to emulate PZ.
One of the many things that strike me about the geoblogosphere is its civility and objectivity. The more lurid and globally popular segments of the blogosphere as a whole are filled with vituperative, ad hominem - and often inarticulate and, of course, anonymous - rants. Not so with us geobloggers, which is a good thing - is this something that can be exploited constructively? There is, after all, much discussion (much of it vacuous) about the role of the blogosphere, and I've been doing a little probing around some of the (non-vacuous) examples of this. One of the "debates" is whether blogging is journalism - in my view, this question, as such, doesn't mean much since both blogging and journalism cover such a multitude of sins. But the question is interesting in terms of the relationship between blogging and journalism, within which lies a possible future vector for the responsible blogosphere. Read, for example, the piece (and the comments) on the BBC College of Journalism blog, titled "Blogs are not real journalism." And then consider this from one of the comments:
To say "blogging is not journalism" is a rather meaningless statement as it depends on what definition of "journalism" one picks, surely?
A rather important point is that in blogging about science the bloggers are often people who know far more about science than the journalists who cover it. This is one of the reasons why blog coverage of scientific stories is often far more accurate and informed than what appears in the mainstream media.
Indeed it seems to me, from reading the works of the mainstream media science correspondents, that the ones whose copy is generally more accurate are the ones who follow the science blogs. I wonder what that is telling us?
Then I came across a workshop put on earlier this year by the Harvard Kennedy School's program on Science, Technology, and Society (STS). Titled Unruly Democracy: Science Blogs and the Public Sphere, it's quite an intriguing series of talks and discussions - but, unfortunately, the sessions are documented only through a series of rather poor-quality videos - I've watched some, and they're interesting, but I'm afraid that I haven't had the stamina to complete the course. Being a bit of a luddite, I'd really like to be able to digest a written summary - the only one I can find is an entertaining discussion by Jessica Palmer (who was there) - well worth a read.
So there's a lot to talk about on this subject - David and I really look forward to your observations and, most importantly, ideas, for the geoblogosphere - where to go, how to add value, how to leverage the creativity and the passion of geobloggers. Out of the box, folks!