Monday, January 19, 2009

Science Online 09 and the ocean of the unknown

For nearly 3 years now blogfish has been swimming boldly into the ocean of the unknown---the blogosphere. It hasn’t been easy out near the edge of the world, there are scary monsters lurking in the mare icognita. Thanks to Science Online 09, it don't seem so bad no more.

Swimming alone into the blogosphere is an uncertain thing. Will anyone care, will there be a response? Will it be all negative, high risk and little reward?

Right now is a tough time to look at that question. I’m getting some negative feedback that makes me question the value of blogging the ocean. But there is reason to be optimistic in the face of challenges, and thank goodness for the timing of my new reward.

I’m coming home from Science Online 09. I've had a great time meeting the people who are leading the online revolution in science communication. It's been incredibly helpful to hearing a wide variety of opinions on how science is best presented in the modern world of facebook and anti-intellectualism.

It’s been an inspiring chance to learn from some real experts and pioneers. People who have been presenting science through new media since before most of us heard the term.

-Journalists who can tell us about the norms of the profession and how the new channels of communication create new situations that stretch the boundaries of what's OK.

-Editors with long experience as arbiters who reveal the tensions playing out in some of the hoary and hallowed institutions that referee scientific truth.

-Practicing scientists who want to escape the strictures of the academy, and touch directly the consumers of science with some of their opinions as well as data.

There’s a place in this community for the blogfishes of the world. As we swim through this mare incognita, it turns out to be not so incognita as it might seem.

I’m here, for better or for worse. I’ve swum out into the unknown, with a great faith in the rightness of reaching out through whatever means are available. And now I know there is a great community of explorers that are willing and able to help.

So the blogfish feels a little less exposed, and a little more confident. Why not keep at it? There’s no going back anyway, no matter what I might wish.

As Jason Robertshaw said, everyone’s online personna exists, like it or not. Better to seize control and not let others do the job instead.

One highlight for me was meeting many people that I've seen in the virtual world of ocean science communication, but never met in person. People likeRick MacPherson of Malaria, Bedbugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets. He's sharp and a good storyteller, and already a great friend. Jason Robertshaw of provided endless deadpan humor along with peeks into his magic bag of tech tricks. Kevin Zelnio of Deep Sea News proved he has the stamina of Alvin and questionable taste in alcohol, although some of the blame for the choice of beverages may go to Southern Fried Scientist. With those two on board, deep sea biology is going somewhere, I'm just not sure where. It was great to see Miriam Goldstein of Oyster's Garter again, and also Sheril Kirshenbaum of Intersection.

I know I'll forget someone if I try to make a list, but here's at least a good start on thanking the new people I met who aren't fortunate enough to be very wet and salty. Thanks for helping the blogfish!!

Bora (of course he needs no other identifier), Grrl Scientist who runs Living the Scientific Life, Dr. Free Ride who provides Adventures in Ethics and Science, Mike Bergin who must've seen 10,000 birds, Karen James who's making the Beagle sail again, James Hrynyshyn who lives on an Island of Doubt too far from the coast, Greg Laden who covers everything, and a host of others.

Now I can exhale.


Kevin Zelnio said...

It was excellent to meet and hang out with you this weekend. I look forward to continuing reading blogfish as I have for almost 2 years now!

Anonymous said...

Mark, I really enjoyed meeting you in person and speaking with you. The world needs blogfish. We also need the kind of fisheries help you're working on... badly!

Anonymous said...

It was great to see you this weekend! Blogfish is one of the best ocean blogs on the interwebs!