The Geoblogosphere: Foothills Behind, Mountains Ahead

I’ve tended to do my geoblogging omphaloskepsis in late December or early January, shortly after the deadline for New Years Resolutions has passed (Schott, 2006; Schott, 2007; Schott, 2010). But this month, the Accretionary Wedge asks “What’s about the Geoblogosphere?” and although it’s still just mid-year, my blogging hiatus of the last few months has given me plenty of time to contemplate these matters, and the sound of a new deadline whooshing by seems to be just the thing I needed to stir me from my summer slumber. Also, since I evidently coined the term Geoblogosphere, I feel some sense of parental responsibility for its well-being.

Lone Pine Peak from the Alabama Hills, June 21, 2005


The question, as phrased in the call for posts, leaves a fair amount of room for interpretation. In fact, I rather like Ian Stimpson’s rephrasing of the essential question as “Whither the Geoblogosphere?” – though I have to admit that I needed to consult Google to figure out that “whither” means something like “Where are we going?” No one, of course can know the answer to that question, but with an understanding of where we’ve been and where other related communities have gone, perhaps we can sketch out some possible courses for the road ahead.

Why do we geoblog?

I blog because I want to share my understanding of the Earth with those who want to know more about it. This is why my chosen profession is teaching. Teaching at a university provides a structured environment for learning as well as a regular paycheck. It also happens to provide me with a first-class connection to the internet and the opportunity to extend my teaching beyond this campus to the world. Why do I blog? Here it is in a nutshell, from January 2006, fittingly titled “Geology Blogging“.

Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, June 16, 2005


I think the fairest generalization one can make about the motives of the wider geoblogosphere is that all of us do this because we love geology and we feel impelled to share that love with others. Few, if any of us, make enough money at this to call it a living, and I’m not aware that anyone currently geoblogs because they are compelled to by others. These motivations are probably largely responsible for the relaxed atmosphere and camaraderie that our community enjoys. Insofar as that goes it’s a good thing, but these motivations also mean that there’s little driving us forward to innovate or push the boundaries and achieve something larger as a community.

Is there something more?

I don’t know about others, but I feel like there’s a lot more this community (or at least a group of self-selected members of it) could be doing. I think this might even be the elephant in the room that motivated the topic for this month’s Accretionary Wedge: What we’re doing is certainly fun and may even be fulfilling on some level, but isn’t there something more that we could be achieving through geoblogging?

The internet has revolutionized communications and it is disrupting many established institutions. Is there a place in this revolution for geologists? Is the science of geology susceptible to these disruptions? If so, don’t you want to be ahead of the changes rather than lagging behind? In the midst of the revolution, are there opportunities to advance the subject of geology that weren’t possible before? These questions have a scope that extends well beyond geoblogging, but I think there is just a thin layer of alluvium between this month’s Accretionary Wedge and these bedrock issues.


Needless to say I have my own answers for some of these questions. Others really deserve deeper discussion. I had originally intended to go on at length about them here, but this post is already overdue, so perhaps I’ll stop here and wait to see if this strikes a nerve with any of my fellow geobloggers. I’m hopeful that it will, and if it does we’ll certainly have more to discuss in the coming days.