More on scientists in GQ

June 12, 2009

In my last Double X blog post, I wrote about the Rock Stars of Science campaign. Dr. Isis has a different take:

The point of the campaign is to show people that science is hip, and cool, and sexy, and [insert other adjective here], but in each shot the scientists are fawning over the musicians.  The message this photo campaign sends is, “Yeah, being a scientist cool but, if I could be, I would really want to be [insert rock star name here].”  Thus, people looking at this campaign aspire to also be rockstars.  Not scientists.

And (via Isis), Bora scooped GQ back in 2006:

In this day of mass communications, it is logical to use modern technology to further your aims, so popularization of science should do the same. Turning some scientists into radio personalities, talk-show hosts, TV stars, movie stars and Internet stars (MySpace and blogs, for instance) should be a part of a multi-prong strategy to spread the scientific reasoning and rationality, as well as excitement for knowledge about the natural world.

What do you think? Could scientists become as famous as rockstars (and get featured in US Weekly – “Scientists! They’re Just Like Us!”)? Will this help change the perception of scientists as boring and science as a high-status but low-income career path? And frankly, do we actually need more scientists when there’s few decent jobs for the PhDs that we already have?

On hotness and blogging while female

March 25, 2009

I confess I’ve been alienated by a lot of the “Female scientists ARE SO totally hot!” action. I’ve never cared much for performing femininity, as the humanities kids say. And being more…shall we say…Bette Midler than Bette Davis makes for a  very different experience, both on the internet and in real life. But the foolishness that’s been going around science blog land lately is ridiculous.

Lisa from Sociological Images (one of my very favorite blogs ever) has insight from an unusual source. A while back, she posted this cover from Vogue Magazine in which Judd Apatow’s chubby actors lounge about in body suits. It’s funny because it’s a parody of another Vogue cover with naked ladies, only the guys get to wear clothes. As Lisa says:

I think we would be unlikely to see a similar cover featuring women, even women comedians, because women are allowed to be rich, nice, or funny but they must ALSO be good-looking and fit.  A cover featuring chubby women would JUST be gross.  It wouldn’t be gross and funny.

Being good-looking and fit is ONE way for men to be admire in our society.  Being good-looking and fit is a REQUIREMENT for women to be admired, no matter what else she brings to the table.

So women MUST be attractive – no matter what else they bring to the table. And if a woman is attractive, that is just as important as whatever she’s actually doing or saying. (Hi, Sarah Palin.) Consider the backlash against Gail Trimble, who dominated UK quiz show University Challenge. Nobody could figure out how to talk about a smart woman, so everyone just argued about whether she was sexy or not, or bitchy or not.

But this could not possibly be true in science, right? Except that a brief examination of scientists on TV bears this out. Are there any women on TV with the slightly pudgy, schlubby looks of the Mythbusters guys? I flipped through Discovery Channel’s shows and couldn’t find any, though to be frank it was a tiny sample size since there were barely any women at all. Anyone have a counter example?

This dialogue over sexiness in science makes me think of female choices in Halloween costumes. Little girls can be a cowgirl or a detective or a “Kimono Kutie” (ewwww) but all of the choices are pink.  Women can be a police officer, a referee, or a detective but all of the choices are sexy. The message for women is “You can be anything (even smart!) as long as you’re feminine and cute! Looking good is THE most important thing for a girl or woman.” Frankly, that is also the message that I get from Danica McKellar’s math book and Dora’s makeover.

I think too much emphasis on “smart is sexy” overlooks the ubiquitous societal message that “sexy is everything if you’re female.” That’s why commenters feel they have the right to ogle female bloggers – why should they pay attention to what she is actually saying when everything that society says is important is right there in her picture? When women in the public eye are free to be funny or butch or dorky or even (shock! horror! omg the world is ending!) fat, then Totally Hot will just be another way for female scientists to be.

danah boyd on social media

March 11, 2009

If (like me) you haven’t had time to read danah boyd‘s thesis on social media, check out a talk she gave to Microsoft employees. [Full disclosure: I went to college with danah, though I don’t know her well.] I highly recommend her work for anyone who cares enough about online communication to be reading this blog. I find it really useful in thinking about how to harness online tools for science education and marine conservation.

From danah’s talk:

I’m going to share my research in three acts:
1) How did social media – and social network sites in particular – gain traction in the US? And how should we think about network effects?
2) What are some core differences between how teens leverage social media and how adults engage with these same tools?
3) How is social media reconfiguring social infrastructure and where is all of this going?

Science Online: Now in Powerpoint!

January 21, 2009

[Update 1/22/09: By popular request, my presentation is now up on Slide Share and embedded below. Behold, the power of online science communication!]

Yesterday, I gave a presentation on Science Online ’09 to the SIO Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. I focused on three ways that scientists can use online communication (self-promotion, education, improving diversity) and ended with a quick overview of other neat online science tools.

You can download a PDF of the Powerpoint here. In order to minimize file size and eliminate copyright/privacy worries, I have removed all the photos. It looks pretty bland, but you can get the gist. Here is the presentation, as uploaded onto Slideshare.

Here are the links to demos interspersed throughout the talk:

My marine invertebrate video collection – example of low-commitment resource creation

Miss Baker’s Extreme Biology Class (high school class blog)
Example of Ning private social network (college biology class)
The Synapse – Ning network for biology educators – Compilation of blog entries about peer-reviewed research
Video podcasts on peer-reviewed research created by undergrads

Danielle Lee’s suggestions and list of minority-authored science blogs
Jonathan Tarr’s summary of the race in science discussion

Cool stuff
Open Lab Notebook – example 1, example 2
Journal of Visualized ExperimentsBlood Collection from a Horseshoe Crab
Example of SciVee Pubcast
Example of SciVee PosterCast

Why blogging matters

September 16, 2008

Making a routine purchase on Leisure Pro (I go through EPIC amounts of Aquaseal – it’s the duct tape of underwater research!), a little box popped up. It asked me to make a donation to save the coral reefs because they were in danger blah blah blah tune out. I almost always ignore these, since a) I hate being accosted; b) I hate getting on yet more greenie junk mail lists; and c) I don’t like to give to charities with which I am unfamiliar.

But this particular organization WASN’T unfamiliar – it was Coral Reef Alliance. And I know all about Coral Reef Alliance, because I’ve been reading Rick MacPherson’s blog for around two years now. Because of Rick, I trust Coral Reef Alliance to put my pitifully small grad student donation to good use.

So Coral Reef Alliance got a very tiny amount of money because of Rick’s blog, I got some discounted Aquaseal, and we all feel extremely warm and fuzzy. Ocean blogging community group hug!

Is blogging fair game in formal scientific talks?

July 25, 2008

In the midst of the madness of teaching my very first class, I made time to go see Jennifer Jacquet speak at SIO on Tuesday. Her talk was entitled “A Way Forward in a Sea of Market-Based Efforts to Save Wild Fish,” and I found it most disturbing. Not because of her ideas (which were interesting), but because she heavily criticized Mark Powell’s blogging in the context of her formal scientific talk.

Jacquet first brought up this blogfish entry to illustrate the criticism of her April 2007 paper in Marine Policy. She implied that Powell had directly compared her to Dick Cheney, saying “the picture of Dick Cheney was a really low blow.” It got chuckles from the audience, sure, but that’s not at all what Mark said. Is misrepresenting a blogger somehow different than misrepresenting peer-reviewed citations?

She brought up Mark Powell again at the end of the talk, using this entry to illustrate “lots of what we find in the NGO world.” She said (and this is not an exact quote) that Powell illustrates defensiveness in the NGO world, who put a lot of effort into seafood watch cards and get frustrated because they don’t work. When has Powell ever advocated telling people to avoid eating seafood? That mischaracterizes his position quite severely.

She also nailed Powell for contradicting his earlier entry, saying that he had come around to her point of view on the need to elect environmentally-friendly politicians. Maybe so or maybe not, but I thought that pointing out contradictions in a blog (rather than in his actions or published works) was kind of a tacky argument. It’s a BLOG – people crank out an entry every day for years. Obvously there will be some contradictions.

To make the Powell references all more ironic, Jacquet advocated for working with suppliers higher on the demand chain, such as Red Lobster. Isn’t that exactly what Powell just did with red snapper and Wal-Mart? This was not mentioned at all in the talk (though I did bring it up during the question period).

Citing blogs in formal talks has big implications for all scientist-bloggers. Though I stand by everything I’ve written here over the last 11 months, TOG is designed for fun and speed. I don’t put 1/1000th of the work into a given entry that I put into a formal talk or paper. I understand that everything I write in this blog is public for ever and ever, and I do it under my real name because I like being a science communicator. They don’t, and shouldn’t have the weight of a published, peer-reviewed paper that is the result of months of work.

So I suppose science bloggers have to decide – are blogs fair game in formal presentations?

The exotic land of central California

March 17, 2008

Greetings from Monterey, former land of the mighty sardine, current land of Stanford’s  Hopkins Marine Station. Hopkins is my home for the next two weeks as I find out how fast I can learn tunicate mariculture and population genetics. (I really hope the answer is “in two weeks, of course!” But I doubt it.) Updates might be somewhat spotty since I fear my brain will not have room for anything unless it is related to tunicates. However, I still need to eat (particularly squid tacos) and would love to meet up with any readers in the area. Anyone from MBARI out there?


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