We open ScienceRewired with insights from one of the leading figures in the online science blogging community, Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American.
He started blogging when first starting research, a “blogger in the wild” and now blogging at Scientific American, an institution around 167 years old. It’s a traditional media organisation, but very cutting edge and a modern science communication outlet.
He came from science and blogging into the media – observing, watching and studying for quite some time, not just because of the influence it has had on him but as a general observer. The 20th century has been an anomaly – a deviation from how people have communicated for over a millennium We are changing and in many ways changing back to our roots – once the methods of communicating used to be expensive and limited (printing presses, companies) and we used to see this media environment as being held by gatekeepers with information going in one direction only.
In the past, the audience didn’t have a means to talk back and often were not talking to each other. Thanks to the web, now the means of production are in the hands of everybody; cheap, easy and fast for most people in the developed world and even catching up with mobile tech in the developing world.
When the means of production changed hands, the revolution could be seen in not only spread of information but though questions about trusting sources. Now it’s about trusting individuals, and selecting which brands and authors and disseminators you’re going to trust. “You have to get to know the individuals”.
Different styles of writing also occur due to the different modes – fact-checking may differ, personality of writers and how a blog-article may be part of a stream or chain on a topic. He sees science bloggers as tightly-knit; many have degrees, are experts in the topics they write about due to academic background or experience. They police borders when it comes to pseudoscience; they are careful and watchful, connecting to each other. Even science media outlets don’t often think of each others as competitors, instead more like collaborators – a common goal to promote science and spread science and fact. They see pop culture as more of a competitor when it comes to the time and attention of potential audiences.
He talks of Robert Krulwich’s talk on “friends in low places” – of networking and transforming organisations and building new ones. Trying something new instead of seeing each others for competitors, pushing each other to do better and experimenting with new forms – building a new ecosystem that will be more fit for the 21st century where web is the primary means of communicating. A lot of talking back and talking horizontally, to each other and bringing in the news, discussing papers, debunking pseudoscience – and the big brands are not as necessary as they used to be. Rethinking the role of gatekeepers and becoming curators and facilitators – it’s the way forward!