Shifting Baselines

Blogging lacks a lot of things (fact checkers, to name one). But, after spending three weeks in Galapagos as a new blogger I came away with the impression that blogging most of all lacks a developing world perspective. Blogging is so First World. Most of the people I spoke with in Galapagos–even the scientists at the Charles Darwin Station and the conservationists at WWF, CI, and WildAid–had barely heard of a blog let alone read or written one.

Which led me to wonder:

If blogging is this wonder tool that can advance science so quickly, as Carl Zimmer pointed out recently at The Loom, then why hasn’t it been adopted in places where science news moves slowest: the developing world? It is not for want of internet cafes, though the process can be painfully slow–so slow, in fact, I could not find the time to quantify the number of Science Bloggers that report from the developing world. But I wager it’s very few.

Tomorrow, I return to the First World and promise a First World blog. But I am officially on the lookout for developing world stories and readers. And I challenge other ScienceBloggers to step out of their battles on communicating, policy, and framing science (Matt and Chris) and their evolution-ID debates (PZ) and try to incorporate some science news from the tropics (okay, fair enough, Mooney’s latest book is on tropical storms). Moreover, we should all try to encourage developing world researchers and activists to get involved in the blog world with comments or with blogs of their own.


  1. #1 Sheril Kirshenbaum
    May 21, 2007

    Right on Jennifer! It’s easy to take for granted our own perspectives are mainly based on what we experience first hand. Complex problems across regions incorporate the realities of life elsewhere posing countless different social and cultural norms we can’t even begin to incorporate into management from a first world perspective. I’m glad you bring this up and I may visit the tropics this week at The Intersection.

  2. #2 Carl Zimmer
    May 21, 2007

    I’ve posted my thoughts (or rather, my questions for those who actually have answers to this) here.

  3. #3 Jorge Gajardo Rojas
    May 21, 2007

    I dont agree with you ,blogging is on all the countries including,The “Second World”.The diference is the idiom.You only see the blogs in your idiom but are a lot in spanish.. or in mandarin.About scientific blogs you must make a diference.Science in not only Biology or Technologies is also poetry arts and sociology.In those areas are many spanish idiom blogs asnd very amazing.The certification of quality is a very personal issue as a blog.

  4. #4 Jorge Gajardo Rojas
    May 21, 2007

    I beg you pardon
    Sincerely(Sinceramente)from Chile.

  5. #5 Andy Merrett
    May 21, 2007

    “Blogging lacks a lot of things (fact checkers, to name one)”

    What a shame you didn’t check your facts before posting this stereotyped view of blogs.

  6. #6 Jennifer Jacquet
    May 21, 2007

    I presume you have evidence to the contrary so by all means post it… I would imagine Hong Kong and some of the urban centers in India have some sassy blogging going on. Any center of technology with good access, would get a blog population. But are any these science oriented? Moreover, is there any way to challenge the use of blogs to further science news in the developing world? In other words, are we overlooking some potential or is blogging simply a “leisurely activity”? (I think there is a lot of evidence to the latter…I am waiting for GWB to outlaw blogging as a drain on U.S. productivity!)

  7. #7 Youssef
    May 22, 2007

    I do hope you mean science bloggers, right?

    I don’t think you’ll find much science-bloggers in the Third world blogging in english. English is simply not the biggest blogosphere-language.
    So due to the language-barrier you might think that the 3rd world lacks science-bloggers.

    I assume (and also seen) that one could find lots of science-bloggers in the chinese, persian and arabic blogging community.

    The fact that yóu dont see/read them, doesnt mean that they dont exist.
    A lot of people, for example, dont know any chinese fiction-writer, but that doesnt mean that they dont exist.

    So no need to encourage anyone here, it does sound a bit condescending.

  8. #8 Luis Cruz
    May 22, 2007

    The Philippines, by definition, is a developing country – though some here might question whether there is any real development going on. By no means is the Philippines a First World country, but the blogging scene here is quite active.

  9. #9 Mark
    May 23, 2007

    To the extent that blogging is truly a First World phenomena, it’s likely the opposite sort of cause-and-effect relationship than is implied in this post. It’s not that blogging _causes_ intellectual (e.g., scientif) development, but that it’s the result of such development. Once cannot expect fundamenally and structurally uneducated societies to be suddenly educated by blogs, but rather that a more educated society will produce more blogs.

    To me, that’s the flaw of the “$100 notebook” project–it proposes that providing technology to those who can’t grasp its essentially intellectual nature will somehow be magically elevated intellectually.

  10. I’m a lowly medical student and most of what I write is regurgitating what I read. Even so, I’m proud to say I try to blog on science, technology, religion and politics (and a bunch of other stuff, partly to try and entice my classmates to read the blog) here in Ecuador. I’m still aeons away from publishing any original research done in my country, but I try to share interesting snippets of information I catch from blogs and elsewhere (such as what I read on Toxoplasma gondii) with my Ecuadorian peers. And I try to get them to write in the blog.

    There are great science blogs in Spanish (MedTempus is the first that comes to mind), but they’re mainly based in Spain. I do have hopes for the blog though and for more student participation.

    I’d wager there’s probably some science blogging going on in Ecuador, but it’s probably limited to cities and I’ve yet to find it…

  11. #11 Jennifer Jacquet
    June 11, 2007

    This is superb; thanks for sharing. And I am going to send this immediately to my friend–Dr. Idrovo in the Galapagos Islands. Best wishes for the blog!
    p.s. Can you tell us anything about the reader demographic?

  12. In those unfortunate twists of fate, I’m going to close down the blog in a week. It’s given me more than a few headaches, so that yesterday even our dean addressed the whole faculty to criticize certain commentaries and opinions I’d written (and make slightly disguised threats). Oh well! I’m going to try to start something new along the same lines, albeit centred essentially on science and with “faculty approval”. I’ll let you know if/when it happens.

    As for the demographics, I posted some charts from Google Analytics on the blog which give a far better picture than anything I could say. As you may note, the vast majority of readers are from Quito (40%), with the rest probably distributed amongst random wanderers and a few friends from abroad.

    Anyway, thanks for the well wishing, I’m sure the blog will resuscitate in some form or another. Best wishes to your blog and keep up the great posts!

  13. #13 sex hikayeleri
    August 23, 2010

    I think people differ greatly on this issue. For example, if it were completely unidentifiable as my own, I would have no problem with a picture of my naked ass being posted on the Internet. Others would be absolutely horrified by the prospect.

  14. #14 clavis panax
    March 30, 2011

    proposes that providing technology to those who can’t grasp its essentially intellectual nature will somehow be magically elevated

  15. #15 dr mustafa eraslan
    April 24, 2012

    To me, that’s the flaw of the “$100 notebook” project–it proposes that providing technology to those who can’t grasp its essentially intellectual nature will somehow be magically elevated intellectually.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.