Dr. Free-Ride has graciously put the slides from her talk at the Science Blogging Conference on the conference wiki, so I’m thinking I can go ahead and blog about the stuff I thought I couldn’t blog about in my earlier post.
Specifically, Dr. Free-Ride spent some time talking about conversations that happen in the blogosphere that might not otherwise take place. She enumerated and categorized these. Her basic categories were as follows:
- Educational Conversations
- Political Conversations
- Conversations About the Scientific Literature
- The Virtual Scientific (or Lab) Meeting
- Conversations About the Tribe
It’s this last category that I am interested in talking about here. In the blogosphere, the blogger seeks out others who are like them – “Is there anyone out here like me?” – and asks questions of the tribe – “Could things be different? What’s it like to be a person like me in a particular kind of setting?” Dr. Free-Ride argued that this kind of blogging, this kind of conversation in the blogosphere, is where one finds a predominance of women scientist bloggers.
How to explain women popping up in such large numbers in this category of blog conversations, in contrast to some of the other areas? Her hypothesis, which is quite reasonable, is as follows: In each woman’s department, she may be the only woman or one of only a few women. There are far fewer opportunities on campus for traditional communities of support. The blogosphere offers a place for honest communication, a place where a virtual community of women scientists can gather and trade information and tips. It’s a place where all the kinds of questions you may never dare ask in the “real” world can be safely posed, and you can draw on the accummulated wisdom of many other women who may have gone through the same thing.
Dr. Free-Ride showed examples from quite a few blogs by women scientists that were just wonderful. It’s worth downloading her slide presentation just to look at these examples. You may discover a blog or two you didn’t know about!
Another thing to note about this virtual community of women scientists is that nearly all women scientist bloggers blog pseudonymously (I’ve discussed this phenomenon before). In the Q&A session, one of the audience members opined that he just couldn’t understand why anybody would feel the need to blog anonymously. This, as you can imagine, nearly made Zuska’s head explode. I was mostly polite in my response except for when I got to the end and said “Only a man would make a comment like that” or words to that effect. But really. That’s some serious gender and race privilege in operation there that lets you imagine that there is nothing in the world you’d want to discuss on a regular basis about being a scientist that is so difficult and touchy to discuss that you’d need to be anonymous in discussing it. And this was AFTER the dude had seen the examples in Dr. Free-Ride’s talk. Hey, maybe he thinks there’s just no problem in trying to figure out what you do about needing to reschedule a job interview because you are nine months pregnant and you can’t fly. MORON.
ah….but I digress.
Anyway. One question I sent to Dr. Free-Ride privately, after the conference, is something that keeps nagging at me: where are the women and men of color in the science blogosphere? Why so very few? It seems to me that nearly all the women scientist bloggers I’m aware of must be white women; I’m guessing this, of course, because I don’t personally know most of them, but I’m thinking that if they were women of color, they would also be blogging about issues of race as well as gender. White people have the privilege not to have to deal with race issues on a daily basis, so it doesn’t pop up in the blogs. But if [white] women are more highly represented in the conversations-about-the-tribe type blogs, why not also scientists who are women and men of color? I would think they would need and could benefit from these types of conversation just as much. Am I just not finding them? Am I not looking in the right places? It puzzles me. I have to say, the Science Blogging Conference was a mighty white affair.
So…to end…here are Dr. Free-Ride’s points to consider about a real conversation, which, she says, gives you room to grow. With a real conversation, you will
- Learn something new
- Understand someone else’s point of view
- Change your mind
- Change how non-scientists understand science and scientists
- Change how scientists understand their own tribe
- Expand our sense of community
TSZ strives especially to do the last two. In the coming weeks, I’m going to embark on a task I’ve set for myself that will address the first point. A few years ago I designed a course that I never got to teach. I’m going to teach it to myself – it was a course I designed because it was the kind of course I always wanted to take. So I’m going to try and take you along with me in the course. I hope it will be fun! I hope it will change some people’s minds about certain things, maybe even change your understanding of science and technology.
In the meantime…I hope you have been finding here some sense of community and a place where you can come to better understand yourself and your tribe – the tribe of Incredibly Fantastic Women in Science and Engineering.
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