Friday, October 29, 2010

A Diplodocus-sized pet peeve

Edward Gay
Photo of Edward Gay from the Smithsonian Institution, via Flickr.

Glendon Mellow has taken image citation as his cause, and has posted another rant about it. I totally concur with him, and left a comment to that effect. I felt that it warranted a post here to further flesh out my thoughts on this.

Let's say you have a hobby. You want to do it well. You want to be respected among your peers. Let's say that it's restoring automobiles. Would you be satisfied with giving a car a pretty exterior while its engine is unreliable? Would you settle for a car that you wouldn't trust with children as its passengers? I imagine that you would strive to make it a trustworthy machine.

Writing a blog hardly carries the same dangers as building a street-legal car, but I think that it carries the same responsibility for professionalism. Especially writing a science blog. If you're writing a science blog, you're doing it to be part of a larger conversation. You're looking to share discoveries, to broaden your mind, to state your opinion and have it critiqued and to do the same to the opinions of others. You're probably going to need images. You probably won't be creating them all yourself. You'll rely on the work of artists, photographers, graphic designers, and archivists to illustrate your points. In other words, you'll be collaborating. Your collaborators deserve credit for their role in making your posts more impactful. It's even likely that your interest in science has been inspired by images as much as by prose.

As a science blogger, you're a member of the media. You may not like to admit this. You may not have even considered it before. But it's true. You owe it to your fellow bloggers to represent this segment of the media in a responsible way. I'm not calling for science bloggers to all write in the same style, or to constrain their attitude. The only ground rules I'd even offer are: 1) check your facts; and 2) cite your images.

Sorry. There's no excuse not to. So I'm going to make a better effort to bring this up when I see posts that haven't cited their images. It's not to be mean or to be the blog police. It's because I care about this form and want to see its quality raised steadily so its critics have less to gripe about.

5 comments:

  1. Agreed. Both you and Glendon make a great case for what I think is a really important issue. And you're right - if you want to be able to take pride in what you're doing, and respect/earn the respect of your peers, fact checking and citing your images should be top priority.

    I'm a upset you called me a member of the media though. More upset that your logic is sound, and I have to acknowledge it.

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  2. You area card-carrying member of the liberal, Jewish-run media, David. The Illuminati, too.

    Don't you have a Bilderberger meeting to organize, pinko?

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  3. The issue of sourcing images from the net uncredited and unpaid for has deeper roots in the perceived value of image creation, art and illustration. ie. that many people think 'drawing pictures' is just something you do for fun and requires no real work.
    This bleeds into other disciplines like music and film. People feel that just because they can source something free that its origin and any income or recognition that originator might have derived doesn't apply to them.
    Oh... I ranted a bit there didn't I?

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  4. A solid rant, OptimisticPainter.
    It's true. And it's breeding a whole culture of art-as-amateur-only professions.

    Something both the sciences and the arts share is that both are perceived as unnecessary and able to be cut in tough economic times. It's a shame when some members of each discipline don't support and consider each other enough.

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