Thursday, January 9, 2014

What it means to be a communication major, geo-comm:

What is Communication?

The simplest definition of communication is: the process of sending and receiving messages.  Usually this is between two people, but this definition can be expanded to be a single person (intra-personal communication) or even to non-human senders.  An example of the non human sender is a barking dog, "asking to be let out" or even, i would argue, the semantics of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Geologist will ask, "what does the heightened levels of CO2 communicate to us about the state of our atmosphere?"  In these cases it can be seen that communication can occur with non human senders.  The earth itself can speak to us, our pets can communicate messages to us, we can talk within ourselves, we can receive messages from any number of sources.  

Advertisers send out messages exhorting us to buy buy buy.  Our significant others and our friends send out messages to us as well, "Come to the tavern!" they say; or "Hey honey, do you know where my favorite shirt is?"  All of this is communication.  Sometimes communication is unintentional, and in those cases I would argue it is still communication.  As an example, a person who has a handicap doesn't mean to communicate their physical differentness, but it is still communicated to me.  A more personal example:  I notice the slight limp of my spouse at the end of a long day as it gets more pronounced.  He doesn't want anyone to notice that he isn't completely well, but i see it and it tells me that he has overdone it, even when his words say, "I'm fine!"

Thus, communication exists all around us, in human and non human forms, on purpose and otherwise.  All of those messages make a lot of noise.  Being a proficient communicator enables a person to make their message heard in all of that noise as well as hear and interpret the messages that are coming at them.  An important part of receiving messages is being able to tell which messages are important and which are not.  Being a skilled communicator really helps a person safely disregard certain messages while attending to the important ones.  

What is geo-communication?

Geo-communication is a particular branch of geology that involves outreach, free choice learning, education, policy, and etc.  Geo-communication is the process of sending and receiving messages about the earth. This emerging field involves, well...  talking about rocks.  Geo-communication studies how we as scientists communicate the story of our earth to the general public.  The main goal of this study is to improve the way this communication occurs.  This then is not a discipline where study occurs just for the sake of study but has practical application.  How do we best communication to students how earth systems work?  How do we best communicate to children what a rock type is and what it means?  How do we reach politicians who hold the purse strings for tsunami research and evacuation?  How do geologists communicate to engineers the need for retrofitting buildings, or even the loads those buildings will have to tolerate in case of earthquake?  Studying how this communication is currently happening, applying theory to it, examining the effectiveness of it, and creating new ways for this communication to occur, as well as studying that new communication in an attempt to make the importance of the earths story more readily understood and the importance of the field of geology more accessible is the ultimate goal of this practical branch of communication and geology,

 Why do i study communication generally and geo-communication specifically?

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Washington state.  One morning, waiting for the church bus to arrive to take my sister and I to church, the sky to the east of us darkened dramatically, a plume of ash rich cloud arose and the loudest sound I had ever heard echoed across our small town of Kelso.  The mountain ripped apart and changed my life forever.  Years pass.  As an adult, life happened and I didn't continue past the completion of a high school education until i was 35 years old.  When my oldest son was finishing high school and my youngest was starting elementary I decided it was time to return to school; it was my turn.  I had a "fan girl" crush on the communication teacher and the next thing i knew i had taken all of his classes and earned an "Associates of Science: Communication" from Linn Benton Community College.  Transferring in to Oregon State University with a two year degree in communication, it seemed logical to continue in that field, but I really wanted a personal educational experience and I still loved my mountain.  Thus, geo-communication was right for me.  unfortunately geo-communication is an emerging discipline that OSU isn't truly keen on.  One earth science faculty member explained to me that OSU wasn't the right school for me because this isn't "what they do".  One liberal arts counselor explained to me that i couldn't be helped with my graduation information because they didn't know the science "stuff" and i should "go talk to those people."  I am nothing if not tenacious; when I find my niche.  I struggled and fought through; at the end of this term (winter 2014) I will have a Bachelor of Science with a transcript notation as a research/arts fellow.  I study communication in general because the process fascinates me, and geo-communication specifically because I want to do something meaningful with my education. 

My words can change my community and save lives.

The images/videos above were shamelessly looted from random internet locations including:

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