2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


ANDREWS, Sarah, Sebastopol, 95473, canyonwren@aol.com

Most lay readers find it difficult to learn geology by reading technical texts. They lack background in geologic principles and concepts, do not understand technical jargon, and typically lack the geologist’s talent for thinking in four dimensions. And although there is nothing as commonplace as the Earth—all but a few of us spend our entire lives on it—it exists and evolves at physical and temporal scales beyond the comprehension of most. The narrative voice—geology with a plot, told through the storyteller’s voice, whether as fiction or as non-fiction—can bring geology into the context of the lay reader by transmitting an understanding of geology into what is commonplace to the reader. Storytelling is a deeply human method of communication, and while not all know how to tell a story well, most can follow a good yarn. However, using storytelling to bridge the gap between the professional and lay worlds requires an understanding of not only the gap but also the bridge. Instead of expecting the lay reader to meet the comprehension level of the author, the author must communicate within the comprehension range of the reader, abandon the support of graphical language (maps and illustrations) and the condensed spatial/temporal reference library of jargon, and instead operate within the limitations of written language, which is by nature linear and sequential. The author must show (not tell) how geology supports, impacts, and relates to the reader’s life. In the narrative voice, the story itself becomes the time line. Technical jargon, which can reference volumes of understanding and data within one single term, is exchanged for metaphors, similes, and descriptions which reference familiar objects and concepts from everyday living. The author’s job is not to “dumb down” but instead to select the common experiences and objects that best convey the concepts of geologic time, processes, thresholds, scale, and interrelationships.