Paper No. 156-1
A defining characteristic of geologic fieldwork is placing a living body, as a locus for interpretation, in the environment being studied. Among the most important data brought back from the field in notebooks are first inscriptions,
such as categories describing relevant objects (e.g., rock units
), and maps showing geological structures. The ability to produce such an inscription requires the skilled, knowing body of someone able to convert their experience of the world (what they see and feel in a rock being held) into the formal categories (e.g., phenocrysts or foliation
) that will be written into their notebooks. Through concerted apprenticeship in the field the possibly idiosyncratic experience of novices is disciplined into what we describe as the professional sensorium
of a geologist, the ability to experience and classify the world in ways that can be trusted and reproduced by other geologists. Externalization, in word and deed, of the complex cognitive functions employed by master geoscientists, to document, characterize, and interpret geologic phenomena is essential; novice geoscientists need to be explicitly and purposefully exposed to professional reasoning on “what”, “how”, and “why” of established geoscience practices.
Using extensive video recordings of novice and senior geologists scrutinizing rocks, structures, and landscapes in the field together, we describe the interactive practices through which the sensory capacities of the novice (sight, touch, hearing, etc.) are disciplined in ways that enable them to shape their experience of the rocks and landscapes they encounter into the categories, such as muscovite or phenocryst that form the empirical bedrock for research in geology.
Most research within and about science begins with the first inscription. Here we want to reveal the work, embodied skills, and intergenerational interaction between novices and senior practitioners in the field, the pedagogy required to competently create a first inscription, and thus transform the world being encountered into the relevant data that animate theory and research within the field of geology.