“Ne doutez jamais qu’un petit groupe d’individus conscients et engagés puisse changer le monde. C’est même de cette façon que cela s’est toujours produit.” Margaret Mead
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals could change the world… For me, this is a recurring theme and guiding principle as the New Year approaches. In a world where large institutions often seem driven only by politics and the need to justify their own existence at the expense of doing what’s right, it is left to the individuals and small groups to set the example and make a difference. It is not easy, and it involves risk. But what do we risk by not acting?
A small group of thoughtful, committed individuals has been working diligently in the basement of the Science Building at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for over a year. Locally known as “the Collective,” this group of astronomy-loving, technophilic, computer programmers puts in long, long hours creating amazing tools that let people visualize and interact with astronomical data in captivating new ways. And although they form the technological backbone of some well-known projects such as Galaxy Zoo, this small group is often overlooked when the big groups of professionals get together. That should change, and I think it will be changing… soon.
Beginning Saturday January 2, 2010, the American Astronomical Society will kick off it’s winter meeting, and many members of the Collective will be in attendance. Some will be manning booths at AstroZone on Saturday afternoon from 12-4. Come on by! Some will be presenting posters during the meeting which describe their amazing work. If you’re not near DC, don’t worry. I have a feeling that there will be no shortage of Tweeting, Livecasting, and Blogging going on throughout the entire week. Collective Tweeps to follow include @jluebbert, @marksands, @robotgeek, @RyanBalfanz, @michael_parrish, and @batenkaitos. Livecasting links will be posted when available.
And who is the fearless leader of this group? Well, that would be Dr. Pamela Gay–astronomer, podcaster, blogger, programmer, educator, horsewoman, world-traveler, and all-around nice person. And no, I don’t think she sleeps much. 😉 She will be leading the team at the AAS and Tweeting as @starstryder. She has recently gathered together another small group of thoughtful, committed individuals known as the Astrosphere New Media Association. She writes about this on her own blog StarStryder, and I will let her tell the story. This group has a mission “dedicated to promoting science and skeptical thought through internet-based technologies and distribution.” And knowing the people involved, I believe they can make it happen.
Risky? A bit. Heading off in a new direction always involves some risk. The right thing to do? Certainly. Connecting the world through science and technology is critical to our future. Will it change the world? With your help… absolutely.