Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Automatic objectivity and New Journalism
Reading Jill's note on the objectivity of Google News, I couldn't keep from using her comments system. But what I'd like to say outgrew that format.

The myth that technology is unbiased and objective is so problematic that the automatons dilemma is one of the main themes of Science Fiction. I can't remember which book it was, but Robert A. Heinlein wrote about why artificial humans, despite their physical supremacy were not permitted as pilots for space-faring shuttles. The argument was that they rather wanted a human pilot who would try to save his crew and his passengers despite all odds, than a construct crew who coldly calculated the odds, found them impossible and gave up.

Two points to this example:
1: The construct is only as good as its design.
2: To be subjective is human, we can't avoid it and we shouldn't avoid it.

Once upon a time, New Journalism didn't mean weblogs * **, but a distinctive way of writing non-fiction: creative, subjective and engaging. While that doesn't mean it's imaginary or even highly imaginative - the facts have to be correct - New Journalism under all its different pseudonyms is subjective, written from a point-of-view decided by the writer, and visibly so. It doesn't hide behind a corporate or institutionalised mask of objectivity, but picks a point-of-view, reveals the existence of the human behind the text, and in this manner opens up for criticism in a much less manipulative way than the socalled "objective" writing with its "real" truth and "balanced" presentation of more or less well-researched facts.

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