9/11/2005

Deep Change in the Media? (Truth and Trust, Information, Knowledge)

Open Source> Blog Archive> Craigslist and Nola.com: Information as News [Disclaimer: I personally think credentials and authority hinder any quest for knowledge.] A podcast of a radio show about the aftermath of Katrina giving a jolt to deep changes in journalism and the media. Journalism might be changing but Christopher Lydon still says, perhaps jokingly, that those who read the New York Times "are the best informed people of the whole bloody universe"... Some major points were made during the discussion which tags on previous discussions (and associated buzzwords) of "hyperlocal" and "citizen" journalism. Was mostly interested in comments about trust. From an academic point of view, information cannot be trusted, no matter the source. One always needs to maintain a critical perspective on information. Even a source known to be the most "trustworthy" (say, a world famous leading expert on a specific issue) will make mistakes. Academics also define data as different from fact. In this radio show and on multiple other occasions, a very populist notion of truth and trust emerges. Information comes from the people and people are in charge of checking information. This notion is very powerful in challenging journalistic notions. It also puts information in a sociological frame. Both Marxian and American. Comments during this specific show alluded more to a journalistic version of Linus' Law: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." This "law" does relate to peer review and might even represent a stronger form of peer review in which peers are judged for results and not necessarily based on their credentials. In both cases, the more sociological dimension and the review by peers, the notion of truth and trust coming out of groups of people may curb the cult of personality evidenced by other attitudes towards truth and trust. There might even be a struggle between the personality-based attitude toward authority ("it must be true because so-and-so said it") and the value of "distributed computing" of information and knowledge. ("Distributed" was used in that sense during the radio show and implies decentralization.) Those very same issues on trust and truth are debated in comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, really, Information Wants To Be Free (as in Speech).

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