Monday, December 24, 2012

Iterative journalism

Iterative journalism is Iv-B where information is changed deterministically, this can lead to innovations in the media such as with blogging but also deceptions and information growing like a viral contagion.

Process journalism, fed by controversy, rumors, and titillating scandals, is a beast that gives no quarter. Those who have never been on the other side of this equation don't realize that it is precisely in situations like a scandal, an IPO, a lawsuit, or a tragic event that the subjects of the story are least able to communicate with the press.

Like with Oy-R animals it can be a predatory prey system where victims of misrepresentation fall to those more Oy predatory in writing stories, speed is also important. People get paid a commission according to the number of hits their stories get so the more viral and exponential the growth is the more money they make. Gresham's law applies, those too honest might leave the business if the I-O police are weak on prosecuting fraud and defamation.

 Forcing someone to dispute a preposterously untrue allegation is just as much slander as making the accusation. The types of stories that scream out to be written and broken before they are fully written are precisely the types of stories that cannot be taken back. The scandals, the controversies, and the shocking announcements—the ones I have shown in this book to be so easy to fabricate or manipulate—cannot be unwritten or walked back. They spread too quickly. They stick too easily.

For R prey the safest course is usually to run and hide, using deception as camouflage. Some can try to team up as a Ro herd demanding truth in these stories, the Oy journalists then try to pick off those still vulnerable like Oy hyena attacking Ro buffalo. In the absence of strong I-O police like animals in the center of the food chain this relationship is unstable, it can lead to Ro collapse and a rout or vigilante like attacks against Oy journalists.

  Leaking or sharing information with the right blog introduces a narrative that can immediately and overwhelmingly take hold. By the time the proper facts have been established, it is too late to dislodge a now commonly held perception. In this model, the audience is viewed as nothing more than a dumb mob to be manipulated and used to create pageviews.
It's a vicious cycle. The lead bum steer of an iterative story starts a stampede. And after so many of these stampedes, the audience is conditioned to expect an endless parade of bigger and bigger scoops that no reporter could ever deliver. What spread yesterday—drove tweets of "Holy shit, did you hear?"—is hardly enough to spread the same way today. So it must be newer, faster, crazier. Now they must maintain it constantly by reporting on even more tenuous material and making crazier conclusions from it.

This is like creating a stampede in a Ro herd, then the Oy predatory journalists must keep up the pressure inducing panic with more deception to keep getting prey in the chaos. Sometimes they can hit a ceiling and collapse like Ro buffalo regrouping and then turning on Oy hyena caught by  too much bluffing and not enough strength. In the same way some Oy journalists overreach and then are attacked by Ro media and consumer groups, the I-O police can get involved like other animals in the food chain chasing away the Oy hyena. For example this can be like Ro larger buffalo acting like consumer advocates, they take the heat from the Oy journalists while exposing them maintaining some balance between chaos and randomness.

Software as beta means the risk of small glitches; the news as beta means the risk of a false reality.
The poet Hesiod once wrote that rumor and gossip are a "light weight to lift up, but heavy to carry and hard to put down." Iterative journalism is much the same. Its practices come easily, almost naturally, given the way blogs are designed and the way the web operates. It seems cheaper, but it's not. The costs have just been externalized, to the readers and the subjects of the stories, who write down millions each year in falsely damaged reputations and perceptions.

Software is also chaotic in the same way because it is highly deterministic as it runs in lines where one mistake makes it stop. An Iv-B or Oy-R economy seems efficient but this is because the damage is hidden until there is a collapse.

ITERATIVE JOURNALISM IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE OF A belief in the web's ability to make corrections and updates to news stories. Fans of iterative journalism acknowledge that while increased speed may lead to mistakes, it's okay because the errors can be fixed easily. They say that iterative journalism is individually weak but collectively strong, since the bloggers and readers are working together to improve each story—iteratively.

This is innately chaotic and works on the margin where each correction is a marginal change, however VB-I or Y-Ro journalism works by averaging out information with random errors, there is no margin. 

Think of Wikipedia, which provides a good example of the iterative process. By 2010 the article on the Iraq War had accumulated more than twelve thousand edits. Enough to fill twelve volumes and seven thousand printed pages (someone actually did the math on this for an artistic book project). Impressive, no doubt. But that number obscures the fact that though the twelve thousand changes collectively result in a coherent, mostly accurate depiction, it is not what most people who looked at the Wikipedia entry in the last half decade saw. Most of them did not consume it as a final product. No, it was read, and relied upon, in piecemeal—while it was under construction. Thousands of other Wikipedia pages link to it; thousands more blogs used it as a reference; hundreds of thousands of people read these links and formed opinions accordingly. Each corrected mistake, each change or addition, in this light is not a triumph but a failure.

Wikipedia is changed on the margin chaotically, someone makes a change and then another alters it. Often these people are Iv-B or Oy-R anonymous, this allows innovation and counter innovation to grow exponentially. The web is then mutating with links like these chaotically, each deterministically changes the next at the margin so average V-Bi information is less common. The result is a network of roots and branches with mutated stories, viral contagions of innovative videos, etc. It grows like Iv-B weeds consuming available resources as controversies sprout then suddenly collapse for a lack of more news or innovations. There is nothing right or wrong with this system, much of it is driven by the exponential growth of computer technology which then feeds into more Iv-B innovation.

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