30 December 2006

A Strict Journalistic Standard

A Representation of an Experience Part 3.

I have been a foreigner for nine years. I am an American living in the Netherlands.

A few weeks ago I spoke with my friend, Constanza, about this experience. She is from Chile and has been a foreigner for one year.

A foreigner is out of place.

Our experience with our surroundings often does not match the expectations we carry in our heads.

These mis-matched issues often become matters of identity because what we identify with is in question.

In the very beginning, we related our experiences back to friends and family in our native countries.

And then we both stopped, in part because we realized we were limited in what we could communicate.

If you don't know the experience, words won't transport it from my head to yours.

Constanza said that at a certain point she was disappointed because what she said sounded fake. She said it just became a story.

I agreed and also added that I think we are always doing this. We make choices regarding how we represent our primary experiences.

We do this because we are trying to make sense of our context, for our own sanity, but also because we want to communicate in a sensible way with the other people in our lives.

Our representation is an expression of one version, our chosen version, of an experience or an event.

This idea is touched upon by the 25 December 2006 issue of the European Time Magazine by James Poniewozik (with reporting by Karen Tumulty).

The article contrasts journalists with the citizen journalists of the web saying, "Journalists are trained to make sense, to frame stories and order facts, smoothing over random happenings and odd twists." p. 47

But a portal of citizen journalists collects many many versions of an event in an unorganized and somewhat chaotic manner. Their many perspectives also represent the random happenings and odd twists.

Although I will not be able to, nor would I choose to, be present at every life happening, I want to build a life full of experiential knowledge.

But if I don't have a primary experience with an event, then I want the cognitive knowledge I build up to come from as many different sources as possible.

One version is not enough, no matter how strict the "journalistic standard" might be.

How many versions is enough? Are there ever enough sides of the story told? How do we process multiple sides of the story? How do we come to make sense of this? To allow this?

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