Saturday, December 18, 2004

News gloss

"To gloss" has very poor connotations these days, especially relating to something like news! But gloss originally meant "added commentary". If you look at a manuscript from before the age of printing, the text is separated from the commentary around it. The commentary is meant to either support or explain the text. I suppose in some cases it was critical of the text, but usually not: why would you bother hand-copying a manuscript that you didn't like? I suppose there might be some examples. Certainly I do something like that here. Anyway, because "Gloss" was usually supportive annotation, the verb acquired its reputation for sycophancy.

Well, today the idea of annotation is more relevant than ever. There is more published material than ever, people comment on it regularly, and large automatic systems compile their commentary. This is crucial. The publicity industry, and its political counterpart in government, generates reams of nonsense everyday with the purpose of "controlling the message". This is not secret: it's talked about openly, and I believe the majority is aware of it, but is too overwhelmed to do much about it. That's where the Internet's potential for annotation, and data analysis, can come in handy for finding, and presenting, the truth.


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