Point of view

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All writing has a point of view (abbreviate POV). A neutral point of view is not the absence of a point of view, but an attempt to limit editorial bias to the systemic bias of the population of editors, so that no disputed claim can stand without attribution from a trusted source.

Contents

balance vs. bias

Editorial balance is the degree to which topics in different domains are covered in a large corpus - it has nothing explicitly to do with point of view but with systemic imbalances. Editorial bias is the degree to which, in the treatment of any given individual topic, each point of view or position on it is presented as coherent. Wikipedia lets both balance and bias concerns be lumped together into "bias" which is not really a good practice, a similar error is to use "media bias" to mean the stories that are covered, not how they're done.

A common bias measure is a term:namespace to isolate questionable terms that seem themselves to imply too fixed a POV (see below) that no one using the term could deny, e.g. term:culture of life or term:war on terror. Attempts to advocate views can also be confined in a position:namespace.

explicit POV is good

Limiting the allowed point of view and making it explicit is a wiki best practice.

While page name prefixes can suggest point of view, a namespace supports it directly. The most common practice is to create new namespaces to reflect each necessary point of view: user:namespace, talk:namespace, tag:namespace. Each embeds the point of view in the name of each page, so it's impossible to reference the page without stating POV. The English language convention is the same as used in plays and other dialogue, i.e. "Speaker: what was spoken".

Pages that don't somehow make their POV clear in their page name will very quickly cause readers to distrust their contents. Too many different POVs also become difficult to track. To limit voice proliferation and clashing projects, most wikis avoid new namespaces and use them only for projects whose POV, scope, duration or audience differs from that of the main project.

Corporations, for example, are typically not expected to present more than their own view, for instance, but they do expect to take responsibility for that view - and are held to that in law. There are many laws regarding campaign ads and private ads and how they must signal the fact that they express the point of view of a particular person, campaign, or group.

The remainder of this article confines itself to discussing common variants of point of view.

neutral, sympathetic, factional/multiple, new troll

Pages in first person or first person plural have an obvious POV, that of the author:

  1. factional POV is dogmatic: one faction presents its own view as just true, examples include MeatballWiki and corporate propaganda
  2. personal POV is more honest, and reflects unwillingness, disinterest or unconcern with others' views; it is valid and legitimate when describing one's emotions, desires, visions, etc., but not when describing objective phenomena; See below on user pages.

Pages in third person form can express a variety of POV options, often using conventions for each:

  1. neutral POV is immature and naive: to attribute only those statements that are recognized as controversial or threatening to one power group, simply isn't neutrality - but Wikipedia thinks it is, and is getting sued and can't raise much cash as a result; the main problem with neutral POV is that it can't accomodate factional POV very well:
  2. sympathetic POV is roughly as mature as magazine or academic articles, concepts it describes are described from the POV of those that think those concepts are operational or "real"; there are at least two factions: critical (and other) views are separated so that a dialectic forms and an adversarial process can be applied; Is the zooid process adversarial?
    1. Wikinfo takes SPOV of its subject topics, allowing for new concepts to be described without an embedded response from their critics; This allows a new theory, for instance, to be fully explained.
  3. multiple POV requires active management or it devolves quickly to personal or factional dominance; issue/position/argument structures and other argumentation frameworks use this, so do blog pages where each individual expresses themselves and should indent and sign their comments
  4. new troll POV implies more respect for the newcomer than for the oldtimers, so that oldtimers do not dominate forever: an evergreen process is only possible with NPOV; This phrase is deliberately pronounced to be identical to neutral POV and is central to wiki troll culture, the idea that a wiki taken over by trolls is better run because a successful wiki attracts competent trolls, and statistically these are more likely to be capable of running a wiki and repelling attempts to remove them.

Fixed POV

dKosopedia itself takes a fixed view that is sympathetic to the Democratic Party, e.g. in the Vision for America which is very clearly and explicitly a Democratic, not Republican or Green, vision.

Fixed POV of other kinds is easy to spot in for instance help pages: confused users are bad and happy productive ones are good, uptime is good and downtime is bad (though see service outage).

Individual (user) POV

Each individual human body does also seem to have its own perspective in which it staying alive and healthy and free is good and its ill health or confinement or torture is bad. This is relatively fixed, so there is a User:namespace that lets each individual express their own view their own way.

= group POV

Groups can develop their own fixed positions - see groupthink - even without really agreeing at all. Groups will at least share a mindset and accept certain arguments while rejecting others. Some talk pages can even begin to define actual factions in a large public wiki where there are lots of potential adherents.

Some political wikis encourage some kind of political party or faction declaration, and some political wikis support a position:namespace to make it easier for groups to form around common position taking with relatively stable statements of that position. An epistemic community can become a genuine intentional community if it agrees on positions regarding, for instance, where to live, and how to pay their rent.

Advanced POV problems

autopoietic models of how people come to agree even when they start with varying positions
Troll Age politics deliberately confusing POV, e.g. Borat, Stephen Colbert
GFDL corpus access providers mimicking Wikipedia content and subtly adding their own POV
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