[Foundation-l] NPOV as common value? (was Re: Board statement regarding biographies of living people)

Anthony wikimail at inbox.org
Fri Apr 24 13:45:05 UTC 2009

On Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 5:39 AM, Andre Engels <andreengels at gmail.com> wrote:

> >   1. Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
> Since for many pictures the subject is what happens to be represented
> on the photograph, this is mostly vacuous. As an example, a journalist
> going to a protest march of 1000 people among which 10 are typical
> punks, would be breaking this rule if he made half the photographs he
> made of the protesters of those 10. A Commons photographer would just
> have to call them photographs of punks rather than photographs of that
> typical protest, and all would be fine.
> >   3. Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording
> >   subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work
> to
> >   avoid presenting one's own biases in the work.
> The first half to me seems hard when we get to the level of single
> photographs, which is on Commons how the work usually goes. The second
> part could well be a good rule, though at the same time when going to
> single photographs it is too restrictive - should every picture of a
> drinking Irishman be forbidden? I don't think so.

I think any image can be neutral given the right context, but that context
matters.  Images in commons don't exist by themselves - they would be fairly
useless if they did.  (I guess a biased image could be made useful by adding
context to them afterward, but then, so can a biased encyclopedia article.
So maybe the difference is one of immediatism vs. eventualism, but the end
goal is the same.)

I think the points described above are all good ones for anyone taking
photographs.  The key in the first two sentences is the word "subjects".  I
think you're reading too much into the rules if you think that it excludes
someone from taking a picture of something other than the event itself when
attending an event.  I don't think such a rule is even meant to apply to
professional photojournalists.

Is commons meant to be a dump of anything and everything, or are the images
in it meant to depict something?  If the latter, then they can depict
something accurately or inaccurately, and that's where neutrality comes in.
Yes, it's an amateur site, so expectations are low.  If you're just randomly
pointing at a subject and shooting, then it's only your subconscious biases
that you have to worry about, but if you're intentionally making images with
the intent of depicting something, then there's a lot of room to introduce
biases when doing so.

I would not
> want the rule "Do not contribute photographs you made during events in
> which you were involved yourself" - which is more or less the same
> rule.

I would want want a rule of "Do not contribute photographs you made during
events in which you were involved yourself without disclosing that fact"

>   6. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images'
> >   content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in
> any
> >   way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
> Now, this one I can agree with. Any editing beyond the trivial should
> be made clear to the viewers.

I find it incongruous that you would agree with this one with the caveat
that a proper description excuses it, after going point by point on the
others assuming that the rule excluded photos regardless of description.

If you want a picture to describe "punk", why not make a few edits here and
there to make your image closer to the concept (assuming you have permission
of the individual(s) in the picture, anyway)?  If you want a picture of a
dog swimming, why not airbrush out that stick that you used to coax the dog
into swimming?  Why is it okay to manipulate the scene before you take the
picture, but not afterward?


But now we've moved from journalism, at least in the classic sense, to art.
Does a neutrality policy make sense in art?  Considering the ability of art
to cast or dispel stereotypes, I think it can.  On the other hand, does a
"no original research" policy apply to art?  I don't think it can.  Art *is*
original research.

Fortunately, there seems to be no reason to abandon original research in
Commons, as it is banned in Wikipedia.  Commons is a less collaborative
site.  It's more like Knol than it is like Wikipedia.  And as far as I'm
concerned that's a good thing.

But I think a neutrality policy does make sense.  Maybe I'm confusing
"neutrality policy" with "honesty policy" though, because I think the
summation of a proper neutrality policy is simply "be honest".

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