Monday Mashup: Narration and Control of Information

by David Miller May 3, 2010
Every Monday we mash up different articles, ideas, and questions relevant to writers, photographers, and journalists. This week we look at a couple different sides of how information is controlled.

HAPPY MONDAY everyone. Over the weekend I thought a lot about the concept of “narration” within the context of control.

How to remember what “framing” is

A few years ago I saw a documentary that explained the concept of “framing an issue.” It showed a picture of a young couple. It was obviously an old picture, black and white. From the way the couple was dressed it appeared to be the early 1900s. They were smiling in a way that seemed very happy.

Then the camera started zooming out so you saw more people in the picture. The other people weren’t looking at the picture, but all in the same direction–looking towards the right. None of them were smiling.

Then the camera kept zooming out so you could see the entire picture, and what everyone else in the photo was looking at: a lynching, two black people strung up in a tree.

Then it zoomed back to the two people smiling, and explained how framing an issue was equivalent to showing only one part of a picture so the person looking at it isn’t able to see the whole context.

I don’t mean to use this example in a way that seems “menacing,” but more as something to remember when you’re reading, writing, taking pictures, looking at pictures, and using the internet: what is the narrator, photographer, or website leaving out? What are you leaving out of what you write or take pictures? What am I leaving out here? [(a) The documentary was about Mumia Abu Jamal.]

Facebook’s privacy policy

On the opposite side of this is the idea of how much personal information you’re willing to have revealed and who has access to it. This brings me to Facebook.

I tried to delete my Facebook account over a year ago, and was pretty surprised that I couldn’t actually delete it, but only “suspend” it, which keeps other people from viewing it. All of my information is still there on their servers, however.

I didn’t suspend my account because I was worried they might jack my personal info, I just didn’t have time to use it anymore. After reading this timeline published last week though, I’m glad I got out when I did (if that even matters?).

Check this excerpt from Facebook’s Privacy Policy in 2006:

We understand you may not want everyone in the world to have the information you share on Facebook; that is why we give you control of your information.

And now compare it with this excerpt from the privacy policy as of April 2010:

When you connect with an application or website it will have access to General Information about you. The term General Information includes your and your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections, and any content shared using the Everyone privacy setting. … The default privacy setting for certain types of information you post on Facebook is set to “everyone.”

The article concludes: “Viewed together, the successive policies tell a clear story. Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information. As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it’s slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users’ information, while limiting the users’ options to control their own information.”

Mini Travel Writing Contest based on different narrators

Last up, this week I’m running a min travel writing contest based on different styles of narration in nonfiction. The inspiration is Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, a novel told from the point of view of 15 different narrators.

Please check the website for details. Deadline is on Thursday at 2 PM EST.

Community Connection

what is your opinion of Facebook’s privacy policy? Do you use Facebook? Let us know in the comments below.


From writing and photography skills to social media, personal branding to preparing work for publication, MatadorU’s community of students and teachers offers unmatched support, guidance, and sense of camaraderie for those looking to begin or advance their careers as writers, photographers, and new media professionals.

Discover Matador