Biotechnology and Communication: The Meta-Technologies of Information

By Sandra Braman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
4

“Are Facts Not Flowers?”:
Facticity and Genetic Information
Sandra Braman
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Are facts not flowers? and flowers facts?

—William Carlos Williams

Ever since Locke (1690/1998) introduced the notion of the fact in 1690, mediated human communication has revolved around facticity—the claim that a given datum or narrative does or does not refer to empirical reality. Distinctions between fact and fiction, fact and opinion, fact and falsehood, and fact and error are important for legal, economic, and often social treatment of information and those who produce it. Genres became distinguished along these lines so that journalism and history, for example, are presented as factual, whereas fiction is not. Adherence to specific practices and procedures for the production of fact are the core of professionalism in law, journalism, and science. Institutions with the capacity to “certify” data and narratives as factual have developed, always associated with governance and power.

Facticity has long been a subject of communication research in areas as diverse as studies of news production, sense making, the social construction of reality, and persuasion. Because technological change alters the practices by which facts are produced and the institutions by which they are certified, with each innovation in information and communication technologies new questions about the nature of facticity and its production

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