AKA The Importance of Sourcing and the Role of Truth
Yeah. Sorry about the title sounding a little pretentious but I wasn’t sure what else to call this article. First, a little background: a friend was asking me a series of questions, some of them incredibly philosophical so he could better understand my viewpoints. After answering his question – “Why is sourcing so important?” – I realized I’ve never discussed this on Source Gaming. In the past, I’ve discussed why having sources doesn’t guarantee accuracy, and other topics relating to video game journalism under the “PushDustIn’s Soapbox” category here on Source Gaming. It seemed like such a fundamental question that I never really explored — so here I am, to discuss my thoughts on it with you today.
Why is Sourcing so Important?
“…because…it is?” …that’s not really a good answer, but it’s probably the initial knee jerk reaction. I know for me it was.
Sourcing is important because without having a source, the statement becomes less of a verifiable fact, and more of an opinion or a lie. I could claim that Pit was in development for Smash 64, but without a source that is more of a rumor than a fact (Spoiler alert, by all evidence he wasn’t worked on for Smash 64). Sourcing is important because as individuals, we don’t have enough credibility to claim everything as true. There is no way to know everything, so we usually rely on the knowledge and foundation built by others. Sourcing is important because it allows those claims to be checked and investigated by others. By finding the source behind statements such as “Pit was in development for Smash 64” I was able to discredit and correct years of false knowledge. Essentially, sourcing is essential as it allows knowledge to be built and improved upon.
Building off that, sourcing is important as it allows people to go back and develop their own ideas. People who are curious can go through and understand how an author reached a conclusion by checking their sources. To gain really deep knowledge, it’s not enough to read one piece on the matter. An inquiry must be done — and inquires are much easier when properly sources. Lastly, it opens the possibility that other ideas emerge from using the source. People have different ways of approaching the same information, and multiple people can have valid conclusions. Having that source, having the data, can allows people to understand in new ways. That’s why sourcing is so important.
What is True?
But at the same time, this leads us to a bigger, more complicated question — the role of truth. I haven’t studied philosophy that much, so please excuse my own limited knowledge with this answer. Essentially, there are some arguments that truth does not exist. Nowadays, people are quick to label things they don’t agree with as “fake news,” but that argument isn’t just a cop-out. What is “true” and what is “false”? Who has the authority to dictate what is true and what is not? Since there isn’t a “truth police”, it means the truth is always ambiguous, and uncertain.
Truth may be the things that the majority just simply agree on. One example is a statement like, “it was sunny yesterday”. This is something that meteorologists have recorded, eyewitness statements can attest to, video and photographic evidence exists, personal memory, etc. With all of this colluding evidence it’s extremely safe to say “yes, it was sunny yesterday”.
However, think of an argument between two individuals: A and B. It becomes much more difficult to discern what is true and what isn’t, as each individual may have a motive that impacts their account. Individual C, a friend of A may automatically support A and look for evidence that supports their viewpoint. An impartial judge must look to see where their stories overlap, and for other evidence outside of their stories.
But, I’d like to argue that if truth does not exist, then it makes it even more important to have sources. Sources will create the evidence that will be needed by independent judges to determine if things are true or not. Going back to the unused character information: a lot of people believed information that was based on limited to no evidence. I used to believe it as well. Before the first version of the Definitive Unused Fighter List in Smash, for all intents and purposes, it was true. But now — only through careful and diligent research, we know it’s not true. And guess what? It may change in another ten years. New information can come out. More evidence can emerge that will shake the foundation of what we “know” today. This is why sourcing is so important. Proper sourcing allows knowledge to grow.
That’s it for today. Let me know how you guys feel in the comments below.