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When is warped-beyond-reality videojournalism ethical?

…When it does what journalism was designed to do: explain something that’s confusing, complex or incomprehensible. Watch this time-lapse video of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano (Note: I highly recommend the full-screen view):

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There are times when certain concepts are just too big for the human mind to grasp—astronomy comes to mind, as does modern economics (a trillion here, a billion there…). We often use clever graphics or simplified prose to explain things, so why not add “warped reality” to the mix?

The fact is, the video isn’t really warped at all. Conventional news video will show you some cool explosions and murky ash and that’s valuable, too, but the time-lapse in this case brings viewers beyond simply, “a volcano erupted.” Geologic speeds are virtually static to us, so the ability to speed them up gives us a view of our world that we wouldn’t otherwise have. We can view the Earth’s evolution as some omniscient, cosmic observer might.

The technology involved may make the creative process seem less romantic than traditional news writing, but when we have a tool and use it to bring people closer to their world—to have a greater appreciation for it—that’s truly the highest form of journalism.

Related: Check out this time-lapse video of the 2009 Los Angeles wildfires:

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  • Very interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot about the various ways tech changes and enables journalism (especially around “data journalism” and the “programmer journalist”) and this is a really compelling angle.

    On another note, you should get a social buttons/sharing plugin to make it easier for your readers to share you great content.

  • Social buttons are on my to-do list, as is a massive overhaul of the whole site. I’m still on WP.com at the moment.