A shaky reminder about ground truth

I haven’t posted here since before the Summer started. The simplest excuse (and it is an excuse) is that we’ve been traveling quite a bit.

Earlier this month, we were in Morocco in Bin El Ouidane. That put us 200 kilometers northeast of Marrakesh when an earthquake struck another 120Km to the southwest in the Atlas Mountains. We felt it where we were but much less intensely. There was some chatter in the hallways but things seemed to settle down pretty quickly. Woke up the next morning to news coverage about the earthquake “near Marrakesh”, which was our destination for that day. Our group met for breakfast and discussed what our options might be. Meanwhile our guide was not responding to messages or to a knock on his door. Mustafa eventually surfaced to let us know that we were still going on to Marrakesh, although we would be shifting to a hotel outside the Medina and likely adjusting some of our other scheduled activities.

Driving into Marrakesh, we saw families camped out on the median out of concern about aftershocks. That was the only evidence we saw as we pulled into our new hotel. The hotel seemed equally unscathed. The images on the news were much more disturbing. The next morning, we got to see for ourselves. We drove along the outskirts of the Medina and could see damage along the walls encircling the old city. We then walked into the main square and could see a damaged mosque in one corner. What we could also see that the news reports didn’t show was how concentrated the damage was and how tightly framed the shots were to highlight the damage.

The rest of our day played out much the same; a mix of concentrated damage and surrounding normalcy. Meanwhile, we were responding to anxious messages from family and friends who were hearing only one part of the story. From their distance, we seemed in the middle of a tragedy. From where we stood, the tragedy was still distant. That tragedy was still 120 km further away in the Atlas Mountains. We were mildly inconvenienced. People in the mountains died.

All of this has had me thinking about stories. Telling stories is always about perspective and framing; what do you highlight, what do you leave out. So too with consuming stories; what has been left out and why. Through it all, what you’re trying to tease out is ground truth.

One thought on “A shaky reminder about ground truth”

  1. I think that you are making the point in “knowledge management” that the person making a point (creating the knowledge) will have biases, that he/she might be wise to acknowledge and try to be “accurate” and “complete”. The consumer of knowledge (reader) should try to anticipate the creator’s biases and his/her own biases both in reading and then commenting.
    Maintaining perspective in knowledge production and consumption should protect us from at least some follys.

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