Computational Journalism The Homeostatic Newspaper

Computational Journalism is a blanket term for the use of computers in the otherwise human task of news writing and dissemination. Learned scholars and newspersons have gathered at conferences to discuss this matter, and see what has already been accomplished.

Science fiction fans, however, have seen this all before, mostly in the works of Philip K. Dick. It's actually easier to review Dick's ideas than it is to look at the accomplishments of computer scientists in the real world.

The Homeostatic Newspaper

In his 1963 story If There Were No Benny Cemoli, Dick describes the idea of a purely automated newspaper device:

The structure," the minor CURBman said, "was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us... We haven't located the newspaper yet; it was customary for the homeopapes to be buried a mile or so down..."
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's homeostatic newspaper)

It was also described as "a vast complex electronic organism buried deep in the ground, responsible to no one, guided solely by its own ruling circuits." The homeopape gathered information by utilizing "news-gathering services" and "receptors."

I often imagine that Google News, a single page news summary, is produced not by aboveground server farms, but by homeopapes.

Autonomic Interviewer

A roving robotic reporter, the autonomic interviewer was able to ask questions and gather news. This quote comes from Dick's 1965 novel The Zap Gun:

"Mr. Lars, sir."
"I'm afraid I only have a moment to talk to your viewers. Sorry." He started on, but the autonomic TV interviewer, camera in its hand, blocked his path. The metal smile of the creature glittered confidently...
"Look," he said, this time gently, as if the autonomic interviewer were really alive and not merely an arbitrarily endowed sentient concoction of the ingenuity of Wes-block technology of A.D. 2004.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's autonomic interviewer - a robot reporter)

See Robot Journalist Provides Autonomic News Coverage for a real-life prototype robotic reporter.

Homeopape (or 'Pape)

Dick uses the term "homeopape" sometimes as a contraction of "homeostatic newspaper" (referring to a vast subterranean device) or as a single news paper or paper-printing device. For example, in his 1969 masterpiece Ubik, Dick describes a device for printing out news in the home:

In a corner of the large room a chime sounded and a tinkling mechanical voice called, "I'm your free homeopape machine, a service supplied exclusively by all the fine Rootes hotels throughout Earth and the colonies. Simply dial the classification of news that you wish, and in a matter of seconds I'll speedily provide you with a fresh, up-to-the-minute homeopape tailored to your individual requirements; and, let me repeat, at no cost to you!"
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's homeopape)

Note that Google provides you with the capability of creating a news summary page that is tailored to your individual requirements (as does Yahoo, I think).

Here's an example of the word used to refer to an individual news paper, from his 1965 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch:

In the miserably high-number conapt building 492 on the outskirts of Marilyn Monroe, New Jersey, Richard Hnatt ate breakfast indifferently while, with something greater than indifference, he glanced over the morning homeopape's weather syndrome readings of the previous day.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's homeopape)

I'm sure we've all printed out news articles from the Internet in the privacy of our own homes.

Homotropic News Vending Machine

It's not enough to merely produce the news; one must physically pursue one's customers (this is the missing step from the business plan all of these dying newspapers). This quote is from Dick's excellent 1963 novel The Game Players of Titan:

At the door of the restaurant an automated news vending machine appeared, with a late edition of the Chronicle. It's Rushmore Effect bleated out "Special coverage of the Luckman murder case." The restaurant, with the exception of their party, was empty; the news vending machine, being homotropic, headed toward them, still bleating. "The Chronicle's own circuit investigates, and discloses startling new details not found in the Examiner or the News-Call Bulletin. It waved the newspaper in their faces.

Getting out a coin, Sharp inserted it in the slot of the machine; it at once presented him with a copy of the paper and pulled back out of the restaurant, to hunt for more people.
(Read more about Philip K. Dick's homotropic news vending machine)

Thanks to our friends at Frolix_8 for suggesting this idea with a short article from Mashable.

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