Perspective and Personal Memoirs: My Genome, My Self
Perspective in writing is an extremely important element of an effective story or article. Writing in the first person perspective gives us the feeling of intimacy and a more personalised understanding of a topic, particularly when it is written as a personal memoir. This is what Steven Pinker has done in his article for the New York Times entitled My Genome, My Self. As a professor of psychology at Harvard University, Mr Pinker has taken an interest in how genes affect our personal qualities and characteristics.
In this particular article, Pinker takes a genome test (a test to identify certain amino acid sequences to determine if a gene is present or not for a particular focus), and shares this experience with the reader throughout the progression of the test. By using a first person perspective, his communication becomes a lot more personalised. I find first person more interesting than hearing a story in a third person perspective because it gives the story more impact and more interest. We are hearing the story from somebody that has been through a particular experience rather than just the boring progressive recount of facts. That is not to say that all third person texts are dull, in fact some are outstanding, but for this particular article, a first person perspective gives it added interest and certainly more impact. As well as this, being such a long article means that writing it in third person and recounting events would have likely made this article extremely boring. But maybe my opinion on first person writing is too simple? What did you think of this style for this text?
As mentioned, the personal memoir gave the article added interest because of the actual telling of a personal story. The way Pinker weaved his science into the article was also effective. But I found the article too long and struggled to read it, in its entirety, with interest, and also found that the science was far too dominant compared to the story and experiences of the genome test he was taking. Not all long articles are dull, but I found this one to drag out due to the amount of scientific content. However, what was effective was the construction of his article. Pinker would describe phases of the test he was experiencing and would then discuss possibilities of results and what these mean. From here the “scientific floodgates” opened and we were bombarded with all sorts of diseases and their genetic make up. As I’ve said, this aspect outweighed the entertainment far too much, but the method of introducing scientific content couldn’t be questioned. In a nutshell, I think Pinker was clever in his idea to expand on science through the progression of the genome test, but he lost me with far too much science and hence the flow was compromised. Maybe this is because genetics doesn’t interest me as much as some, but am I the only one that wasn’t a huge fan of the article? I did however like his idea of moving from personal experience, to personal impact, to scientific relevance in terms of introducing scientific content.
After all, communicating science isn’t easy and saying all you need to whilst still being interesting is the ultimate goal. What is the most effective way to weave science into a piece of writing while still maintaining the interest of the reader?
This article wasn’t in the folder and was pretty hard to find, so if anyone wants a read (it’s not all doom and gloom, some of it is interesting!!!) then here’s the link. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11Genome-t.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all