Monday, December 22, 2014

Seminar 1 - Position statement from Dr. Justin Schlosberg, Journalism & Media, Birkbeck, University of London

In new media, popular and political discourse, transparency is often contextualised as an accountability end in and of itself. According to this logic, power can effectively be contained, monitored and held to account simply by pouring light into the dark corners of its machinations. I have three broad and related concerns with this line of thinking. First, transparency is worth little - in an accountability sense - without the force of publicity. A key question then turns on what kind of information surfaces in the public consciousness, and what role do mainstream media and digital intermediaries play in determining that outcome? My second concern is that meaningful accountability is contingent on resolutions. How then, do we ensure that the visibility of power is not reducible to mere spectacle, and that disclosure triggers the kind of social and political action that leads ultimately to meaningful sanction and reform? My third concern relates to the problem of co-option. The pervasive rhetoric of transparency and the 'end of secrecy' polemic has arguably been exploited by policymakers and the security state to distract from what in reality amounts to an expanding secrecy regime and a growth in 'sofa style' politics. Are we entering a new phase of history in which the processes of decision-making by the powerful are increasingly unrecorded?

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