In his article ‘Against transparency’, Lessig (2009) defines the ‘naked transparency movement’ as a new TRANSVERSALLY way to ‘liberate data’, under a government’s point of view, hopefully that citizens may understand political decisions ‘better, or at least differently’. Also regarding government actions, Styles (2009) suggests a ‘citizen collaboration’ model, in which the people have their voices towards public issues. It is almost a new way to govern, where decision making processes are influenced directly by the publics via the new media. Citizens have access to ‘government data’ (Lessig 2009). However, the question here is that is it the best change? Not really.
WikiLeaks is an example. In 2010, the footage of the 2007 Irag shooting video was released and caused enormous public concerns (Fishel 2010). One of the concerns is the credibility of video. Fishel (2010) quoted Capt. Jack Hanzlik’s words about the limited perspective viewers may have after watching the video.
‘It gives you a limited perspective… The video only tells you a portion of the activity that was happening that day. Just from watching that video, people cannot understand the complex battles that occurred. You are seeing only a very narrow picture of the events.’
(Hanzlik 2010 in Fishel 2010)
Here we are not arguing about rotten morality, but transparency and framing issues. WikiLeaks gave the publics data transparency, but it simultaneously framed our minds. By naming the video ‘Collateral murder’, WikiLeaks (un)deliberately shaped a negative approach towards the footage. What’s good in causing crisis among the public?
Taking a less political approach, what about the people’s privacy? Is it all right to publish all of our medical records, for instance? Will it limit the opportunities of people with disadvantages when it comes to job application? People always have their judgements. With overwhelming amount of data (which is made transparent), ‘no one has time to understand, let alone analyze’ (Lessig 2009). Moreover, keep in mind that we are being framed unconsciously, always, by the media and people around us. Because of that, data can be manipulated easily, just as simple as the way we stereotype others. Advertising and propaganda are classic examples of spin doctor as Mason says: ‘Therefore truth moves faster than lies, and propaganda becomes flammable’ (2011). There is too much data to process, so people will only pay attention to what is highlighted. Here, what is the point of transparency if we are going to be manipulated eventually?
In conclusion, it would be stirring that we are governed the way we want, where we all have a voice and everything is honest. It is true that the new media has somewhat redefined media event (Usher 2011) from something only happens on television or newspaper to something real, something that we can actually ‘participate’ with a little push from communication tools:
‘The situation is now in the real world and not in the virtual world. That’s where the developments are.’
Yet, this is also a threat to privacy and social order. What will happen when everyone knows everything about you? Or when everyone has a voice in one matter? Which is the right place to invest our attention?
Fishel, J. 2010, ‘Military Raises Questions About Credibility of Leaked Iraq Shooting Video’, Fox News, 7 April, accessed on 2 May 2013, < http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/04/07/military-raises-questions-credibility-leaked-iraq-shooting-video/ >.
Lessig, L. 2010, ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’, New Republic, 9 October, accessed on 2 May 2013, < http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0 >.
Mason, P. 2011, ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, 5 February, accessed on 2 May 2013, < http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html >.
Styles, C. 2009, ‘A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, mking Manifest, 28 June, accessed on 2 May 2013, < http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/ >.
Usher, N. 2011, ‘How Egypt’s uprising is helping redefine the idea of a “media event”’, The Nieman Lab, 8 February, accessed on 2 May 2013, < http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/ >.