Week Eight- what’s wrong with the light?

24 Apr

I want to throw out the question of transparency. Good or bad?

But before you answer I want you to consider the following points:

The Arab Spring, in all its variations, both Egyptian and Tunisian to be remembered when answering, good or bad.

The fact that #Egypt was the most used tag in 2010

There are 317 British MPs using twitter (Kerr 2012).

I want comments from political activists such as Julian Assange to be remembered:

“The rest of the world is doing such a bad job that a group of activists are able to reveal in one year more than the worlds press combined.” (Assange)
Comments such as “We can influence world leaders and industries to start improving the world… leaders must follow public opinion or they fail…” from the World President organisation.

Do you get my point?

All these examples have a common theme, to make things transparent. Made possible through avenues such as twitter, free press, wiki leaks.  Political activism by citizens in Egypt would not of been as easily initiated without twitter. The US government would continue to operate, to an extent, in the dark if not for wiki leaks.

To further illuminate my point,

“The events in Egypt have captured our attention because they represent the story we love to see:

“There is a clear evil-doer. There’s a clear person you want to remove from power. The images are provocative and as engaging as anything you’ve seen in recent history” (Usher 2011).

The uprising is not just a political incident, but a media event. Enabled by jumping on the back of transparency.

While I argue transparency is good. Lessig does not, “I have increasingly come to worry that there is an error at the core of this unquestioned goodness. We are not thinking critically enough about where and when transparency works, and where and when it may lead to confusion, or to worse…without any sensitivity to the full complexity of the idea of perfect openness–will inspire not reform, but disgust” (Lessig 2009).

He goes on:

To understand something, it requires a large amount of attention. If not, this results in “systematic misunderstanding” (Lessig 2009).

I do get his point. But if understanding something that requires complete attention, then isn’t it easier to comprehend a political statement limited to 160 characters on twitter for example. Isn’t being exposed to data better than being shut off from it?

So my answer remains, yes, transparency is good. It makes us look at ourselves, at the reality in which we live, and then we question it. This is fundamental in the substantiation of democracy.



Kerr, P and Dunckley, M, ‘Politicians all a-twitter about tweets’ The Daily Telegraph, 3 April 2012, pp32-33

Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’<http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0&gt;

Noward, Duffy, Freelon, Hussain, Marai, Mazaid, ‘Opening Closed Regimes, What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?’ 2010, sourced from: http://www.mendeley.com/research/opening-closed-regimes-role-social-media-during-arab-spring/ accessed on: 19/04/12:

Usher, Nikki (2011), ‘How Egypt’s uprising is helping redefine the idea of a “media event”’, The Nieman Lab <http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/&gt;
‘President of the World Press Conference’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDUiuk-12Zg&feature=pyv


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