The ideas presented to us in this week’s readings centred on the idea of transparency of information, specifically regarding the government. The readings prompted me to critically analyse the concept of ‘The transparency movement’ (Lessig, Lawrence, 2010).
Once again, these readings drove me to observe the effects of the internet on societal interactions and the freedom and ease of access to information. It is almost an endless need for individuals, especially in the western societies, to be connected to others via the internet. Personally, I find myself engaging with a range of online media platforms every hour of my waking day. Like many others, whether that engagement be the constant refreshing of my Facebook ‘News feed’ to find out what others are up to, or the active interaction of ‘Liking’ or ‘Commenting’ on a friends post, to viewing YouTube videos or viewing pictures on my Instagram feed, I find myself constantly submitting or receiving information via the internet. It is this constant interaction and access to information which has connected us in an almost tangible sense, allowing for a transparency of information in the online realm.
In another sense, I would extend the concept of transparency further to include online review websites such as ‘Eatability’ which allow customers of restaurants, services or products to divulge real opinions and thoughts to the public to help influence the decisions of others. I know that personally, I never visit a new restaurant or hairdresser without first checking its reviews on ‘Eatability’.
This again extends further to include opinion blogs, opinion comments and an overall transparency of information back and forth between consumers and companies. This forces companies or organisations to be accountable for their actions in a public domain and gives the individuals in society more power than ever before.
This transversal concept brings me to a more direct analysis of the readings. The Government, or any leading governing body, now faces a society who demands more information, faster results, and a bigger say in change. The aim of the ‘Transparency Movement,’ is to influence governmental procedure “Through better code–in better legislative rules and in better technology–its aim is to make it trivially easy to get access to records suggesting influence, and then link those records automatically to the possible influence that they suggest,” (Lessig, Lawrence, 2010).
Thus, individuals are able to freely access government policy, decisions, information on politicians and leaders in power, influence change or policy and have an overall sense of control over the way things are run. These days it is difficult to imagine an age without such transparency, an age where governmental bodies made change or decisions without influence from the public, and could not be held directly accountable by society.
However this transparency is not openly welcomed by everyone and further reading and research made me question the limitations of this transparency in the Government 2.0 and its actual effects (Styles, Catherine 2009).
Upon deeper analysis, I believe that the transparency of information, although effective in holding our leaders accountable and giving the public a bigger in say in the policies that affect them, has several downfalls. Firstly, the verification of information published by the government is difficult to determine, and can lead to false or misleading information presented. Additionally, increased public influence on government procedure and policy may devalue the governmental function and procedure (Chakrabortty, Aditiya 2010).
The transparency of information can be considered democratic and an imperative change for a just and stable society in the modern world. By allowing the public to have an open say and access to information published by their Government, society develops a better understanding of policy and government function, and gains ability to influence decision. However, critical analysis reveals that there are still limitations to this concept.
Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’, < http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0 >
Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’, < http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/ >
Chakrabortty, Aditya (2010), “The problem with a transparent Government” <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/08/problem-transparent-government>