This week focuses on media and the government, however i would like to focus on Lawrence Lessig’s article on transparency.
Lessig (2007) brings forth the notion of transparency or ‘naked transparency’ which he notes as the liberation of data, particularly government data, so as to ‘enable the public to process it and understand it better, or at least differently’.
‘To understand something–an essay, an argument, a proof of innocence– requires a certain amount of attention.’ Lessig (2007) argues that an average person wouldn’t really give enough of their attention to actually understand these issues, which could ultimately lead to misunderstandings. Theres a big window of opportunity for individuals to completely misinterpret distributed information or to prioritise their time on an issue and ignore another. Furthermore, Lessig notes that ‘the ignorance here is rational, not pathological.’
Additionally, he notes that pursuing ‘naked transparency’ may lead to loss of faith in the government from society as it does not take into account ‘the full complexity of the idea of perfect openness’ (Lessig 2007). I can see why Lessig is wary of ‘naked transparency’ in the real world because it is obvious how full disclosure from governments could lead to misunderstandings and conflict between the state and society.
Full disclosure is also not fair because it still disadvantages individuals in society that may not be as educated as others. This makes more opportunities for individuals in society to take advantage of others and use the information to their own advantage.
It’s a noble notion that has good intentions however, the risk of possible misinterpretations or information being accessed by the wrong people is too high. It could ultimately lead to conflicts or may impede the governments ability to carry out their duties.
Lessig, Lawrence (2010) ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.’, < http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0 >