Oct 26, 2009

The Need for Transparency

As Cowhey and Aronson explored the various forces at work that shape ICT infrastructure and its distribution in society, the overarching theme I took from the reading was the absolute need for transparency in these processes. Cowhey and Aronson make a clear case against technological determinism (and by extension, then, an "automatic" process of governance), showing instead that the political economy surrounding ICT infrastructure chooses winners and losers and has a significant impact on the market. That politicians and government parties with specific ideologies and "brands" to uphold, and that ICT companies and technology firms have a vested interest in what policies get passed, underscores the fact that the most powerful decision makers in these matters have priorities that might not actually correlate with the interests of the public good.

And yet, while conscious of the constructed market created by policies and government decisions, the public, through the market, can still assert a voice in these processes. The difficulty, of course, is that a public response must reach a critical mass before it can have any impact. Thus, regular Joes (or Jackies) like you and me can feel disenfranchised from policy-making if we don't agree with the mainstream opinion, even though the process maintains a place for individual agency.

It is here, then, that the hows and whys of legislation, policy, and governance must be transparent. While I'm no technophile up to date with the latest technology debates, having these processes open to public scrutinization is where the public can make sure that their interests are represented in the winners that get chosen. Overall as a society, we need to recognize that the technology that makes it to the market does not always represent everything that is actually available. In the same way that media literacy is necessary to help people deconstruct the hegemonizing forces of the media, we need technical literacy to understand the processes that construct our choices as consumers.


  1. Hi!
    I would definitely agree with your sentiment that the need for transparency is essential. I wrote about this in my post, but to expand, oversight and transparency are necessary to maintain the non-discriminatory policies outlined in the reading. It seems that these policies are lacking and need to be improved.

  2. Hey, way to be diligent and post from abroad. Can we consider you a European correspondent? It's hard to come out against transparency, but I think an issue that's been highlighted by some of our earlier readings is that it's one thing to admire an ideal and another to enforce it on a global scale. And then there's the irony of the fact that we increasingly demand transparency from our government and privacy for ourselves. There will certainly be resistance to the idea of transparency, from government and the private sector and probably even from some civil society organizations. But I do think many of our writers, from Mattelart to Castells, would support increased transparency in governance. The question then becomes how to establish and sustain it.