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Deceptive Transparency: Problems in the New Conceptual Framework of Global Communication


The new conceptual language of “transparency” that pervades much of the dialogue about globalization is the logical result of dramatic expansion in the scope and sweep of technological, political and social changes. A sampling of the uses of transparency by global interests reveals that it is used inconsistently across various spheres of discourse. Further, its popular usage poses a contradiction in terms of the naïve realism that it connotes. In spite of numerous efforts to promote, cultivate and measure “media transparency”, the concept remains poorly defined. One of the lessons to be gleaned from this new idiom for democracy is, more specifically, how transparency denies the power of mediation. This essay samples some of the divergent uses of transparency in its technological, political and social-cultural dimensions. The discussion focuses on the varied uses of the transparency metaphor in global communication; the implications for technological and institutional spheres; and clarification of how the public sphere can subordinate the “hidden transcripts” of marginalized social groups.

Allen Palmer

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