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Transparency is the new objectivity

David Weinberger declares transparency to be the new objectivity: “Objectivity used be presented as a stopping point for belief: If the source is objective and well-informed, you have sufficient reason to believe…In the Age of Links, we still use credentials and rely on authorities. Those are indispensible ways of scaling knowledge, that is, letting us know more than any one of us could authenticate on our own. But, increasingly, credentials and authority work best for vouchsafing commoditized knowledge, the stuff that’s settled and not worth arguing about. At the edges of knowledge — in the analysis and contextualization that journalists nowadays tell us is their real value — we want, need, can have, and expect transparency.”

Transparency is worth promoting – whether in science, literature, or government. I don’t think, however, that transparency has a place in the debate of objective vs. subjective. Objective/subjective are ways of knowing or a perspective of what is permissible in coming to know (or in the case of objectivity, as noted by David, defining something as if it can be seen outside of ant perspective). Transparency is more like a filter or barrier. When we are not transparent, we are blocking how we see or what we see. When information is transparent (like the data tables that are used to create graphs/charts by organizations like OECD), we can better understand and evaluate what is added to data after it has been gathered/created.


  1. Clever turn of a phrase, but nothing that wasn’t said in Cluetrain.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink
  2. And said again in Everything Is Miscellaneous.

    George, you make a good point. Transparency can apply to either objectivity or subjectivity. But I was thinking about it within the economics of belief. Where objectivity in reporting used to bring us to belief, we are now coming to belief through transparency. That’s my over-stated hypothesis anyway.

    Friday, July 24, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink