The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'transparency'
On his first day in office, President Obama has hit the ground running:
Addressing assembled White House staff, he said he had been inspired by the estimated two million who gathered to watch him being sworn in. He told staff he expected a higher ethical code at the White House than had existed under his predecessor, and issued executive orders imposing strict rules governing dealings with Washington's lobbyists. "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," he said.
He also issued a pay freeze on staff earning more than $100,000. "Families are tightening their belts and so should Washington," he said.
In two other executive orders, he is to ban torture by all US personnel and initiate a review of the cases of all those still held at Guantánamo. He ordered judges to suspend trials under way there.Obama also issued a draft executive order to close the Guantánamo prison within a year and offered to negotiate with Iran with no preconditions.
Another use of technology to make democracy more of a reality (as opposed to just voting for who'll take orders from the people that matter for the next 3 to 4 years): TheyWorkForYou.com, from the team that created FaxYourMP.com, takes the text of Hansard, the transcript of debates in Britain's House of Commons, and converts it into a threaded, linkable discussion form, not unlike, say, LiveJournal or something. Not only that, but it keeps tabs on MPs, including biographies, lists of their interests (shares, board memberships and such, as well as details of overseas trips and gifts received), how often they speak, performance in replying to faxes, and how often they rebel against their own party line. Here's Tony Blair, for example, and the ultra-groovy member for West Bromwich East.
This sort of system promises to reinvigorate democracy and hold politicians to be more accountable to their constituents. (Do you know what your MP has been doing?) I hope that the TheyWorkForYou team plan on releasing the code, because this sort of thing should be exported to other parliamentary democracies. I'd like to see one in Canberra, keeping tabs on Federal Parliament, for one, and ones for state Parliaments; not to mention US Congress, the EU Parliament, and so on. (via bOING bOING)
William Gibson, writing in the NY Times, claims that it is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret:
In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician and corporate leader: the future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did.
I say "truths," however, and not "truth," as the other side of information's new ubiquity can look not so much transparent as outright crazy. Regardless of the number and power of the tools used to extract patterns from information, any sense of meaning depends on context, with interpretation coming along in support of one agenda or another. A world of informational transparency will necessarily be one of deliriously multiple viewpoints, shot through with misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and a quotidian degree of madness. We may be able to see what's going on more quickly, but that doesn't mean we'll agree about it any more readily.