The Limits of Transparency

"What does transparency show? What does transparency hide?"

Year: 2017
The Limits of Transparency
Class of the Arts

Steering Committee of the Thinkers' Programma "The Limits of Transparency"

Emmanuel Alloa
Barbara Baert
Anna Bergmans
Frans Boenders
Siegfried De Buck
Inez Dua
Freddy Dumortier
Willem Elias
Karin Hanssen
Koen Jonckheere
Herman Parret
Lucien Posman
Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven
Bart Verschaffel



Transparency is the consensus of our time. Its presence is ubiquitous today, and there is hardly any current debate where one can’t find demands for more transparency: debates about public governance, financial markets, corporate management, political lobbyism, citizen surveillance, open space offices, big data collection, open source software, food industry, athletics and sports, pharmaceutics, supplier information, energy efficiency, ecological impact, private and public research funding, quality assessment etc. As varied as they are, in all these matters, greater transparency is generally considered to lead to a better outcome. Favoring informational openness and the accountability of all actors, transparency is held up as a miraculous panacea, as an instrument through which the citizens concerned can claim institutional justice and limit practices of obfuscation, opacity or bribery. 
At the same time, transparency requests do not stop at the level of political or corporate action, but extend to the private life of citizens, with surveillance technologies significantly modifying behavior and forcing individuals to permanently publicize their thoughts and deeds. In the name of neutrality, expert judgments are more and more seen as suspicious while decision-making processes are progressively handed over to algorithms. 
The Thinker’s Program contributes to raising a public debate about the limits of transparency. What does transparency show? What does transparency hide? How can the knowledge from the arts, and its play of visibility and invisibility, tell us something about the logics of transparency and mediation?  Is the move towards transparency a move towards a more open and critical society or is there the danger that it leads to a society closed onto itself? 

The final symposium took place December 11th and 12th 2017.

Emmanuel Alloa

Professor Emmanuel Alloa is philosopher and cultural theorist. He currently works as Research Leader at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland), and has been lecturing as Invited Professor in a number of countries (United States, Brazil, Mexico, France and Austria). In 2016, the International Latsis Foundation awarded him a prize for his scientific achievements.

His publications deal with issues of perception, embodiment, aesthetics, image theory, but also increasingly upon topics of subjectivity and social philosophy. Currently, he is developing a Critique of the Transparency Society.