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The Nature of Transparency

Transparency has to be considered in a wide context. It is part of the five core elements that drive online public relations namely: Internet Agency, Internet Porosity and Richness and Reach.

Transparency, as used in the humanities, implies openness, communication, and accountability. It is a metaphorical extension of the meaning used in the physical sciences: a "transparent" object is one that can be seen through. Transparency, as used in the humanities, implies openness, communication, and accountability.

Examples of transparency are typified when government meetings are open to the press and the public, when budgets and financial statements may be reviewed by anyone, when laws, rules and decisions are open to discussion, they are seen as transparent and there is less opportunity for the authorities to abuse the system in their own interest.

In economics, a market is transparent if much is known by many; what products and/or services are available; what price and where.

Transparency in communication is evident when the media is transparent such as when there are many, often competing, sources of information; when much is known about the method of information delivery and the funding of media production is publicly available.

""Radical transparency""

Radical transparency is a management method where nearly all decision making is carried out publicly. All draft documents, all arguments for and against a proposal, the decisions about the decision making process itself, and all final decisions, are made publicly and remain publicly archived.

The case for transparency according to Frank Buytendijk, Vice President of Corporate Strategy, Hyperion [1], “The case for corporate transparency is compelling. With perfect corporate transparency, everyone within a company has access to relevant information. Management accurately represents the drivers of the business. Annual budgeting is replaced with a system of continuous planning supported by a collaborative process. Every manager knows exactly how his or her decisions affect other aspects of the company. There is visibility into how external changes impact internal matters. And the organization is able to predict precisely how the market will respond to various activities.”

For most organisations, radical transparency,offers a number of disadvantages including competitive disclosure for companies and State secrets for some governement departments.

"Internet transparency"

Internet transparency, is the controlled posting and release of information to the Internet. It can take form in e-mail, web based and other device channel outlets. It may be institutional, overt, covert and unintentional.

"Institutional transparency" is where information about an organisation is made available by a wide range of authorities. It may be the listing about a company on the Government's list of companies held by Companies House and made available online, a register of members to a trade association, or a list of suppliers made available through a trade journal portal. There are hundreds, if not thousands of such places where information about an organisation, its people, brands, services and products are declared by organisations on-line. Information that is required by law, or the rules that are part of the infrastructure for a licence to operate. It's not just for companies. This form of transparency applies to voluntary organisation alike charities and even to individuals.

"Overt transparency" is where an organisation seeks to make information available. This can be to markets, consumers, employees and many other organisations and constituencies. Often this form of transparency is on a web site, offered in emails or provided to social media participants. For example, many organisations have listings in Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, trade associations and so forth. Other forms of overt transparency is when an organisation (or individual) makes information available to distribution technologies such as RSS.

"Covert transparency", is where organisations 'push' or manipulate information. Push content includes online advertising and similar marketing promotion. It can be attempts by the organisation to get a an advantage as, for example, in making web sites more prominent in search engine listings (called [Search Engine Optimisation] - SEO) information delivered to social media. Astroturfing (the practice of falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support by means of an orchestrated and disguised marketing exercise) is the antithesis of transparency. ""The Nature of Transparency""

"Unintentional transparency" is where information is available of made available through the offices of the organisation and is 'harvested', that is, collected from web sites and used to offer information to other Internet users. This kind of information can be simply a person taking information from a page on the organisation's web site and transcribing it. It can be the same thing but done by a computer and in more recent years it is information taken from part of a web page which could be no more than a line of two, an image, video, sound file or hyperlink to other pages (such as a news story in a newspaper's web site). Web widgets often contribute to transparency as well as Contributing to InternetAgency.

Transparency happens because, as part of the licence to operate, (both as a legal requirement and as part of building trust with constituents) information is online. Some is regulatory and some is references in online directories, association membership data or rules of trade bodies. It happens when people are named in association with organisations (and that can be as simple at the name of the organisation or web site is listed or because of email addresses and content on web sites is published online) and through social media. All organisations are to a greater or lesser degree transparent. So too are people. The amount of information made available about us all is quite considerable and is growing all the time.

Associated with Transparency is Internet Agency, Internet Porosity and the significance of Richness and Reach

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Page last modified on July 04, 2007, at 05:45 UTC