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Published on Monday, May 09, 2016 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

What do we really ask for when we ask for more transparency? The international workshop Transparency. Thinking through an opaque concept aims at inquiring into the historical circumstances which allowed the concept of transparency to emerge in Early Modernity and how it progressively came to occupy such a central place in contemporary discourse.

Announcement

Argument

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”, Louis Brandeis once famously stated.  One hundred years later, there is a growing consensus that transparency is one of democracy’s best tools and that every citizen has a right to transparency. Demands for more transparency are more widespread than ever, in fields as diverse as corporate and public administration, finance, scientific research, sports, technology, media, and healthcare. Transparency is not restricted to the social or corporate spheres, however, but is also seen as an effective way to increase accountability and responsibility on an individual level: acting under the gaze of the public eye leads to more ethical behavior, or so we’re told. As opposed to concepts like regulation or surveillance, transparency doesn’t seem to have a negative counterpart. Perhaps the ultimate consensual value of our time, transparency is being invoked by President Obama and whistleblower Edward Snowden alike, by Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange but also by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Yet nothing is less clear than what is meant exactly when the word ‘transparency’ is used. At times the power of 'transparency' appears to lie in its mere utterance, as if it were a magic formula whose meaning doesn't need to be understood for its effects to be felt.

The International Workshop Transparency. Thinking Through an Opaque Concept aims at inquiring into the historical circumstances which allowed the concept of transparency to emerge in Early Modernity and how it progressively came to occupy such a central place in contemporary discourse. But what ‘transparency’ exactly refer to? The metaphoric level of the notion seems to strangely mirror its literal meaning: the perfectly transparent window is one which completely diverts the attention from itself. The less we see the windowpane, the more we see through it. But if seeing through is synonymous with overlooking, it can easily be understood why transparency – as an operative concept – rarely became an object of reflection in its own right.

After the first event, which took place at the University of St. Gallen in May 2015 (Transparency. A Critical Approach), the workshop aims at combining various approaches to the problem (philosophy, intellectual history, political sciences, cultural theory) in order to map and interconnect the various sites at which it became virulent and to ask how its imperative decisively shapes behaviors today.

 “Transparency should always be substituted for what is secret. I can quite well imagine the day when two men will no longer have secrets from anyone, because subjective life, as well as objective life, will be completely offered up, given”

 Jean Paul Sartre    

Organization

Emmanuel Alloa & Dieter Thomä (School for Humanities and Social Sciences, Universität St. Gallen)

Registration

Open to all interested participants upon previous registration:  Emmanuel.Alloa@unisg.ch

Programme

Thursday May 19th 2016

Location: St. Gallen University Campus, Room 01-114

  • 14.-14.15 Welcome
  • 14.15-14.45  Emmanuel ALLOA (St. Gallen) “’What is to Come will be Dominated by Transparency’. An Introduction to the Topic”
  • 14.45-15.45 Claire BIRCHALL (King‘s College London) “Transparency and Secrecy” 
  • 15.45-16.45  Bernhard TAURECK (Braunschweig) “Monitorcracy. On Different Kinds of Surveillance”
  • 16.45-17.15    Break
  • 17.15-18.15 Thomas BERNS (ULB Bruxelles) “Algorithmic Governmentality and the Promise of Transparency”

Friday May 20th 2016

Location: St. Gallen University Campus, Room 01-112 (Main Building)

  • 9.00 Welcome Coffee
  • 9.30-10.30 Caspar HIRSCHI (St. Gallen) “Transparency and Trust in Historical Perspective”
  • 10.30-11.30 Stefanos GEROULANOS (New York University) “The Matter with Transparency. A French Story”
  • 11.30-11.45 Break
  • 11.45-12.45 Miran Božovič (Ljubljana) “Seeing it All. Bentham’s Panopticon and the Dark Spots of Enlightenment”
  • 12.45-14.00  Lunch
  • 14.00-15.00  Noreen KHAWAJA (Yale) “The Ironist’s Confession. Beginning Again with Rousseau”
  • 15.00-16.00 Jörg METELMANN (St. Gallen) “The Inner Selfie. Media Desire, Moral Sentiments, and the New Markets of Transparency”
  • 16.00-16.30 Concluding Discussion

Places

  • St. Gallen University Campus, Dufourstrasse 50
    St. Gallen, Switzerland (9000)

Date(s)

  • Thursday, May 19, 2016
  • Friday, May 20, 2016

Keywords

  • transparence, vie privée, surveillance, espace public, gouvernance, subjectivité, intimité, politique, confession

Contact(s)

  • Emmanuel Alloa
    courriel : emmanuel [dot] alloa [at] unifr [dot] ch

Information source

  • Emmanuel Alloa
    courriel : emmanuel [dot] alloa [at] unifr [dot] ch

To cite this announcement

« Transparency. Thinking through an opaque concept », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Monday, May 09, 2016, https://calenda.org/365447

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