CFP: Transparency. Aesthetic Reflections, Political Implications (Lessico di Etica Pubblica XV, 1)

Submission deadline: May 31, 2024

Topic areas


Edited by Graziano Lingua (Università di Torino) and Francesco Striano (Università di Torino – Collège des Bernardins, Paris).

The 1/2024 issue of Lessico di Etica Pubblica aims to question from a philosophical, legal-political, and social point of view the concept of transparency, its history, and its influence in defining public space, especially starting from the fortune it is having in contemporary digital society.
The notion of transparency, in its original meaning in the realm of physics, indicates the property possessed by a material, allowing light to pass through, thus enabling the observer to see what is behind the material. An object the more transparent it is, the more effectively hides itself and gives the impression of not being there. The success of the metaphorical use of this concept lies in this ambiguity: an object, an institution, or a practice is “transparent” to the extent that it exists and exercises its function without appearing. For this reason, transparency becomes synonymous with unlimited openness and direct access to reality. It tends to hide the nature of the mediation processes that are nevertheless at play and the grey areas that accompany every process that claims to be transparent.
Since the dawn of the digital turn, “transparency” has become a keyword in the belief that access to an enormous mass of information could open the door to a transparent totality, thus improving our knowledge of the world, events, and deliberative and decision-making processes. It has transformed into a real imperative that has made disintermediation the antidote to the opacity of power and the essential condition for true democratic participation. This imperative has not only manifested itself at a political level in the vertical relationship between citizens and rulers but has also extended horizontally in social relations and everyday life. In every area today, transparency seems to rise to an absolute value, making us forget the original ambiguity of this concept. This enthusiasm for total visibility eludes a fact: transparency is not the absence of mediation, and what we define as “disintermediation” is nothing more than a different form of mediation. A “transparent” medium allows you to see a portion of reality but hides another. Every social relationship that claims to be transparent is guided by individual and collective choices that structure specific “visibility regimes.”
From this ambiguity and its concealment derive some problems that a critical reflection on culture and society must face today. From an aesthetic-perceptual point of view, digital technologies seem to allow us direct, immediate, and transparent access to the world and information. However, how much is this transparency synonymous with immediacy? Is it possible that what seems transparent hides invisible nuances, manipulations, and perceptual and cognitive biases? How do perceptual experiences change in the digital age, where images and data seem immediately apparent despite the increasing levels of mediation necessary for their processing?
From a political perspective, digital technologies promote disintermediation in the name of direct access to political processes and decisions. But does this radical change positively impact the quality of democracy, or is it an illusion that can hide even more subtle forms of power? How have decision-making processes and political participation changed in the digital age – from social networks as a means of political affirmation or activism to the introduction of decision-making algorithms? What challenges does the spread of generative artificial intelligence/machine learning present where the immediacy of what machines produce results from multiple levels of computational mediation? Can disintermediation in access to information be one of the causes of the crisis of expert mediators, like that of MDs and scientists witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic? Can a lack of transparency explain the spread and success of fake news, or are they the product of an ideologically flawed application of the principle of transparency itself?
These and other issues impose a rethinking of the idea of transparency, its meaning, its history, and risks.
Starting from the questions mentioned above, this topical issue aims to collect contributions focused on – but not limited to – a discussion of transparency concerning the following themes:

• Genesis, history, and fortune of the concept of transparency
• Mediations and immediacy
• Testimonial value of the image
• Limitation or enhancement of perceptual experience in the digital age
• Perceptual and cognitive biases
• Legal conceptions of transparency
• Disintermediation and democracy
• Crisis of expert mediation
• Fake news and manipulation of information
• Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and decision-making processes

Essays prepared for blind review process and standardized according to the editorial standards of the journal must be received by May 31, 2024 at the following email addresses: [email protected] and [email protected].

Contributions in Italian, English, and French will be accepted.

Maximum length: 30,000 characters including spaces and notes.

Contributions must comply with editorial standards.

Authors are also invited to use the journal’s style sheet.

For information, you can contact the editors at [email protected] and [email protected].

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#transparency, #fake news, #expert mediation, #information, #data fairness, #democracy, #biases