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This project begins from the premise that ‘transparency’ is not clear at all. Transparency is a historically mediated, culturally constructed, and ideologically complex concept. Understood expansively, transparency is enmeshed with a variety of functions and associations, having been mobilised as a political call to action; a design methodology; a radical practice of digital disruption; an ideological tool of surveillance; a corporate strategy of diversion; an aesthetics of obfuscation; a cultural paradigm; a programming protocol; a celebration of Enlightenment rationality; a tactic for spatialising data; an antidote to computational black boxing; an ethical cliché; and more.

Across two workshops, we will explore the multidimensionality and intractability of transparency by questioning how the demand for more of it—in our algorithms, computational systems, and digital culture more broadly—encodes assumptions about the liberational capacity of making unseen things visible. Understood expansively, ‘transparency’ can be a political call to action; a design methodology; a radical practice of digital disruption; an ideological tool of surveillance and capture; a corporate strategy of obfuscation and diversion; an aesthetics of failure; a cultural paradigm; a programming protocol; a celebration of Enlightenment rationality; a tactic for spatialising data; an antidote to computational black boxing; an ethical cliché; and more.

Across two workshops, we will explore the multidimensionality and intractability of transparency and investigate how the demand for more of it—in our algorithms, computational systems, and digital culture—encodes assumptions about the liberational capacity of restoring representation to the invisible. As a group, we will discuss transparency’s historical lineage; question its limits as an ethical imperative, and map its strategies of anti/mediation. Drawing on a combination of artworks, historical texts, cultural references, and theory, this project will give participants an opportunity to attend to transparency’s complex configurations within contemporary culture. This project is designed to facilitate collaborative study; foster inter-disciplinary discourse; promote experimental learning, and develop a more theoretically nuanced and historically grounded starting point critiquing transparency and its operations within digital culture.