Translucent States: Political Mediation of E-Transparency`

Translucent States: Political Mediation of E-Transparency`

María Frick (Organization of the American States, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-918-2.ch013
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Abstract

This work focuses on online state communication through the analysis of Latin-American presidential portals. It postulates that even though governmental websites contribute to the dynamics of democracy in terms of greater transparency and participation in government processes, online government communication is neither completely symmetric nor transparent, since the ways of constructing, presenting and accessing the information are linked to cultural schemes. In this sense, the work argues that the search for transparency in Internet communication can expect -at best- clear and even translucent States, where transparency limits are determined by the sets of values and symbolic representations already existent in each society’s political culture.
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The Ideology Of Information

IN THE LATE 80´S, LATIN AMERICAN States began modernization processes focused on the notion of governance. In order to achieve equitable and democratic growths, these processes centered on the capacity of government institutions in terms of legitimacy and transparency. Thus, governmental communication acquired crucial significance, and problems related to diffusion, transmission and access to information became key elements in state management (Vega, 2002).

The notion of transparency is then associated to the free flow of, and access to, information regarding public actions and decisions, and this is considered a main link towards institutional strengthening and democratization (Heeks, 2004). The underlying hypothesis suggests that, if people can understand and be aware of government’s management, they will participate more regularly in decision making, thus generating in officials and representatives a greater sense of responsibility in public affairs, and consequently contributing to the establishment of a better government (Balkin, 1998; Heeks, 2004).

Under these premises, when ICTs started, they were widely recognized, and their identification with transparency became omnipresent in the speeches of politicians, mass media and social elites (CEPAL, 2000; Wolton, 2000; Tapscott, 2004). There is no doubt that, under certain circumstances, their impact is beneficial to social and political development and welfare. However, in general, their incorporation has been associated with emphatically positive, neutral, and transforming discourses promising the eradication of almost every problem affecting society (Wiesner, n.d).

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