The Promise and Problems of Transparency

Joline Blais and Jon Ippolito presented models of open governance on November 12 at U-Me’s Promise and Problems of Transparency conference. Organized by Desiree Butterfield-Nagy, the event featured a “hyperblog” organized by Blais and Ippolito with help from Still Water Senior Researcher Craig Dietrich.

10orono Cohen Transparency 2 illWhile representatives of the US Senator Susan Collins and the incoming Maine Governer discussed their offices’ efforts to daylight more of government’s everyday workings, Blais described alternative self-governing structures in which transparency was already “built-in.”

Among Blais’ examples was the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a sustainable community in mid-coast Maine whose development, financing, and other processes are driven by consensus among the 36 households involved.

10belfast Coho Maypole 1 illIppolito, meanwhile, noted creative efforts like They Rule and Maplight that inject transparency into otherwise opaque systems.

Mandiberg Therealcosts ExcerptBlais and Ippolito also showed Michael Mandiberg’s The Real Costs, a Firefox plug-in that automatically calculates and adds the carbon used to the other data returned by a search on travel Web sites such as The Real Costs is an example not simply of daylighting information but of providing it exactly when and where it’s needed.

On Josh Theyrule ExcerptStill Water’s hyperblog enabled audience members to stage a conversation updated in real time that ran in parallel with the remarks made by the keynote and panel speakers. These remarks were then re-presented by U-Me professor Sunny Hughes as additional questions and comments at the end of each presentation. All comments on the hyperblog remain archived online. Blais and Ippolito’s presentation notes can be found here.

As reported in the Maine Campus, the forum was inspired by Ex-senator William Cohen’s choice to give his financial records as part of the Cohen Archive to promote transparency among public servants.

Shown from top to bottom: Blais and Ippolito presenting, photo by Haley Richardson; a maypole raising by the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage; thumbnail from The Real Costs; and excerpt from They Rule.

William S. Cohen Papers Forum 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wells Conference Center, University of Maine, Orono
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