Framing Transparency in the U.S. – Cross-media Analysis of the Debate on WikiLeaks

  • Maria Bruckmann
  • Johanna Flesch


Some scholars have argued that the novelty of WikiLeaks for transparency is its usage of new technologies, acting as an example for the start of a new technological information era. Cull (2011), for instance, has argued that WikiLeaks exemplifies a “shift in power” made possible by “the technological revolution” that “has given one individual the communication power that was the monopoly of the nation state in the previous century” (pp. 2-3). As Bunz (2011) further outlines, Wikileaks shows how information from one can be send to many through the “digitalisation of knowledge” (pp. 139-140), whereby it has become easy to transport a great amount of information using minimal space. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the autopsy of data has become easy as programs help us order and analyse information. It is also an example of how the Internet has made it possible for anyone to publish and access information at any time (ibid.). In this chapter, we suggest that technology alone is insufficient to create different transparency standards and change the way politics are conducted. In line with Florini (2002), we believe that “transparency is a choice, encouraged by changing attitudes about what constitutes appropriate behavior” (p. 13). Thus, new technology must be accompanied by a change in attitudes, as “without a norm of transparency, technology will continue to protect private information as well as ferret it out” (Florini, 2002, p. 15). Studying the debate triggered by WikiLeaks presents the opportunity to examine whether its revelations have strengthened transparency in public perception, or if WikiLeaks is no more than the example of new technological means without any real impact on the discursive boundary between publicity and secrecy.


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