Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings

The Corporate Gaze - Transparency and Other Corporate Visions

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Abstract

In an expanding global economy, the notion of ‘transparency’ has gained increasing currency as an organizational goal. In a wide variety of situations, increased transparency is held up as a preferred point of direction for organizations, public as well as private. The notion of transparency implies visibility, possibilities for seeing through, for seeing, and being been. It carries hopes for more just procedures and open decision making processes. It suggests higher degrees of clarity, rationality and accountability. Transparency, then, is an entry-point to the understanding of contemporary society and culture and the visions and challenges that are attached to it.

The placing of transparency on the corporate agenda is evinced in the creation of corporate codes of conduct and standards for corporate social accountability. Through workshops, training sessions and consultancy services, corporate actors are learning how to ‘open their books’ to public scrutiny and judgement. We see it in ways of measuring and ranking performance and procedural outcomes. It is evinced as well in the use information technology and architectural design, ranging from online calendars to glassed buildings. Yet, processes of making visible certain kinds of information also involve complex negotiations regarding what shall be displayed and what shall remain hidden. It is not always in the best interest of a corporation to reveal valuable information. For example, companies often have to be reticent about providing information that may rob them of their competitive edge, and may have strong interests in being secretive about certain aspects of their activities.

The paper addresses the significance of ‘transparency’ for the understanding of contemporary organizational life. What broader social trends and fashions inform the call for transparency in organizations? How is transparency manifested in organizational practices? What are some of the advanteges and challenges in pursuing transparency? Such questions, and other issues, will be addressed in this presentation

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