Total Transparency: Toward Integrity or Artifice?

In an extraordinary paper (and talk) on social networking, danah boyd brings up the following anecdote to explain how publicity can modify self-presentation:

In the early 1960s, Stokely Carmichael regularly addressed segregated black and white audiences about the values of Black Power. Depending on his audience, he used very different rhetorical styles. As his popularity grew, he began to attract media attention and was invited to speak on TV and radio. Unfortunately, this was more of a curse than a blessing because the audiences he would reach through these mediums included both black and white communities. With no way to reconcile the two different rhetorical styles, he had to choose. In choosing to maintain his roots in front of white listeners, Carmichael permanently alienated white society from the messages of Black Power.

Glenn Reynolds notes a similar dynamic on the campaign trail:

There’s this weird paradox, in that the more transparent you become, the less spontaneous you can be. For example, you had these stories of people like JFK and LBJ on a campaign airplane, shooting the bull off the record with reporters and saying all kinds of stuff that they would never say now. But there’s no such thing as off the record anymore.

I don’t have much analysis, but I think there’s one other dynamic that may come into play–the gradual acceptance by the public of gaffes and miscues as the pressures of perpetually being on stage become clear. The media has gorged on such “pseudo-events” for too long. Coverage of real policy differences, rather than slips of the tongue, would be refreshing.

You may also like...