Funny how one train of thought produces another. First, a few thoughts about transparency:
I'm not sure I follow what he says. It's not that we distrust the government all the more because of transparency; it's because the transparency we are given is not what in itself imparts trust. Oversight is only one of several ways that trust is built. If I follow Brooks's argument, the very fact that law is made behind closed doors should be an incentive for people to fight that much harder to get in, but that's not an analogy I put much faith in.
Not long after I read that piece, though, I got to thinking about how transparency in creative work, as opposed to government, might well be counterproductive.
A while back, a friend of mine talked about the idea of writing a novel — line by line, page by page, chapter by chapter — on the web. Not just posting things as they were written, but essentially "wiki-fying" the book so that people could "fork" the text as they pleased and create their own versions of it on the fly.
I wasn't crazy about this idea, and I explained why.
The creative process is essentially private. Up until very recently, the writer has worked alone in his room, scratching or tapping away. The rest of the world only knew he was done when a finished product emerged. He might consult with others during the process — an editor, a colleague, a trusted creative ally or adversary — but there was a tacit understanding that his work was his work, and that he had final say in the end result. If someone else wanted to rebut his points, they were free to do so, but on their own terms. Your work might well be flawed, but perfectability was not even the goal. It was to produce something that stood on its own and could be addressed on its own.
When you take a private process and make it public, you turn one person's conversation with himself into a free-for-all. A creative train of thought that must go all the way to the end to mature is all too easily derailed along the way by the suggestions of others — maybe well-meaning suggestions, but outsider's suggestions all the same. The end result is not a singular product, but a mishmash of threads that go off in all directions. It's not a thesis, but instead a committee debate, and about as aesthetically satisfying.
Sometimes this is useful. The wiki approach is handy when you want to get a lot of different minds brainstorming. It's not as useful when you need to clear out all the noise and clutter and draw on something from within to shape something that is clearly a product of one person's vision. It's good at aggregating raw data, but not as much at shaping it or imposing a structure on it. The article templates and portals that exist in Wikipedia didn't spontaneously arise; they were crafted by specific people who had specific ideas about how data should be presented.
When there can be any number of possible versions of something, there exists very little motivation to experience the work in any particular way — and even less motivation to produce it in any particular way.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind