Time, truth and accountability in information control and dissemination

Cameron, Louise Breslin (2012) Time, truth and accountability in information control and dissemination. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2951358


The title of my thesis is Time, Truth and Accountability in Information Control and Dissemination. The central argument of the thesis is that accountability is an illusion. We take accountability to mean being liable for actions and answerable to some body, but then we encounter the opacity of ‘liable in what particular respect?’ and ‘answerable to whom?’ Accountability is muddled with other concepts which we take to be implicit in its meaning. We appeal to ‘transparency’, but transparency is never absolute, and how would we know if it were? To make all processes and all information transparent to everyone who needs to know, wants to know, or claims to have an interest, would be a stifling endeavour. I will show that ‘accountability’ is a term much used but rarely understood, and that this can have tragic consequences not only for individuals but for society as a whole. Using Plato’s allegory of the cave as a structure for the thesis, I will develop the argument by following the prisoner’s journey through changing contexts, towards self-awareness and the understanding that our knowledge is always open to revision. Within accountability and audit culture, I will explore the entangled notions of transparency, truth, trust, freedom of information, justice and democracy, considering how our interpretation of concepts is context-dependent and how this affects communication, our understanding of our experience, ourselves and our world. The thesis is essentially phenomenological in style and approach. Integral to my inquiry is an examination of how our experience influences our understanding. Over time and in the process of everyday living, we accumulate experience and we interpret this experience. Our conclusions change, are constantly open to revision and are dependent on both our individual perspective and the wider context; our perspective and context are themselves subject to change with the passage of time. Awareness of this variability is fundamental to effective human communication because it allows us to move across different domains, maintaining some level of mutual understanding even as it is transformed by context. Yet, not withstanding this awareness, there is also the potential for intentional and non-intentional misuse of terms, resulting in misunderstandings and a failure of intelligibility and communication. If concealed and exploited rather than acknowledged and disclosed, this failure can alter the course of events irrevocably, and with disastrous consequences. This breakdown results in an erosion of trust on all scales, international, national, corporate, and individual, and once lost, this trust is hard to re-establish. Paradoxically, even when we discover the fragility of trust, we are drawn to trust again, sometimes with little choice, but the consequences of a continuing implicit trust can be serious, and I will elaborate on this idea with reference to several high profile examples. Finally, I will argue that we often seek security in our illusions, like Plato’s prisoner we can be dazzled by them and pained when they are dispelled, yet even when we are disabused of our illusions, we are never entirely free of them. We can never escape the Cave for we must trust in the potential for accountability of those responsible to us. I suggest then that we must move away from the rituals of accountability and towards an honest accountability where our common project is to seek truth, however painful that might be.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Accountability, Audit process, Belief, Care, Change, Collective, Communication Conclusions, Consequences, Context, Democracy, Erosion of Trust, Experience, Freedom of Information, Illusions, Information Control, Information Disclosure, Information Dissemination, Hermeneutics, Intelligibility, Interpretation, Justice, Knowledge, Meaning, Misuse of Terms, Pain of Truth, Phenomenology, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Power, Responsibility, Revision of Knowledge, Rhetoric, Rituals of Accountability, Self-awareness, Time, Transparency, Trust, Truth, Understanding, World
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Supervisor's Name: Stuart, Dr. Susan
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Ms Louise B Cameron
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3579
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2012
Last Modified: 13 May 2016 15:35
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3579

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