Wednesday, July 28, 2010

“Never erase the past”

The very first issue of 2600 magazine I ever saw had the following quote displayed on an illustration of a computer monitor on the cover:
Never erase the past

Today, local newscaster Barb Higgins entered the race for Mayor in Calgary. Unfortunately, she or her campaign team have chosen to hide her old Twitter feed.

Now, admittedly, there was nothing particularly interesting in the feed (not very many tweets on there — I had read through it a few days earlier when rumours of her candidacy started cropping up again). I doubt there was any “sinister intent” in this action. They may very well have just been trying to prevent people from confusing her old Twitter account with the new one for the campaign.

But, for me, that’s not the issue. The issue is transparency and accountability of those in, or vying for, public office.

Rather than leaving up an inconsequential record of some things she had previously said publicly, she has chosen to try to wipe the slate clean. If this is how she treats the record of the past on things that wouldn’t have any negative impact for her, what could we then expect of her in future if there is something consequential she does or says that she later wants hidden from the public memory?

I believe strongly in the value of putting everything on the table “warts and all.” I think it’s a critical practice on the part of everyone, especially politicians, if we are to have any chance at a well-functioning democracy.

(This motivates one of my core long-term plans for the Calgary Democracy project. I hope to develop it into an ongoing archive of all public information about our politicians — both candidates and those actually elected.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

A symbol for openness and transparency?

On the Calgary Democracy project website, I’m building in detailed accountability details for every bit of information posted. This tracks who added a given piece of information to the website, who edited it, which moderator confirmed it, and when all that happened. All that information will be made available in a way similar to the “History” on Wikipedia articles.

In working on the visual design for the website it occurred to me that it could be useful to have an icon/symbol for “transparency and openness” that could be used to link to the accountability details wherever they are available.

My question to you:

What would an icon for openness and transparency (especially regarding government) look like? Is there one already?

What visual element(s) might it incorporate? Some possibilities I can think of off the top of my head include: Locks, window, open book, hands with palms up, magnifying glass, ledger, … Many of those are already used for other things (especially magnifying glass for search) so would probably not be appropriate.

Please share your thoughts (or leads on existing icons). Thanks!