The project Black Transparency questions how information is organised globally and what role the concept of transparency occupies within it. Metahaven's research in this field covers the technological, legal (infra) structures of information, organisation, and power networks of the Internet, in relation to locality.
The internet, once seen as the de-territorialised space amid a world of nation states, appears to be an instrument with far-reaching consequences and implications for borders, jurisprudence, and sovereignty. This is at odds with the original ideology of the Internet: freedom (of information), emancipation, and democratisation.
The current Western democracy presupposes open government and personal privacy. Trust is a key concept in the relationship between business, government, and citizen. Transparency is an extension of the concept of trust. However, as the current examples of 'whistleblowers' show, the practices of governments are often hidden under a blanket of secrecy and/or hidden agendas. The possibilities the internet offers for self organisation through, on the one hand, the sharing of information and, on the other, the economically motivated power structures of the hidden, do not fit within our democratic and humanitarian principles. From Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks to LulzSec and Anonymous, from the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative to the disclosures of Edward Snowden, the calls for knowledge and for public transparency are becoming louder and more visible.
The visualisation of 'transparency' also raises questions about identity, representation, and the role of the design discipline(s) itself. The Internet as a superstructure of creation, transmission, and imitation, means designers are not only capable of creating a message but also to play an important role in catalysing political and social change.
Black Transparency is an exhibition of Metahaven's research and design work, translated by them into visual proposals, infographics, garments, a short film and video interviews with internet activists and legal experts about the ambiguity, contradictions, and the potential around the production and distribution of information.
The publication Black Transparency - The Right To Know In The Age Of Mass Surveillance will be released this fall and is published by Bureau Europa and Sternberg Press, Berlin.
Metahaven is an Amsterdam-based research and design collective on the cutting blade between politics and aesthetics. Metahaven's work—both commissioned and self-directed—reflects political and social issues in provocative graphic design objects. Metahaven’s work has been published and shown world wide. Their anthology Uncorporate Identity, was published by Lars Müller Publishers in 2010. Can Jokes Bring Down Governments was released by Strelka Press, Moscow in 2013.