One of many posts on my Readiness Assessment. As a reminder of the ground rules, this is a solo assessment, so while I’m allowed to think out loud on my blog, I can’t ask for or get (intellectual) help. Cookies and emotional support are, however, welcome.
All the RTR research I've mentioned so far looks at or works with a group that has always been an open community, which sometimes makes it difficult to discern which philosophies and patterns of transparency came about from the implementation of RTR in order to study the activity and which ones had already existed beforehand as part of the activity itself. There is no common terminology (the term RTR is my invention) and the exact nature of radical transparency has not previously been articulated – this document is a first attempt to do so.
The Changemakers project is one example of such a research project. Changemakers is a work-in-progress that draws on interviews with figures generally considered to be “changemakers” in their STEM disciplines in order to identify what their “change knowledge” is and how it was acquired. It doesn't study an open community. In fact, it doesn't even study a community; all the interviewees work in separate facilities ranging from academia to corporations to the government, and none of their employers are particularly strong drivers of transparency; if anything, they're drivers of confidentiality.
The changemakers do not comprise an open community, but the research project working to understand their insights and experiences is a space where radical transparency practices are utilized. Now, some of the changemakers participate in that space in various ways, and (while this hasn't happened yet) it's conceivable that they may someday encounter and collaborate with each other in that space. However, the starting grounds for that collaboration will be as contributors to the open research space, and any sort of radically transparent changemakers community that may evolve will grow from that – the study isn't examining one to begin with.
Now, the Changemakers research team can be completely public on the open web, but sometimes the group under study doesn't have such an option. Is it possible to use RTR with things that must be kept confidential? For instance, a government or corporate social science research team might be working on a classified product or studying a group whose nature or existence can't be publicly revealed. Less dramatically, a college preparing for accreditation or a lab group preparing for publication may not want to expose all their work to the entire world just yet.
The answer is yes. When we use the word transparency, we always need to ask: transparent to whom? Even things put out on the open web aren't transparent to everyone, because not every human being in the world has web access or is literate in the language we are writing in. In cases of transparency within confidentiality, we're simply drawing smaller and more explicit boundaries in terms of who will be included within the boundaries of our transparency practices.
I am, by the way, not completely convinced of everything I've written here. I think I know why -- it has to do with people learning the practice that they... well, practice. For instance, students in a poorly designed thermodynamics class might end up learning the practice of "cheating on examinations" instead of the practice of thermo. I need to articulate these thoughts in the context of engineering education to make them work, though. We'll see if I can manage to get that in the paper before the deadline -- but first I need to crack up the Methods section.