A Privileged Source of Information


Transparency is an inspiring concept. It leads to abstraction, stimulates sublime feelings and ideals. It could be viewed as a leading parameter for social science (Ish –Shalom) and surely it represents an essential element of contemporary art (Bruciati). Nevertheless implementing transparency in reality is more complex then one could think at the first glance.

The “New Approach” to the Readmission of Illegal Persons: Operability versus Transparency

“No one knows the numbers who have died trying to get to Europe. No one knows the number of people who have died after seeking and being denied asylum at the borders of Europe. No one knows the numbers who have died at the hands of officials of their own countries on being returned as rejected asylum-seekers from Europe.”(Abell Albuquerque, Nazaré -1999)


In 1914, a German writer named Paul Scheerbart published a futuristic treatise of one-hundred-eleven sections called “Glass Architecture”. Scheerbart was a poet and a science fiction novelist. Before becoming a writer, he was an inventor experimenting with a perpetual motion machine. He lived in Berlin, kept an impressive circle of intellectual drinking friends, and since the turn of the century had written an average of a book and a half each year.


Following the privatization of Deutsche Post in 1995, the company built a new office building in Bonn in 2002 to highlight the strength of its corporate image. The Post Tower, at 162.5 meters, is now the tallest building in Bonn, and as designed by architect Helmut Jahn, its oval glass sheath provides ventilation in the summer and insulation in the winter. Moreover, as befits a company devoted to communication, this monument in glass and steel sends a message: We are powerful; we are also transparent. See, nothing up our sleeves.


1914 not only marks the beginning destruction of the historic stone facades of Western Europe’s cities. In the same year, the Belgian Emile Fourcault invented a method for the commercial production of large glass sheets: flat glass. Early generations of Modernists immediately became enthralled with the revolutionary potential of this transparent technology. For the first time in human history, it became possible to conceive of buildings, programs, etc – that would not be there; buildings, whose presence would be a studied kind of absence; whose form would have no expression.

Intelligible Materials

“the aforementioned substances, which we called immaterial, must also be intellectual. Indeed a thing is intellectual since it is immune to material, as can be conceived by the intelligible itself.” (Thomas Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, I, 50)


Transparency: The Stranger in Our Midst


“Glass is strange”: With this statement, as seemingly mundane as it is illuminating, begins a recent attempt to write a “world history” of glass. Indeed one would say, but perhaps not entirely obvious. Glass is so omnipresent in our daily lives that it has become nearly invisible, taken for granted, but when we do take closer notice, it is hard to categorize, existing only as an in-between state of matter.


The new museum age is upon us. Only a decade ago, the “poetics and politics” of museum display were subjected to scrutiny, deconstruction, and plain criticism. Essays like James A. Boon’s melancholy piece, “Why Museums Make Me Sad,” appeared on the scene at that time. Douglas Crimp wrote his reflections “On the Museum’s Ruins” and, still earlier, Theodor W. Adorno famously compared the museum to a mausoleum.


To explain, to understand, to explore facts and relations between facts, to find causal mechanisms, to theorize social reality, to expose what is otherwise unknown, to disclose hidden truths on society; all these terms and expressions describe the mission of the social scientist. Yet, we can use a different notion to convey this mission: transparency. The role of the social scientist is to make the social world transparent, both to the observer and to the participant.


Some time ago The Wayward Cloud [the last film in the trilogy by Taiwanese director Ming-liang Tsai comprising What Time Is It There? (2001) and The Skywalk Is Gone (2002)] passed through São Paulo. With little dialogue and lots of songs, the film follows - among other characters dealing with a water shortage in Taipei - Hsiao-Kang, an impromptu pornographic film actor who seems a bit fed up with the gymnastic artifice to which his work subjects him.

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