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Contribution to Book
Feed: State Transparency Amidst Informational Surplus
forthcoming (2019)
  • Mark Fenster
An email arrives, promising inside information about the perfidious forces that secretly rule the nation. A Twitter feed from a prominent insider at an establishment think-tank announces the latest disclosure about the president’s secret role in the Russian conspiracy to manipulate the election that elevated him with the blast of toy cannon. Meanwhile, the President’s tweets serve to annoy, distract, humor, or comfort those who see them, and they above all announce some truth about his presidency. 

Debates about government transparency presume that the state controls an informational spigot, which can be made to allow information to flow or to stop its movement. All sides agree that information is a thing that can be made to move, indeed that is defined by its movement, and that its movement down a pipeline to the public is unidirectional and inevitable. This metaphor of informational flow has long been central to both the majority and dissent in canonical Supreme Court information access decisions. 

It may once have been accurate, but it is no longer. Instead, this essay posits and illustrates that the feed captures, as a metaphor, the current means by which the public comes to think about and know the state. The universe of social media feeds constitute non-directional, multi-vocal, seemingly random, and occasionally autonomous ways by which information moves. Laws and theories that attempt to restore the metaphorical ideal of an ordered flow will only disappoint those who bank on their ability to free or control government information.
  • transparency,
  • FOIA,
  • social media,
  • Trump,
  • Twitter,
  • conspiracy theory
Publication Date
Citation Information
Mark Fenster. "Feed: State Transparency Amidst Informational Surplus" forthcoming (2019)
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