Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Corporate Blogging as Synthetic Transparency?

The purpose of this post is to introduce a new phrase (or at least I think it is) into the discourse about corporate blogging -- synthetic transparency. Synthetic transparency involves using blogs to give the impression of openness, honesty, and transparency but without really doing so.

This notion is based on Norman Fairclough's* idea of "synthetic personalization"** which he defines as:

... a compensatory tendency to give the impression of treating each of the people 'handled' en masse as an individual. Examples would be air travel (have a nice day!), restaurants (Welcome to Wimpy!) and the simulated conversation (for example, chat shows) and bonhomie which litter the media. (p. 62)

Of course companies can engage in all kinds of practices, besides blogging, to give a false sense of openness. However, given the purported sense of transparency that blogs are supposed to provide, we should be especially attentive.

Please note that I have a cautious sense of optimism about the potential for blogging to create a greater sense of openness and transparency in corporate communication efforts. So I introduce this phrase to give us a way to call out companies who are not using blogs to their fullest, and ideal(istic), potential.


* Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.

** Also see Deborah Cameron's use of synthetic personalization as applied to customer care philosophies and practices in organizations. Cameron, Deborah (2000). Good to Talk? Living and Working in a Communication Culture. London: Sage.