From Universalizing Transparency to the Interplay of Transparency Matrices: Critical Insights from the Emerging Social Credit System in China

Hans Krause Hansen, Richard Weiskopf

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Building on research on organizational transparency and surveillance, mediated visibility and Foucauldian dispositional analytics, we develop the concept of transparency matrices for studying the interplay of mediating technologies and normative arrangements in the formation of transparency as a heterogeneous regime of visibility. Using the emerging and controversial social credit system in China as a critical case, we make two contributions. First, we enrich the conceptual vocabulary for the study of transparency as a dynamic multiplicity with varying power effects in different contexts, challenging in this way universalizing and otherwise reductive notions of transparency. Second, by emphasizing the operation of several coexisting matrices we provide a novel way of approaching the ‘post panoptic’ condition which can account not only for the power effects of different modalities of transparency, but also for the instabilities and potential openings that are generated by their interplay. Transparency is heterogeneous, irreducible to a single reality and open to future becoming.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)109-128
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Dispositional analytics
  • Mediating technologies
  • Social credit systems
  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Transparency matrices

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