NEW RELEASE: “Openwashing: A decoupling perspective on organizational transparency”


Abstract: With the rise of digital technologies, organizations are able to produce, process, and transfer large amounts of information at marginal cost. In recent years, these technological developments together with other macro-phenomena like globalization and rising distrust of institutions has led to unprecedented public expectations regarding organizational transparency. In this study I explore the ways in which organizations resolve the tension between a growing norm to share internal information with the public and their inherent preferences for informational control. Through developing the notion of transparency decoupling, I examine how organizations respond strategically to transparency expectations. Drawing on studies of “open data” transparency initiatives in NYC, London, and Berlin, I inductively carve out three modes of institutional information decoupling: (a) selecting the disclosed information to exclude parts of the data or parts of the audience; (b) bending the information in order to retain some control over its representative value; (c) orchestrating new information for a particular audience. The article integrates literature from New Institutional Theory and Transparency Studies in order to contribute to our understanding of how information sharing is realized in the interaction between organizations and their environment.

Keywords: Information sharing; Transparency; Secrecy; Decoupling; Open data

Online first version available for download here (April 1, 2017).

Citation: Heimstädt, M. (2017) Openwashing: A decoupling perspective on organizational transparency. Technological Forecasting and Social Change