Publicness

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A few reflections...

  • How do we define "publicness"? Critical Practice has talked about "being in public" as one understanding, to which I would add the critical engagement with being in public. It's about engaging with or unpacking certain assumptions about the practice of public space, the practice of the public body, the practice of public personae. It's useful, I think, to consider being in public in terms of imbricated practices that enact various social codes, various forms of organization.

Notable Google Hits (the bold bits are my emphasis)

The "Publicness Puzzle" in Organization Theory: A Test of Alternative Explanations of Differences between Public and Private Organizations - a paper by Barry Bozeman and Stuart Bretschneider

"Publicness" is defined as a characteristic of an organization which reflects the extent the organization is influenced by political authority. The concept, operationalized as a series of interval measures, is placed in direct competition with the traditional core definition of publicness as ownership (i.e., formal legal status). Using a sample of research and development laboratories, the two approaches are compared in terms of their ability to explain organizational outputs and process in the context of an explanatory model. The results suggest that both approaches tap unique characteristics of publicness and contribute to a more complete understanding of the role of publicness in the study of organizations.

From the blog BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis

When the photo service Flickr started, its husband-and-wife founders, Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, made a fateful if almost accidental decision. As Fake puts it, they “defaulted to public.” That is, while other online photo services made the assumption that users would want to keep personal pictures private—stands to reason, no?—Flickr decided instead to make photos public unless told otherwise.

Amazing things happened. People commented on each other’s photos. Communities formed around them. They tagged their photos so they could be found in searches because they wanted their pictures to be seen. They contributed more photos because they were seen. And as I will explain later, their usage of photos helped interesting ones to bubble up, which was possible only because they were all public.

Fake calls this condition “publicness,” which is becoming a key attribute of society and life in the Google age. I believe publicness is also becoming a key attribute of successful business. We now live and do business in glass houses (and offices), and that’s not necessarily bad.

Publicness is about more than having a web site. It’s about taking actions in public so people can see what you do and react to it, make suggestions, and tell their friends. Living in public today is a matter of enlightened self-interest. You have to be public to be found. Every time you decide not to make something public, you create the risk of a customer not finding you or not trusting you because you’re keeping secrets. Publicness is also an ethic. The more public you are, the easier you can be found, the more opportunities you have.



Return to Practice Literature * Return to Main Page * Publicness * See also Artists Working with Publicness * Publicness