Wikileaks is one of the many forms of publishing in illustrating how the digitalisation of data and publishing directly influences society, public opinion, and also how people differentiate different types of media. While there are a variety of political standpoints on Wikileaks, no doubt can be given on its impact to the current state of the world. From the About section on the Wikileaks website,
“1.3 Why the media (and particularly Wiki leaks) is important
Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.”
This is Wikileaks’ explanation of its idealised attempts in making data and information open and democratised to all, by allowing transparency and accessibility through publishing leaked documents from governments and corporations. Based on the pre-existing notion that there is an information hierarchy in which information and knowledge is undemocratic, governments and corporations maintain their power and status quo partly through keeping classified information and company secrets away from ordinary people.
The controversies generated by Wikileaks is not just through the content of the leaked cables, but more to a debate on whether this form of publishing is being constructive or destructive. I think it is at times quite ironic that Wikileaks is criticised by journalists of major news outlets for fulfilling the role of the fourth estate in scrutinising governments and corporations that most journalism fails at doing nowadays.
Another crucial issue in publishing that is less mentioned is how Wikileaks functions in the data infrastructure of being digital and online. All of its publications are archived and there are mirror sites to allow free and open access to the information that are potentially censored by certain governments or enterprise networks. Online publishing means aggregation, distribution and archives are relatively easy over the world, so the data and information published by Wikileaks is globalised, as well as having a global audience not restricted by bureaucracy and hierarchical social systems.
I think we can place value to what Wikileaks is doing in publishing by pressuring governments and corporations to be more transparent and democratic to the public. Some may say Wikileaks is generating unnecessary public fear by exposing secret documents, but will public ignorance help make the world a better place? If information has power, then let this power be democratic and available to all.