The benefits of publicness

I’m reworking an early but foundational section of my book, Public Parts, arguing the benefits of publicness, a list I presented at the PII conference in Seattle a few weeks ago. I’d like to bounce my thoughts off you and ask for your views of the value you get from being public, the value that also accrues to groups, companies, government, and society as a whole. I won’t go into great detail in this list because I’m eager to hear your thoughts. Here’s my opening bid:

* Publicness makes and improves relationships. To make connections with people, you need to be open and share. When you decide not to be public, you risk losing that connection.

* Publicness enables collaboration. That’s the beta lesson: When you open up your process, you invite people to help you improve what you’re doing. It is also, of course, the lesson of open-source.

* Publicness builds trust. Secrecy doesn’t.

* Publicness kills the myth of perfection. That is, when we open our process, we are showing our faults and are no longer held at every moment to the myth of perfection that has come to rule our industrial-age processes.

* Publicness disarms taboos. Publicness was the daring weapon gays and lesbians used to tear down their closets. I’m not saying that people should be forced out of their closets; that is their choice. But I am saying that when they do, it faces down the bigots who made homosexuality a taboo; it disarms them.

* Publicness grants immortality. (Note to Andrew Keen: That’s a joke.) Publicness at least grants credit and provides provenance for ideas and creation.

* Publicness enables the wisdom of the crowd. If we all keep our information, knowledge, ideas, and lessons to ourselves, we lose collectively.

* Publicness organizes us. Cue Clay Shirky. Speaking and assembling go hand-in-hand as rights. When we stand up and say who we are, we can find others like us and do things together.

* Publicness protects. This will be controversial but the knowledge that one’s actions could be public have an impact. That’s why I’m not against cameras on Times Square to thwart the next bomber.

* Publicness is value. This is an argument I’ll make that what’s public is owned by the public — whether that’s governments’ actions or images taken in public space — and whenever that is diminished, it robs from us, the public.

Mind you, this is not the chapter about privacy. I am addressing the value — and, a greater challenge, the definition — of privacy elsewhere.

Here I’m interested in hearing why you are public when you are and what you get out of it. I’d like to hear what else you would like people, companies, and governments to make public and how that would bring benefit.