Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On the QT, and very hush-hush

In what now feels like a Quixotic quest we tried some time ago to get Creative NZ to release the list of who put in a proposal to be NZ's representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale. As you all know Simon Denny was selected but CNZ refused to release who else went for it. Denny was a great choice from our perspective, but how could you know if this was the best choice unless you also knew who else was in the running?

So we asked the Ombudsman whether the privacy of the people who have entered what amounts to a competition overrides the public interest in the range of options available to the panel. That didn’t turn out too well either. We learnt that the Ombudsman’s office has 2,000 outstanding complaints and has yet to allocate 450 of them to investigators. As one of the noble 450 we are not expecting an answer this year (which is just as well because we haven't had one) or most of next.

While this must be a distressing situation for people who have important issues to be considered, it's still annoying when you want a ruling on a point of principle. What's worse in the balancing of privacy and public interest is that our public servants will no doubt be emboldened to keep more secrets knowing there is unlikely to be any speedy push-back for the public.

Let them beware though. Recent research demonstrates that secrecy is bad for you (we’re looking at you too Walters Prize panelists).

Having secrets makes us feel sad: Professor Tom Frijins in the International Journal of Behavioural Development.

Sharing secrets makes you healthier: Professor Anita Kelly  “Revealing Personal Secrets” 

Secrets make us feel burdened: study published in Social Psychology and Personality Science

Our brains won’t let us keep secrets for too long: Assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience Laura Smart

This from Sarah Sloat’s excellent The Secrets We Keep (Are Making Us Sick and Screwing With Our Brains) in the Pacific Standard.