Opaque Transparency: How Material Affordances Shape Intermediary Work

Regulation and Governance, Forthcoming

57 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2018

See all articles by Miron Avidan

Miron Avidan

McGill University - Desautels Faculty of Management

Dror Etzion

McGill University

Joel Gehman

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization

Date Written: September 17, 2018

Abstract

How do the material aspects of intermediary work affect regulators, targets, and beneficiaries? To shed light on this question, we studied an information intermediary in the form of a website and the organizations who founded it. Specifically, we analyzed FracFocus, a self-regulatory initiative with strong industry ties, charged with disclosing data pertaining to the chemicals used in oil and gas wells completed using hydraulic fracturing technology (fracking) in the United States and Canada. We found that between 2010 and mid-2017, in states and provinces where fracking actively occurred the vast majority of legislation was updated to mandate or encourage disclosure via FracFocus, meaning that it had a considerable effect on the trajectory of official regulation on fracking disclosure. We also found that FracFocus disclosed important data but did so in a manner that limited accessibility and reduced the comprehensibility of environmental and public health risks to beneficiaries. Our analysis suggests that the public’s experience of such a device is one of opaque transparency, in which the line between official and non-official regulation is blurred. We traced these outcomes to the material affordances created by FracFocus.

Keywords: Information Disclosure, FracFocus, Fracking, Material Affordances, Regulatory Intermediaries

JEL Classification: K32, Q53, Q38, L15, Z18, D82

Suggested Citation

Avidan, Miron and Etzion, Dror and Gehman, Joel, Opaque Transparency: How Material Affordances Shape Intermediary Work (September 17, 2018). Regulation and Governance, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3227071

Miron Avidan

McGill University - Desautels Faculty of Management ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. West
Montreal, Quebec H3A1G5 H3A 2M1
Canada

Dror Etzion

McGill University ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. W
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1G5
Canada

Joel Gehman (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Strategic Management and Organization ( email )

Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada
(780) 248-5855 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.joelgehman.com

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