Understanding social media

September 11, 2011

Thanks to an eminently useful blog post on the London School of Economics (LSE) web site entitled ‘Social media is inherently a system of peer evaluation and is changing the way scholars disseminate their research, raising questions about the way we evaluate academic authority’ I was referred to a recent paper by Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre from Business Horizons (2011) 54, 241-251 .

Whilst the blog post to some extent reflects the work I have been doing by using social media as a research implement, and part of which I’ll be covering on 15 September 2011 at the Ethicomp 2011 conference, whilst focusing on ‘The Ethical Aspects of Employing a Weblog in Research’, the paper referenced looks to social media in the round for all business, not particularly government. However, given the ongoing debate about the value and use of social media in government, the proposition is highly appropriate.

The model consists of seven social media building blocks constructed into what Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre describe as the honeycomb of social media. These two sets of seven-celled honeycomb describe ‘social media functionality’, along with ‘implications of the functionality’. As Hermida states these ‘building blocks’ offer a good starting point to consider the impact of activities as part of academic research, but I’d suggest these seven have a further application in the governance arena and I look forward to experimenting with them.


Government productivity

August 16, 2011

An interesting piece from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) Public Policy Group entitled “Why Does Government Productivity Fail to Grow? New public Management and UK social security“. The piece is most interesting in that it is heavily critical of productivity at the UK Department of Work & Pensions (DWP). This is even more interesting when it is likely that the DWP will be taking on the new Universal Credit system, removing the current processing of Housing Benefits from local government.

Due to constant pressures from auditors, central government performance indicators and funding constraints the local government systems have become as efficient as possible given the constant changes imposed upon them and upon the system from central government. For it now to be transferred to a government department, that has clearly failed to get its own house in order, is likely to be a disaster. The paper even describes the HMRC as more efficient, when this blog and Parliament were criticising it very recently!

Whilst the convergence of benefits is obviously a good idea, perhaps questions need to be raised as to where, when and how it can be done most efficiently, if we are not to be left in a worse situation than the one we currently have!

Get Carter

March 21, 2009

At the moment I’m never quite sure whose job (in government) it is to analyse who uses different channels and why, but at least Ofcom cover the digital one. The latest report (20 March 2009), of 58 pages and 37 pages of annexes, presents interesting results and, as the Head of Ofcom is reported to have said at a presentation, comes in direct conflict with the Carter report – Digital Britain – and some of the spin coming from the centre.

Significant variables to online participation are economic group, qualifications and age and it is appearing that the Internet is both supplanting and replacing traditional channels, which is a worrying trend towards disenfranchisement!

What struck me was the section where it was highlighted that the greatest popularity for online activity was for giving views, getting in touch with elected representatives, joining organizations and taking part in surveys and consultations. This was reinforced by the fact that being invited to partake in online consultations was an effective trigger.

It is also clear that there is a desire for traditional channels to remain open, particularly for those without access to, confidence, or trust in the new ones.

Going critical!

November 25, 2008

It’s just out, and despite its few pages and quite large download size (>1Mb) I haven’t read the final version yet.

Yes its: “insight: understanding your citizens, customers and communities” – the report from RSe commissioned by the IDeA, that incorporates the ‘wholesome’  bits from IDeA Community of Practice online conference in the summer, plus added feedback and examples from those who had anything to provide.

The picture of “babushka” on the cover coincides nicely with the other document I was linking it to: “Critically Classifying: UK E-Government Website Benchmarking and the Recasting of the Citizen as Customer” by Benjamin Mosse and Edgar A. Whitley of the Information Systems Group at LSE. The version I’ve just read is from the latest “Info Systems Journal” but I’ve since found a working paper on the LSE web site and a conference paper from 2004 or thereabouts. Not easy reading, even for me with a first degree in philosophy, along with many hours working on Heidegger and his continental brothers and sisters, but inline with the “babushka”, Mosse & Whitley use the onion skin analogy to describe Heidegger’s Ge-stell theory , the selective or uncritcal representation of the real world and how web site benchmarking can become caught up in this!  They have also picked up on the danger of using the citizen as customer metaphor, which was a bee in my metaphorical bonnet throughout the IDeA online conference, although I was deriving my argument from older philosophers, the Greeks, but I have also employed Hirschman’s theory of exit, voice and loyalty and other sources! They also pointed me to a lot more reading on the customer versus citizen debate.

I do hope the IDeA report is easier going…