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Saturday, September 14 • 11:31am - 11:50am
“Social media & trust: Investigating Canadian government use of social media”

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Social media are being used to support a range of organizational and government activities, often involving shifts in public policy to engender greater openness, transparency and accountability. Governments and organizations are adopting new ways of engaging with citizens and increasing the accessibility and usability of public and private sector information fundamentally altering how organizations and governments create, (re) use, manage and eventually preserve information as records. “Government professionals are excited by the prospects of increased citizen engagement but concerned by what that engagement may mean for their control over the flow of information and their obligations to protect privacy, avoid censorship while preventing libel, and other inappropriate uses of government information technology resources” (Hansen & Shneiderman, 2011).

In 2008, the government of Canada (GOC) made a commitment to “build a comprehensive system to develop online collaborations and social networking projects” (Lux Wigand, 2010) and has subsequently pushed to make social networking services such as Twitter a larger part of their communication strategy for interaction with citizens. As government agencies and departments such as these move to using social media for communication processes they are generating a substantial number of new information artefacts. Interactions and decisions made through social media are documented, either purposefully or passively, and the resulting information artefacts become potential records of government. However, these records are difficult to identify, manage, and preserve (NARA, 2010).

This increasing government use of social media represents a challenge for both the short-term management of this information, and the archival mission of long-term, authentic preservation. To adequately address this growing trend, and its archival implementations, it is necessary to examine the practices and affordances of these technologies, and the nature of the information products generated through social and technical practices. One key challenge is that these technologies facilitate a complex, dynamic ecology of information enabling rapid organizational and relational changes. Moreover, the scope and dynamic structure of social media technologies are continuously evolving, with each new combination of tools and data creating new forms of information and documents. Consequently, the information and records created, and the information practices supported, are equally rapidly changing, challenging record keeping systems to keep up with a changing technological and user base. Current record keeping systems designed for static information practices must change to accommodate these dynamic processes. 

This paper examines government social media use and its implications for information policy and recordkeeping, utilizing three sources of data. The paper reports first on results of a content analysis of GOC Twitter accounts designed to understand the characteristics of the information artefacts generated. Next Interviews with federal government social media users are analyzed to give insight into how government agencies are incorporating Twitter into their information practices. Finally, relevant government policies and legislation are analyzed to identify potential impediments and omissions that prevent the effective collection, management and preservation of these potential government records. 

This research will provide evidence based findings to support theory building and policy development in the use, management and preservation of social media records generated through interactions between government and citizens.

avatar for Elizabeth Shaffer

Elizabeth Shaffer

PhD candidate, University of British Columbia

Saturday September 14, 2013 11:31am - 11:50am EDT
ROWE 1009

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