Award Date

8-1-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Public Policy and Leadership

First Committee Member

Chris Stream

Second Committee Member

Jessica Word

Third Committee Member

Yeonsoo Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Susie Skarl

Fifth Committee Member

Kendall Hartley

Number of Pages

119

Abstract

Social media platforms have extended the information and communication technology (ICT) landscape in the public sector and have been used to increase e-government transparency, participation, and collaboration in the U.S. e-government. The use of social media platforms has improved a two-way communication for the interactivity with the public, which can provide insights to understand compliance with the Open Government initiative. However, many government agencies using social media have not thoroughly measured the impact of their digital interactions. Moreover, a lack of empirical studies of social media exist for improving the interactivity between governments and the public. Furthermore, scholars have not yet examined the interactivity of the social media between the Nevada’s e-government agencies and the public. Hence, public administrators should implement social media platforms for the potential innovative practices; thus, they must estimate how social media can support their task beyond the formal informing and educating goals (Mergel, 2016).

With the analysis of Twitter accounts, this study examined the interactivity of social media between Nevada e-government agencies and the public and attempts to answer three fundamental questions:

1) How is the interactivity between the state of Nevada e-government agencies and the public measured?

2) What factors influence the interactivity of social media between Nevada’s e-government agencies and the public?

3) How can Nevada’s e-government agencies make use of social media to facilitate interactivity with the public?

More specifically, this study proposed an analytical framework based on interactive theory and critical theory, which were used to develop an analytical framework for measuring social media contents as derived from Hao, Zheng, Zeng, and Fan’s (2016) study. Based on the research framework, the concept of interactivity was divided into two sub-dimensions that were the reflection of interactivity and transmission of interactivity (retweet). Based on the lack of limited measurement attempts by social media directors (Mergel, 2013a), a framework consisting of metrics, procedures, and outcomes is presented that aims to explore interactivity of social media between government agencies and the public. To investigate the government posts (structural features and content features), this study used mixed methods, which focused on collecting, analyzing, and mixing both quantitative and qualitative data. The benefits of mixed approaches provides a better understanding of research problems than either approach alone (Creswell & Clark, 2007).

The results of this study demonstrated that the factors that could explain the degree of interactivity. The factor that influenced the interactivity were determined by two dimensions, which were structural features and content features. This study found that both structural features and content features affected dependent variables (reflection of interactivity and transmission of interactivity).

The results of this study provided recommendations to improve the interactivity between Nevada e-government and citizens. Government posts should provide a variety of multimedia elements (e.g., video and pictures) and add more external links to facilitate information dissemination. Public administrations should offer valuable and beneficial original posts (tweets) to facilitate conversation from citizens, which make them more inclined to reply to the posts and express their opinions. The state of Nevada should continuously provide updated training with public administrators because technologies and the function of social media platforms are rapidly advancing in the contemporary era. Public administrations should accept the best business practices, namely, innovative ideas from domestic and international social media companies. By operating under such best practices, transaction costs might be reduced. In addition, Nevada state agencies should offer an outreach and education program to learn innovative functions of social media platforms. Public administrations should change from governing individuals and information to becoming a facilitator and moderator of discourse for implementation of social media platforms (Knox, 2016). This shift should involve releasing control of power and government posts (information) and should provide an incentive-centered design of social media platforms; then, citizens can choose how they want to participate in their communities, work together, and interact with their environment (Johnston, 2010).

This study has applied Habermas’ critical theory and interactive theory to the use of social media platforms in public administration. These dual theories could promote the development of social media platforms in the public sector. However, public administrators have considered whether to use an alternative theoretical lens. Since power to the public for symmetric communication is related to cultures, rules, policies, and procedures, the legitimacy dilemma facing administrators will remain (Knox, 2016). Without changing organizational culture, procedures, or rules, the application of social media platforms will not be sufficient to expand the public sphere. Therefore, public administrators should implement social media platforms for potential innovative practices; thus, they should estimate how social media can support their task beyond the formal informing and educating goals (Mergel, 2016).

Although this research was not designed to provide policy suggestions to the state of Nevada e-government, implications for policy should not be ignored because government policy is related to using social media platforms by agencies. The use of social media channels that offer innovative platforms provide bidirectional content for interaction with citizens. Obviously, one distinct advantage is that social media platforms is highly interactive and self-updating, which allows for quick response about disseminated information. However, the current political environment using social media can engender a more provocative system for today’s social media users.

A key concern would be the degree to which Nevada state e-government requires its social media to be professionally managed to facilitate political debates. As noted by Pew Research, some politically active social media users enjoy the political debate and discussion facilitated by such engagement; however, a larger amount of users express resignation and frustration over the tone and content of political interactions (Duggan & Smith, 2016). Nevertheless, the results of this study illustrated that the use of social media platforms would be more beneficial for public presidential debates. Therefore, agencies should frequently provide updated political information with their followers to participate in government policy and decision-making.

Currently, the use of Facebook and Twitter is prevalent for political debates. Facebook has many followers and Twitter users tend to follow a broader variety of connections. Although each platform has different mix of people and viewpoints, users of each site are connected to their followers and may have reciprocal influence on a broad range of political issues. From different perspectives of government policy, agencies can proactively start communication, which facilitate informal exchanges and participation in the formal work of government.

This study has several limitations. First, this study investigates only the use of Twitter in Nevada state agencies; thus, the generalization of the results is problematic. Second, Nevada state e-government agencies do not have many followers as compared to other states, which means that the lack of tweet activities (replies, likes, and retweets) influences the results of this study. Third, although total government post (tweet) were significant during collection data, the responses such as comments, likes, and retweets generated were relatively small. The sample data were collected for 17 days (from October 15 to 31, 2016). Because of the period data collection, most contents were related to events for the 2016 presidential debate and Halloween holiday. Fourth, although the sample data was easily extracted and automatically processed utilizing NVIVO software, it does not include likes and other independent variables such as mentions and hashtags; and it only shows original posts related to tweet type. To test hypotheses, the data was required the number of retweets, replies, and likes for calculating the average daily ratio. Furthermore, this study has to measure the ratio of average number of daily forwards, comments (replies), and likes to see the relationship between the dependent variables and independent variables. Therefore, this sample data was also additionally analyzed by using Excel manually. Finally, this study categorizes only two features (structural and content) related to social media posts. Accordingly, Twitter’s contents in this research needed to utilize more categorizing feature words.

Since the generalization of the results affect this study, future study should examine Twitter accounts for Nevada counties and cities. Even future research should investigate the assessment between the state of Nevada and other states, as well as the counties and cities of Nevada and those of other states. Future research should examine a survey or interview of local government officials to assess if e-polls conducted on their social media platforms might lead to policy, management, and reforms.

The length of data collection should be expanded for future research to examine a period that extends beyond a crucial and highly partisan presidential election to include a more typical timeframe. In doing so, the results ascertained may be informative of whether and to what degree the outcomes generated would be different. In addition, future studies should investigate motivational factors of social media users’ commenting practices in online communities. It could be of interest for future studies to examine user habits across social media channels. It would also be desirable to study other types of user behaviors and make a comparison among them. Further studies should examine different types of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as this study focused only Twitter.

Additional research on the application, adoption, and implementation of social media platforms by administrators would be valuable. In particular, research on the complexity of politics-administrations dichotomy and legitimacy dilemmas is needed (Knox, 2016). Thus, it is vital to comprehend the use of social media platforms from the perspective of administrators. Future empirical research could attain the results on which social media platforms would trigger increased or decreased interactivity between administrations and the public as well as administrative legitimacy, transparency, collaboration, and participation. Scholars could apply the results to the citizens’ perspectives, and assess their emotions and sense of alienation from, or affinity for the use of social media platforms.

Since this study utilizes two theories (interactivity and critical theory), future research should compare several different theories to social media platform capabilities. To further test of Habermas’ theory, future research should emphasize what types of communicative actions would be used when public administrators send, collect, and discuss information with citizens. Lastly, future research could inquire about how to validate the public’s claims, and how governments could utilize social media platforms for socialization and cultural reproduction.

Keywords

Analysis of Twitter; E-government; Interactivity; Social Media

Disciplines

Communication | Public Administration | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy

Language

English


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