Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Use of Social Media Technologies for Intra-Agency Collaboration: Evidence from US Local Governments

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 8:30 AM
Pearson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rashmi Krishnamurthy, Arizona State University
This paper examines the use of social media technologies by US local governments for internal collaboration. Collaboration is defined as the process of working together, pooling resources, sharing information and jointly making decisions to address common issues (Gray, 1985; Hardy, Phillips, & Lawrence, 2003). The need for greater collaboration is evident from numerous examples in which public agencies have failed to effectively collaborate and address complex challenges (Mergel, 2010; Pendleton, 2010). Meanwhile, the rise of social computing promises the development of ‘cultures of participation’ that enhance collaborative learning and knowledge production as part of everyday work (Fisher, 2002, 2009; Hagel et al. 2009; DiMicco and Millen, 2008; Turner et al. 2010).  But beyond these gaps and expectations, there has been little systematic empirical research investigating the use of these powerful and flexible technologies for internal work purposes.

In line with prior research, the paper takes a fundamental socio-technical theoretical approach (Bostrom & Heinen, 1977; Kling & Lamb, 1999) in which the adoption, implementation, and use of technology are determined by the interaction between technological and social context of the organization. However, in a break with prior work that often aggregates social media technologies as one class of technology, the paper theorizes different classes of social media functionality and purpose. As a result, it develops more explicit means by which technology, organization and context matter for effective collaboration.  Based on an extensive literature review, the paper offers a theoretical model and several hypotheses, which it tests using a unique 2012 national survey of local governments in the US conducted by the Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies at ASU. The survey was designed to first collect data on the use of specific social media technologies by the organization. It then collected data on the specific ways in which the different technologies are used for different types of agency work, including internal collaboration. Hence there is a connection in the data between the specific social media technology adopted by the organization and the task for which it was used. The survey also collected well-established measures of centralization, innovativeness, discretion, technical capacity, and political context. The paper uses descriptive statistics and regression analysis to understand the phenomenon of social media use for work collaboration and to test the hypotheses. Findings of this research provide insights about which social media technologies are used by local governments and how social media is used for collaboration on work. Insights from this research will contribute both to theoretical understanding about technology in government and provide useful information for agencies.