Who is the Social State?

If you ever want to catch my ear, just start talking about government use of social media.  It is a fascinating cornucopia of opportunities for applied research and practical policy work.  This thought-provoking post by Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene over on Governing motivated me to post my first blog topic, to continue this conversation into one of my areas of interest–the person(s) and policies behind the profile.  I’ll keep this relatively short, more questions than answers, something get my thoughts out now and revisit later.

Any technology potent enough to be interesting will inevitably destabilize existing institutions, power relationships, social structures, reigning economic and technological systems, and cultural assumptions.” – Brad Allenby [1]

Social media and social networks existed long before the Internet.  However, the long arm of the Internet’s reach and speed has given rise to communities of digital media unlike anything we’ve ever known.  Seven in ten people in the US use social media, 8 in 10 people age 49 and under.  Government has also jumped on this ubiquitous communication train.  Public administrators and legislators at every level engage the public, stakeholders, and each other.

Some in government hopped onto social media platforms as a natural extension of their duties, such as with legislators or administrators within public-facing offices.  Others saw social media as “part of the presidential mandate: ‘We had to use social media to accomplish the goals of the Open Government and Transparency initiative.’” [2]  When done right, social media allows members of government to increase transparency, accountability, and increase civic engagement through greater public consultation and participatory democracy.  But what does it mean to do it right?

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