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Saturday, September 27 • 11:21 - 11:40
"Records and Trust: Navigating Social Media and Information Policy"

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Background: Governments use social media for a range of activities and engagements with citizens, often involving shifts in public policy to engender greater openness, transparency and accountability. These processes, that document decisions and interactions, generate information artefacts that are potentially records of government, however, such records are difficult to identify, manage and preserve (NARA, 2010).

Objective: This paper aims to spotlight the policy and records related issues that arise through interactions between government and citizens via social media. Using the government of Canada as a case study, this paper highlights the records related challenges encountered as a result of agencies’ rapid adoption of social media in advance of robust policy and/or recordkeeping instruments, as well as the tensions that exist between the traditional information management workflows and the ever evolving affordances of social media platforms.

Methods: Multiple methods were used in the study. Content and contextual analysis of a one-month sample of government of Canada Twitter accounts was undertaken to understand the characteristics of the information artefacts generated. 28 individual semi-structured interviews with federal government social media users and information managers were conducted and analyzed, and relevant government policies, legislation and documentation were analyzed to identify potential impediments and/or omissions that hinder the effective collection, management and preservation of social media artefacts.

Results: Content analysis shows that agencies’ official communicative intents are closely aligned with organizational mandates, however, there is a substantial amount of inter-governmental communication that occurs with external third-party platforms. Analysis of the data shows that government agencies are attempting to capitalize on the temporal “real-time” qualities of social media, however, the current hierarchical information processes present in government potentially conflict with the technological affordances of the social media platforms adopted for use. The existing hierarchical information practices present in government agencies still strongly inform information flows and policy development within the government of Canada. Additionally, emerging value tensions exist regarding social media use -- both as it manifests in the treatment of content and the tensions related to system design, as they manifest between intended and adopted use. 

Conclusions: These evidence based findings support the necessity for investigating changes to the social media information management practices and policy development frameworks within government agencies, with the intention of better facilitating the ongoing management and long-term preservation of the artefacts generated.


National Archives and Records Administration. (2010). A report on federal web 2.0 use and record value. Washington, D.C., U.S. http://www.arcives-gov/records-mgmt/resources/web2.0-use.pdf


avatar for Elizabeth Shaffer

Elizabeth Shaffer

PhD candidate, University of British Columbia

Saturday September 27, 2014 11:21 - 11:40
TRS 1-003 Ted Rogers School of Management

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