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Social Networks as Sites of E-Participation in Local Government

  • Year: 2015
  • Author: Travis Holland
  • Journal Name: Global Media Journal (Australian Edition)
  • Journal Number: 9
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: NSW

By way of a case study of five local governments in and around the Illawarra region of New South Wales, this paper proposes that electronic social network sites (SNS) make visible forms of participatory behaviour to which local governments must respond. Groups and individuals – publics – operating in diverse ways for diverse purposes, propagate and respond to communication by local governments via SNS and, in doing so, practice electronic e-participation. In addition to alternate channels of communication, SNS can facilitate alternate forms of participatory behaviour online, but there is little alignment between public perceptions of these emerging practices and local government behaviours in the same space. The publics seeking to engage with local governments on SNS, expect that their participation should be both sought and valued, but local governments are active on social networks for different purposes, primarily information sharing. The study reveals that local governments are neither aware of this shift in public e-participation expectations, nor equipped to understand them. In particular, certain forms of e-participatory behaviour are not recognised by the local governments as genuine forms of participation. Nonetheless, there are some promising signs that local governments are making efforts to acknowledge and respond to publics and individuals on SNS, pointing to opportunities for more active engagement between publics and councils.

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