Dissertation research: perceptions of using social media for community engagement

I’ve talked about my MSc dissertation research before on this blog. In fact I originally set up this blog to explore some topics related to my research. Having had a bit of a break after completing my dissertation in August 2010, I have decided to publish it here, spurred on by the kind words of a fellow academic researcher Catherine Howe.

My research question was:

How do the attitudes and perceptions of citizens, Council officers, Councillors to the use of social media for community engagement compare and contrast?

My Master’s Degree was in Human Computer Interaction. If you have a particular interest in research into social media and civic engagement (and quite a bit of time on your hands), I’d recommend the full dissertation (PDF, 2.4 mb).

But if you are a local government officer or someone with less time and patience, then I’d recommend the 10 page (that’s the smallest I could manage!) Executive Summary (PDF, 50kb).

I also wanted to add a little disclaimer. The primary research data was gathered from semi-structured interviews with 18 participants. For purposes of confidentiality the data is not included within either document. Because the research question focused on a relatively new research area, it was challenging to find participants with significant experience of using social media, let alone those with experience of using social media for civic engagement. Whilst the collection and analysis of data followed rigorous qualitative research methods, the quality of the data collected was not as high as I had hoped for. I would therefore advise some caution in the interpretation and application of these research findings.

Please note that the usual Creative Commons copyright license I display on this blog does not apply to the two documents linked above.

You can find me on Twitter if you have any questions, comments, or would like more information about my research.

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.



  1. IMHO, your research question is very, no, VERY important! Triangulating #gov2.0 perceptions of citizens, elected officials, and administrative gov workers should point ways forward for all three.

    The privacy issue, although back-burnered in the larger realm of social media [i.e. “the end of privacy” ideology], is something you’ve studied seriously. At least in Canada, anonymity in the public sector is revered as both a value of professional service, and indeed, a right. Without it, unscrupulous politicians can deflect or offload ministerial responsibilities to public servants.

    I’m a local administrative official and in a small town anonymity is impossible, and I have to be really careful about what I say in person or online with social media. I don’t know what the answer is, but your work seems to point toward several sensible recommendations.

    Thanks! Great work!


  2. Hi Michele,

    Thanks for this. I am just at the start of the road for my dissertaion, in which I am looking at the role of social media in local government and the delivery fo the localism agenda and community involvement and empowerment.

    Looks like this will be a good read.

    Regards, Adrian

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