About Ines Mergel

I am an Assistant Professor of Public Administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY. In my research projects I am focusing on informal social networks in the public sector and the use of social media applications by government organizations. I teach classes on social media management, Government 2.0, social network analysis, and networked governance.

“Sede Vacante” replicates real-life events on the Pope’s Twitter account

Pontifex_SedeVacante by inesmergel
Pontifex_SedeVacante, a photo by inesmergel on Flickr.

On February 28, 2013, pope Benedict XVI, stepped down and vacated his chair – literally. The pope who had just recently started to tweet also vacated his Twitter account. This symbolic gesture had an impact on the Internet community. While people were still watching the pope emeritus arrive at his temporary home at Castel Gandolfo (the summer residence), Twitter moved all his existing tweets to an online archive on News.VA:

Pontifex_SedeVacante_TwitterArchive

While these events had a Dan Brown novel taste to it, what the communication and public relations folks missed behind this move is that the pope has actually build an online community on Twitter with over 1.6 million people who actively want to receive updates. They ignored the significance of a community that trusted the online relationship the pope created with them through a medium that they prefer over other media.

New article: Social media adoption and resulting tactics in the U.S. federal government (GIQ)

Cover by inesmergel
Cover, a photo by inesmergel on Flickr.

Government Information Quarterly just published one of my articles on the adoption decisions of federal departments to use social media and how the decision making processes lead to online tactics.

Abstract:
In 2009, the departments in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government received the presidential marching order to “harness new technologies” in order to become more transparent, collaborative and participatory. Given this mandate, this article sets out to provide insights from qualitative interviews with social media directors to understand the factors that influence internal adoption decisions to use social media applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, or blogs. Three distinct factors influence the adoption decisions of social media directors: information about best practices in their informal network of peers, passive observations of perceived best practices in the public and private sector, and “market-driven” citizen behavior. The resulting adoption tactics include: (1) representation, (2) engagement, and (3) networking. The findings point to the need for higher degrees of formalized knowledge sharing when it comes to disruptive technology innovations such as social media use in highly bureaucratic communication environments. Recommendations based on the lessons learned are provided for practitioners and social media researchers to develop social media tactics for different organizational purposes in government.

Full reference: Mergel, I., Social media adoption and resulting tactics in the U.S. federal government, Government Information Quarterly (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.giq.2012.12.004

Please email me if your library does not have a subscription for the article.

Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration – New IBM Report by Professor Jane Fountain

IBM – Center for the Business of Government just published a new report in their collaborative governance series on “Implementing Cross-Agency Collaboration”. Based on Professor Fountain’s in-depth analysis of collaboration projects in the U.S. federal government, the report provides insights into two main factors that support effective collaboration in government:

  1. people skills to develop trust, norms, and connections, and
  2. organizational processes that allow cross-agency actions to be sustained over time.

Much of the existing research, either focuses on specific roles that are needed or the resulting inter-organizational structures. What is largely ignored are the resources and processes needed as well as informal networking and governance mechanisms that need to be allowed outside the existing formal hierarchies to allow cross-agency collaboration.

This is a timely report, that is helpful for public managers to understand that even in a bureaucratic hierarchy, innovations, knowledge and resources to fulfill broad mandates, need to involve new roles in government, such as the recently established Government Innovation Officers. These new GIOs need to be boundary spanning individuals who tap into the resources they can get access to from their own networks, but also have the freedom to connect with other public managers across organizational boundaries.

As the new Open Government paradigm is spreading around the world, this report can also help open government activists to understand, build, and evaluate the processes and roles needed to successfully collaborate with all stakeholders: activists, nonprofits, public sector organizations on all levels of government as well as contractors to implement innovative platforms.

New article: Networks in Public Administration in PMR

CoverSheet PMR articleMy co-authors Jesse Lecy (GSU), Hans Peter Schmitz (SU) and I have published an article in Public Management Review:

Lecy, J., Mergel, I., Schmitz, H. P. (2013): Networks in Public Administration, published online DOI:10.1080/14719037.2012.743577, in: Public Management Review. [Link to pre-publication version on SSRN]

Here is the abstract:

Network-focused research in public administration has expanded rapidly over the past two decades. This rapid growth has created come confusion about terminology and approaches to research in the field. We organize the network literature in public administration using compact citation networks to identify coherent subdomains focused on (1) policy formation, (2) governance and (3) policy implementation. We trace how these domains differ in their approach to defining the role of networks, relationships and actors and to what extent the articles apply formal network analysis techniques. Based on a subsequent content analysis of the sample articles, we identify promising research avenues focused on the wider adoption of methods derived from social network analysis and the conditions under which networks actually deliver improved results.

Please email me in case you want to read the article!

Information Week Review of our Social Media Field Guide

This week, David Carr from Information Week wrote a very comprehensive and thoughtful review of the Field Guide that he titled The Government Leader’s Guide To Social Media.

He did a great job of pulling out some of the core elements that we hope to get across to readers with regards to culture change, policy development and the creative uses of social media in government today.

Information Week might be for technology and IT in general, but it is evident that Mr. Carr gets the true value that social media brings to government when he closes his review with: “the very nature of media has changed, and government needs to change with it.”

Reblogged from Bill Greeves’ blog “The Social Government CIO“: Information Week Review of Field Guide.

CfP: Transformation of Citizenship and Governance in Asia (Special Issue)

 

 

 

Call for Papers (Special Issue)

Transformation of Citizenship and Governance in Asia: The Challenges of Social and Mobile Media

Guest Editors: Marko M. Skoric (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Nojin Kwak (University of Michigan, USA), Ines Mergel (Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University), and Peter Parycek (Danube University Krems, Austria)

The proliferation of social media and mobile phones over the last decade has spurred significant interest in their civic and political implications not only within the scholarly community, but also among journalists, practitioners, activists, policy-makers, and ordinary citizens. While the role of new media platforms in facilitating macro-level political changes has generally attracted most attention, these new communication tools are also actively utilized in more traditional civic and political processes, including community initiatives and electoral campaigns. Also important is people’s everyday use of new technologies, which research has uncovered as providing an opportunity to encounter public affairs news and discourse, enhance understanding of issues, and get involved in civic and political activities. Further to this, social and mobile media platforms have created new channels and means for citizens to interact with governments and other political institutions, monitor their functioning, and more actively participate in policy-making processes. There is little doubt that the emerging social and mobile media practices, including content generation, collaboration, and network organization, are changing our understanding of governance and politics.

While the above changes are already widely debated in mature, developed Western democracies, there is an even greater need to address them in the context of rapidly developing Asian societies. Although countries in Asia vary greatly in terms of the levels of economic and political development, quality of information and communication infrastructure, as well as their cultural, political and religious traditions, the arrival of networked new media platforms has lead to some similar socio-political shifts. Those include an increasing diversity of voices in the public sphere, greater visibility of political discourse, increased demands for transparency and accountability, and a significantly improved capacity for decentralized civic and political action.

This special issue is aimed at showcasing innovative scholarly works examining various subjects concerning the role of social media, mobile phones, and other new technologies in the formation of democratic citizenship and good governance in Asia. We seek studies that address relevant topics in a particular Asian country, and also welcome comparative research on Asian countries or Asian and non-Asian countries.

The authors are encouraged to explore diverse topics, and possible areas include (but are not limited to):

  • Use of social media, mobile phones, and other new communication technologies in elections
  • Use of social and mobile media by civic and grassroots groups
  • Influence of new media on citizen choices, participation, and knowledge
  • Patterns of new media use and civic and political consequences
  • Social media to engage citizens; smart & mobile democracy
  • Political elites’ use of social and mobile media
  • Sustainability of e-participation
  • Networks vs. traditional party-structures
  • ICTs and their use for governmental transformation
  • Open data initiatives
  • Transparency, participation and collaboration in government
  • Crowdsourcing for governance
  • Service delivery via new communication channels

Submission Guidelines

Articles submitted for consideration must be written in English.

Length of paper: 7,500-12,000 words, including footnotes.

Please download the template and relevant guidelines at http://www.jedem.org/about/submissions#authorGuidelines

Important Dates

Submission deadline: 31.3.2013

Deadline for peer review: 15.5.2013

Editorial decision: 30.5.2013

Author’s revision: 30.6.2013

New article “The social media innovation challenge in the public sector”, in: Information Polity

Albert Meijer, Frank Bannister and Marcel Thaens edited a special issue of “Information Polity” with the topic “ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade”. They put together a tremendous group of international e-Government researchers and today the special issue was posted online. The articles included in the special issue include:

  1. ICT, Public Administration and Democracy in the Coming Decade, by Albert MeijerFrank Bannister and Marcel Thaens
  2. Forward to the past: Lessons for the future of e-government from the story so far, by Frank Bannister and Regina Connolly
  3. The Information Polity: Towards a two speed future? by John A. Taylor
  4. E-Government is dead: Long live Public Administration 2.0 by Miriam Lips
  5. Surveillance as X-ray by C. William R. Webster
  6. Towards a smart State? Inter-agency collaboration, information integration, and beyond by J. Ramon Gil-Garcia
  7. The social media innovation challenge in the public sector by Ines Mergel
  8. A good man but a bad wizard. About the limits and future of transparency of democratic governments by Stephan Grimmelikhuijsen
  9. The Do It Yourself State by Albert J. Meijer
  10. Five trends that matter: Challenges to 21st century electronic government by Hans Jochen Scholl
  11. Why does e-government looks as it does? looking beyond the explanatory emptiness of the e-government concept by Victor Bekkers
  12. Big questions of e-government research by Mete Yıldız

My own article focuses on the innovation challenges government agencies are facing when they are implementing social media:

Abstract: The use of social media applications has been widely accepted in the U.S. government. Many of the social media strategies and day-to-day tactics have also been adopted around the world as part of local Open Government Initiatives and the worldwide Open Government Partnership. Nevertheless, the acceptance and broader adoption of sophisticated tactics that go beyond information and education paradigm such as true engagement or networking strategies are still in its infancy. Rapid diffusion is challenged by informal bottom-up experimentation that meets institutional and organizational challenges hindering innovative tactics. Going forward governments and bureaucratic organizations are also facing the challenge to show the impact of their social media interactions. Each of these challenges is discussed in this article and extraordinary examples, that are not widely adopted yet, are provided to show how government organizations can potentially overcome these challenges.

Full reference: 

Mergel, I. (2012): The social media innovation challenge in the public sector, in: Information Polity,  Vol. 17, No. 3-4, pp. 281–292, DOI 10.3233/IP-2012-000281

Feel free to email me (ines_mergel (at) yahoo dot com) in case you can’t access a digital copy through your library!

PA Times article on the use of social media during the 2012 election

I wrote up a short piece about the impact of social media in the 2012 election. It will come out in print this month and I wanted to share it here as well.