Technology-Task Coupling: How Social Media Use is Related to Public Managers’ Perceptions of E-Government Outcomes
20 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 26, 2013
Social media comprises a set of new technologies - including Twitter and Facebook, but others as well - that enable richer data exchange in highly decentralized, dynamic, and loosely structured, versatile virtual environments (Parameswaran & Whinston, 2007). Social media technology is expected to generate "cultures of participation" marked by collaborative production in ways that enhance participation, learning, and knowledge production (Fischer, 2009; Fischer & Ostwald, 2002; Hagel, Seely Brown, & Davison, 2009). In some cases the use of social media technologies may align with traditional structural and authority boundaries, in other cases they may challenge them. In this paper we examine the extent to which local U.S. governments are coupling social media technology with two types of participative tasks: collaborative work inside the organization and participative interaction with external stakeholders. We also explore how these different types of technology-task couples are associated with perceptions of the positive and negative outcomes of information and communication technologies.
The paper takes advantage of survey data examining the use of technology in five departments - community development, finance, police, mayor’s office and parks and recreation - of local governments in the U.S. A total of 2500 managers were invited to take part in the survey, the final response rate was 34.8%. The survey asked a set of unique relational questions in which respondents were first asked to identify the social media technologies that they use. The specific technologies were then piped forward in the survey and respondents were asked a series of questions about the kinds of activities for which each identified technology is used, resulting in a set of technology-task couples. In addition, the survey asked traditional questions about the organizational context and environment, enabling us to control for key variables while investigating the effect of technology-task coupling on outcomes. Findings show that social media and its use for specific tasks has very limited impact on either positive of negative perceived outcomes. These non-findings may demonstrate that the implementation cost of the technologies outweighs the benefits they realize. Alternatively, the technology-task application substitutes for traditional approaches to the same task, but no effect is incurred. Conclusions discuss implications for theory and practice.
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