Dissertation Proposals Sketchings

Gov2.0 and the Policy Analyst – Resistance is Not Futile?

Dissertation Proposal Discussion Draft

A Preliminary Outline for a  Proposed Research Design

Gov2.0 has emerged in recent years as a particular implementation of e-gov, built on the framework and technologies of Web2.0, such as weblogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter), wikis (e.g., Wikipedia), social networking (e.g., Facebook) and social tagging (e.g., Delicious). Gov2.0 is defined here as instances where Web2.0 approaches and technologies are applied to public-sector governance, administrative, service-delivery and policy–making functions.

Gov2.0 has a lot of hype attached to it. But is it transformative? That is, does the implementation of Gov2.0 cause significant change in activities of government and governance processes? The proposed research project examines the effect on public policy analysis settings from deploying collaborative information and communication technologies in new ways – specifically whether new Gov2.0 collaboration modes represent transformational technologies in the context of policy development. We have a long experience with the application of computer technology in government settings, but questions continue to arise and the questions themselves have changed: from an era of e-government a decade ago when the questions were principally managerial and technical, the issue is now framed in terms of new Gov2.0 technologies and whether the technology can transform the nature of policy work.

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Start With an Interesting, Simple Question

Ho do you actually go about creating a theory? While struggling with this question in a practical sense, I remembered Henry Mintzberg. Somewhere along the way, I learned about his dissertation and first book (The Nature of Managerial Work) in which he revolutionized the theory of what managers do. I remember being struck by the simplicity of his research design: “I will follow senior executives around for a while and see what they actually do.” Okay, what he actually said was: “I sought to develop by the process of induction a statement of managerial work … using a method called “structured observation”. “Structured observation”; it sounds so simple. Like Yogi Berra said: “you can observe a lot just by watching.” But the simplicity and understatement with which Mintzberg described his research does not begin to describe the intensity of his observation and record keeping, the categorizing and re-categorizing, the analysis and interpretation that pointed towards the concluded work.

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Creating a Theory? Really?

At an early stage in my dissertation work, I was confronted with the problem of what it meant to do a theoretical dissertation. All the methods courses I had taken prior to my comprehensive exams focussed on the design and implementation of a quantitative (or qualitative) methodology aimed at testing a theory. In the case of my proposed dissertation work, my research design envisaged a controlled experiment in which test participants would be exposed to one form of briefing instrument (either text-based briefings or ICT-based briefings); following which their support for following the recommended course of action would be measured. If it could be demonstrated that the individuals in one group were persuaded to accept the recommendation more than in the other group, I could state that that form of briefing instrument was more effective than the other.

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