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Out From Darkness and into the Light: The Role of Transparency and Social Media in Government

Bachstein, Frances Nichols
Committee Members: 
Dr. Suzie Allard
August 2016


Government agencies that protect secrecy often have a difficult time connecting to the public. Secretive, or perceived secretive government organizations often fall into the nebulous realm of uncertainty for the information consumer. This results in a great deal of misinformation and disinformation being thought of as correct. Since 2008, the US government is moving toward a more transparent, open, and easily accessed information base through social media. Agencies across the government are adopting types of social media communication. However, bureaus that primarily focus on security and safeguarding secrets struggle with how much disclose, which platforms of social media are the ‘best’ for their message, and how to inure trust from their audience. This dissertation is in two stages: one, a content analysis of parent tweets from government agencies of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, International Atomic Energy Agency, and National Security Agency (CIA, FBI, DHS, IAEA, and NSA) and the responses of the tweets from the information consumer to assess the tone of message, response, and sentiment; two, using information seeking behavior model with Habermas’ theory of commutative action and Heidegger’s theory of Aletheia. The study conducts long interviews with scientists working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scientists' responses are analyzed on initial impressions of information, trust, social media, and institutional identity. The goal is to understand the nature of social media as a means of transparency communication with the information consumer, and how this type of communication can be used in an effective manner that instills trust in the government on the part of the information consumer.