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The Influence of Social Media on Information Behaviour: A Policing Context

Gritt, Emma Louise Jessica (2018) The Influence of Social Media on Information Behaviour: A Policing Context. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This research explores the information behaviour in a UK policing context with a focus on how social media influences their everyday work practice. More specifically it focuses on the policing of low-level crime and anti-social behaviour. Police tasks vary from structured and routine, to environments that are uncertain, complex and time pressured. Digital technologies such as social media have the potential to disrupt and destabilise existing work activities through the way people communicate, interact and share information. This is particularly the case for information intensive organisations such as police, which have, in recent years, started to engage with social media. There is a lack of empirical research on police use of social media and how it fits with existing work practices. Similarly there are limited studies that explore information behaviour in policing, and more specifically the mediating role of social media within this context. Therefore it is important to understand firstly how social media influences existing work practices and secondly how it influences information behaviour. To address these research questions, this research takes an interpretive approach using activity theory as a methodological and analytic framework. Semi-structured interviews and observations were conducted in three policing organisations. In exploring the first question it was found that the same tool (social media) was used in multiple ways, which created new and different ways of policing low-level crime and anti-social behaviour. This in turn led to new and distinct information behaviours in three different contexts. Three models of use were identified. In the emergent model, social media is used to share information with the public but a high degree of ambiguity constrained work practices, which also led to information avoidance. In the augmented model, social media is enhancing existing policing activities and is used for information seeking and to support decision making. In the transformed model, a radical change in policing activities is taking place. This led to new collaborative information behaviours evolving. This study provides new insights by highlighting the complexity and layers of police use of social media in practice. To the authors knowledge no other study has yet to dig below the surface of social media use and explore how police adopt social media in practice and how this adoption manifests in different and emerging information behaviour.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Social Media; Information Behaviour; Activity Theory; Policing
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Leeds University Business School
Depositing User: Mrs Emma L J Gritt
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2018 12:00
Last Modified: 25 Jun 2018 12:00
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20770

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