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Environmental communication in the Information Age: Institutional barriers and opportunities in the provision of river data to the general public

Arts, Koen, Ioris, Antonio A R ORCID:, Macleod, Christopher J. A., Han, Xiwu, Sripada, Somayajulu G., Braga, Joao R. Z. and van der Wal, Rene 2016. Environmental communication in the Information Age: Institutional barriers and opportunities in the provision of river data to the general public. Environmental Science and Policy 55 (1) , pp. 47-53. 10.1016/j.envsci.2015.08.011

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In an era of increased human pressure on planet Earth, sound environmental governance regimes are more important than ever. Digital technologies are increasingly turned to by environmental regulators to aid governance and communication. We examine the ‘behind the scenes’ institutional dynamics of a public body in its digital information provision (specifically dynamic river level information). Based on in-depth interviews with staff across a large environmental regulator we have brought to light four pivotal areas of institutional dynamics: (1) institutional priority and path dependency; (2) management and resources; (3) institutional identity and interdepartmental dynamics; and (4) ability and willingness to change. We gained insight into explicit and covert barriers and opportunities in relation to digital information provision that are likely to occur in other public institutions too. Besides identified barriers that were of a technical, structural, managerial or cultural nature, arguably the most important barrier was conceptual, i.e. the prevalence of ‘efficiency and efficacy’ perspectives on information and communications technology (ICT) amongst staff, in which ICT is primarily perceived as a neutral solution in itself to a wide variety of issues. Opportunities were nonetheless present in the form of enthusiasm and some critical thinking about digital innovation among staff, and an emphasis on the importance of stakeholder inclusion in the design of ICT. We conclude that there is a need to connect institutional social learning with the development of ‘conceptual perspectives’ on ICT, in which ICT is not seen as a solution in itself, but as a set of tools in a wider transformational process, or as a lens to look at existing or new practices. This is more likely to strengthen cornerstones of contemporary environmental governance, such as improved information access and reconceptualisations of ‘traditional’ barriers of uncertainty, liability and distrust in relation to information provision.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Environmental regulator; Governance shifts; Innovation; ICT; River level; Scotland
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 1462-9011
Date of Acceptance: 15 August 2015
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2022 10:12

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