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The Information Landscape of a Wicked Problem: An Evaluation of Web-Based Information on Colony Collapse Disorder for a Spectrum of Citizen Information Seekers

Reid Boehm
Major Professor: 
Vandana Singh
Committee Members: 
Suzie Allard,
Kimberly Douglass
May 2012

Abstract: The following research takes a mixed method approach to understanding the information landscape of a wicked problem. Wicked problems are defined as being uncertain in cause, having many stakeholders with conflicting interests, and inevitably have no foreseeable solution. Through the study a framework is implemented that assesses a portion of the landscape of colony collapse disorder information from the federal government via the web. Using a government information valuation framework that takes into account a spectrum of citizen user needs, the research was able to look at the information content within the context of the public sphere and to apply the lens of post- normal science theory to understand the essential nature of public participation to the provision of equitable information. This study contributed to the research in the field of information science and e-government studies by making several observations and strengthening perspectives on specific issues. The social network analysis component of the study shows how the USGSs’ now cancelled NBII played a role as a bridge between the web 2.0 collaborative aspects of Wikipedia and the government entities that provide information. These entities include the EPA, the USDA, and the US FWS. The content analysis of these five entities shows that Wikipedia has the most comprehensive amount of information in comparison with the government entities, but the USDA has more consistent quality measures.

Overall the research shows that citizen user groups are in need of public engagement applications to facilitate a two-way flow of information. The research framework provides a starting point and a tool for use in future studies that examine the network of e-government information available about specific complex and wicked problems.