Student Karen Olympia Participates in Social Media Research Project

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As an analyst at a market research firm, iSchool student Karen Olympia experienced firsthand what it’s like to be awash in data. And it started her thinking about better ways to access and present information.

“Handling large data files and their equivalent large binders of printouts led me to explore options for people who work with huge amounts of data,” she said. So Olympia decided to embark on a second career in library science and expects to graduate in fall 2010 with her MLIS degree.

Olympia also decided to sign on as a research assistant, participating in a research project with Dr. Patricia Franks regarding how government agencies manage records created using social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook. The project, which is funded by the IBM Center for the Business of Government, intends to provide a framework for understanding records management issues related to social media.

Olympia’s role on the research project includes collecting data regarding the types of social media tools used by government agencies, as well as researching what policies are in place at each agency regarding use of social media and how those policies may have changed in recent years.

“I’m learning a lot about how government websites are developed, which improves my data-mapping skills,” said Olympia, who earned her undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California, San Diego. “I performed data-mapping like this for my senior thesis, but on a smaller scale; it was about educational technology policies in a local school district.”

Dr. Franks’ research project was sparked in part by the Obama administration’s effort to promote more openness and transparency in government, including a 2009 memorandum asking government agencies to use “innovative tools, methods, and systems” to cooperate among agencies and with the private sector.

“I’m enjoying reading about how the current administration is trying to improve transparency and encourage public participation,” Olympia said. “It’s a work in progress, but it will be fascinating to look back at this data in a few years to see how things have changed.”