Street-level bureaucrats: tensions and challenges in online placemaking

Pieter Breek, Joke Hermes en Jasper Eshuis
Soort object
Purpose Social media have become a key part of placemaking. Placemaking revolves around collaboration between multiple stakeholders, which requires ongoing two-way communication between local government and citizens. Although social media offer promising tools for local governments and public professionals in placemaking, they have not lived up to their potential. This paper aims to uncover the tensions and challenges that social media bring for public professionals at the street level in placemaking processes. Design/methodology/approach This study aims to fill this gap with a case study of area brokers engaged in online placemaking in Amsterdam. In total, 14 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted, focusing on area brokers’ social media practices, perceptions and challenges. The authors used an open coding strategy in the first phase of coding. In the second phase, the authors regrouped codes in thematic categories with the use of sensitizing concepts derived from the theoretical review. Findings The use of social media for placemaking imposes demands on area brokers from three sides: the bureaucracy, the affordances of social media and affective publics. The paper unpacks pressures area brokers are under and the (emotional) labour they carry out to align policy and bureaucratic requirements with adequate communication needed in neighbourhood affairs on social media. The tensions and the multidimensionality of what is required explain the reluctance of area brokers to exploit the potential of social media in their work. Originality/value Several studies have addressed the use of social media in placemaking, but all neglected the perspective of street-level bureaucrats who shape the placemaking process in direct contact with citizens.