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The emergence of connected discretion: Social media and discretionary awareness in the Swedish police

Journal article
Authors Bertil Rolandsson
Published in Qualitative research in organization and management
ISSN 1746-5648
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Language en
Keywords Legitimacy, Police, Social media, Public authorities, Discretionary awareness, Value logics
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Work Sciences, Technology and social change


Purpose – Previous studies repeatedly claim that social media challenge and even disrupt organizational boundaries conditioning discretionary work. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how police officers, drawing on institutionalized value logics, actively shape their awareness of how to use social media with discretion. Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on semi-structured interviews with police officers from Sweden, the analysis explores similarities and variations in how they assess their discretionary awareness of how to manage social media potentials across different police practices. Supporting documents have been analyzed to put interviews into context. Findings – The analysis shows how police officers justify their awareness of how to manage two social media potentials providing communicative efficiency and networking opportunities, by applying two justificatory modalities of momentary reconciliation. Contributing to previous research, findings show how these modalities accommodate tensions between different value logics urging officers to engage in situated problem solving or moderation of the intensity in different connections. By drawing on discretionary awareness about enduring value tensions, police officers maintain legitimate claims on social media discretion. The study also complements previous research depicting digital communication and discretion as mutually exclusive. Findings suggest that web-based digitalization like social media raises new demands of awareness of a connected discretion. Originality/value – Previous research rarely analyses officers’ awareness of how to manage idiosyncratic social media challenges. By introducing the concept discretionary awareness, this study illuminates how arrangements of institutionalized value logics guide police officers in applying “good judgment” in day-to-day use of social media.

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