Pixelating Policy: Visualizing Issue Transformation In Real and Virtual Worlds

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Virginia Tech

This study seeks to identify and examine issue transformation in public policies, and to understand the relationship between issue transformation and policy change. The focus for this investigation, the information resources management (IRM) policy subsystem, is examined as a 28-year case study, concluding at the end of 2002. Study results are documented textually, and visually in an exploratory, "virtual reality-based" Policy World.

This study examines the questions: "In what ways are the core issues underlying public policies transformed over time, and what is the relationship between issue transformation and policy change?" Using the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) for explaining policy change over considerable periods of time, this research identifies and examines the issues over which policy coalitions contend, and seeks to identify issue transformation in the IRM policy subsystem's 28-year history. Augmenting the traditional paper-based dissertation is an exploratory, "virtual reality-based" case study, called "Policy World," that visualizes both the policy subsystem environment and critical elements of the external policy system. Visually depicting the richness, texture, and artifacts of policy activities aids policy learning, and promotes understanding of the dynamic and complex environment of issue transformation and policy change.

In confirming issue transformation, this study contributes to the advocacy coalition framework by detailing the initiation and maturation of a policy subsystem. In demonstrating issue transformation's role as facilitating policy continuity through policy change, this study contributes to policy theory. As a chronology of IRM's issue transformation and policy change, this study documents the rise of IT-enabled governance for public administrators and educators.

Policy World provides an interactive, experiential learning environment for public administration scholars and practitioners wanting substantive knowledge of both policy theory and Federal IRM policies. Public administration literature notes both the need for and the lack of an information resource management component to public administration education. Information visualization concepts are combined with interactive designs and hosting on the World Wide Web, to provide wide access to Policy World and extend educational opportunities in public policy and information resources management wherever desired.

CIO, e-government, issue transformation, advocacy coalition framework, policy change, Policy World, virtual reality, Federal IRM