Emoticrats: Proposing a new type of bureaucrat for the digital age

Stream: Panel 44 - Public Policy & Social Justice: The Practice of Policymaking
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.30 pm


The role of emotions in influencing public behaviour is playing an expanding role in Australian public administration. Governments face external factors including the 24-7 media apparatus and access to digital devices, which have been joined by internal factors of financial constraints, policy overload, and the affect turn in social sciences. The response has been centred around "nudging" however, this has been a one-sided affair as Governments develop behavioural insight units to reduce costs and increase citizen efficiency. This paper argues that the new administrative role of emoticrats is needed in the public service to make sure government institutions have mechanisms to hear emotional expressions from all parties. In this paper, we review public opinion following a series of shark bites in Ballina, New South Wales as informative of the problems Governments faced by highly emotional issues and how an emoticrat could serve government and public in such a role. We find in a representative survey of the electorate that public feelings were high - against newspaper reporting more than anything else. The public did not blame sharks or the state Government. Bureaucracies could be served by having emoticrats to investigate public sentiment and use this data to inform policy choices.


Christopher Neff (Presenter), University of Sydney
Christopher Neff is a Lecturer in Public Policy in the Department of Government and International Relations. His research interests include theories of the policy process, policy analysis, the role of policy entrepreneurs, and comparative public policy. More specifically, his research looks at policymaking regarding emotional issues such as LGBTQI politics, mass shootings, and the "politics of shark attacks."

Thomas Wynter, University of Sydney
Thomas Wynter is a PhD researcher at the University of Sydney in the Department of Government and International Relations.