Now is Too Late: Utilizing Social Media for Situational Awareness
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Now is Too Late: Utilizing Social Media for Situational Awareness

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This is the presentation delivered at the International Crisis & Risk Communication conference in Orlando, hosted by the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida, on 5......

This is the presentation delivered at the International Crisis & Risk Communication conference in Orlando, hosted by the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida, on 5 March 2013.

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  • Thanks Pam! The source for the 'authority is being replaced by the need to influence' is Euan Semple's 'Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do'. Great read!
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  • 'authority is being replaced by the need to influence' - love this, great capture of the paradigm shift.

    Also like the 'influencers' discussion. Brings back The Tipping Point's concept of the Law of the Few and 'connectors'.

    Thanks for sharing. Almost like being there....almost.
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  • Thank you for the kind invitation to speak about this important topicIt is exciting because every day there is a new idea, a new innovationYou can’t do incident management without information exchangeAt a conference last week, someone likened information in an crisis to be as important as oxygenOn an average day on social media, people post about ‘Likes’ and ‘Loves’; in a crisis they post about impact and responseHurricane Sandy represents a watershed moment for the use of social media in emergenciesAnd yet there remains significant fear around itThe problem is we don’t have a choice, we have to use itThey say the secret to making a good presentation is to provide information that the audience hasn’t yet figured out for themselves, and this is certainly my objective todayI attended a social media conference last week in New York, and I was heartened to learn that I do in fact have some novel things to sayThe ‘too late’ part comes from the fact that to take advantage of the opportunities provided by social media, and to effectively manage risks, there are things you need to set up in advance
  • Explain graphicSituation awareness itself has three levels:Level 1 (Perception): Perception is about picking up sensory cues from the environmentLevel 2 (Comprehension): Comprehension involves combining sensory cues and interpreting the informationLevel 3 (Projection):Projection deals with forecasting what might happen nextUnderstanding a situation rests on identifying an appropriate set of perception elements, higher level comprehension patterns/templates and forecast operators. A situation awareness system understands its environment at multiple levels:The Perception of events in raw data streamsComprehension of situationsProjection (or prediction) of likely futuresSituation awareness for crisis coordinators involves scanning the environment for perception cues; reasoning about these cues, connecting, hypothesizing, testing and ultimately comprehending these cues; and finally, forecasting what might happen next.Maintaining situation awareness of an incident allows watch ocers to eectively plan and implement responses, anticipate and manage requests for information about incidents.Sense MakingTimely and accurate information is essential in a crisisEspecially localDetect unusual incidentsDecision MakingDetermine needsIdentify resourcesMatch volunteer resources with needsClassify and review high-value messages during an incidentIdentify, track and manage issues within an incidentMeaning MakingForge collaborative relationships that facilitate responseLearningLocal networks to identify the vulnerable and to raise awareness and preparednessUpdate vulnerability informationPerform forensic analysis of incidents
  • The new source of power: Person-to-Person networks leveraging Few-To-Many platformsSocial media platforms democratize the sharing of knowledgeThe public now expects first responders to react within one hour of posting a call for assistance on social mediaKey crisis communication trend: increased use of social media on ubiquitous smartphonesMost social media data is not geo-tagged, but the trend is upThe engagement culture has replaced the official, scheduled, single source paradigm
  • John Locke: 17th Century English philosopherHe wasreportedly the last person who read everything that had ever been writtenKnowledge is evolving faster than it can be codified in formal systems‘The internet of things’ is only going to extend the availability of informationMore information will be produced in 2013 will exceed the amount produced in all of human history
  • The more complex the objective, the harder it will be to do”In times of mass emergencies, a phenomenon known as collective behavior becomes apparent. It consists of socio-behaviors that include intensified information search and information contagion.”
  • We have much to learn from the private sector and marketingEstablish your ‘brand’ and its credibility in advanceThis includes the platforms that you are going to use
  • Find your influencersTo do this, you can use a number of analyticsYou can find influencers at all levels – it has nothing to do with the hierarchyNote: influencers can be positive or negative – Know the difference!Follow the spokes, and you will find the hubsPatrick Meier: “It’s a slam dunk. Go where the masses are, and the masses are on Facebook.”
  • Warby Parker Content Qs:Is it unique?Is it authentic?Is it unexpected?Does it do good?Does it have a compelling narrative?
  • Messages sent on fixed lines, like email, have little virality potentialPeople want to be engagedWho knows better what is going on in their neighbourhoods than people who live thereSignificant information potential, as we shall see in a minuteMonitor and respond to online narrativesOnce they take hold, they are difficult to dislodgeSegue to discussion on risks
  • NY Times David Carr at SMW 2013: “The trouble with the web is that whatever answer you want, you’ll find it.”Beware of hoaxesAvatar effect
  • Human intellectArtificial intelligence = automated data collection + processing + crowdsourcing
  • Geofeedia allows you to filter for, and identify, location specific informationGeo-tagging allows us to move beyond text-based social media searchInformation can be exported to other platforms like Facebook and TwitterFuture GIS integrationAllows you to identify key influencers by location
  • Current generation photosynths are easy to capture, as photographs taken by any regular digital camera or mobile phone can be uploaded to Photosynth. Users have the option to geotag their digital shots on sites such as Flickr and then upload them to the online Photosynth web service. Images uploaded on Photosynth give people the ability to seamlessly view landmarks, public spaces and objects from all sides.Walk or fly through a scene to see photos from any angleZoom in or out of a photoSee where pictures were taken in relation to one anotherSmoothly change viewing angle between nearby photosSmoothly zoom in and out of high-resolution photosFind similar photos to the one you're currently viewing
  • Is Instagram the next ‘Big Thing’ to assist crisis managers?Policy:Use specific hashtags (Philippines cyclone)Use specific language (hard to understand words like ‘fire’)


  • 1. #SMEM
  • 2. Emergency Management TasksSense MakingDecision MakingMeaning MakingTerminatingLearning
  • 3. • Authority is being replaced by the need to influence• Commodification of knowledge is dead• Public expectations• Ubiquitous mobile devices with GPS• Rise of social networks
  • 4. John Locke didn’t have to deal with Big Data • Volume • Variety • Velocity
  • 5. Define your objectivesThe more complex the objective, the harder it will be to achieve
  • 6. Establish your brand in advance
  • 7. Find your influencers
  • 8. Warby Parker Content Qs • Is it unique? • Is it authentic? • Is it unexpected? • Does it do good? • Does it have a compelling narrative?
  • 9. Don’t Push . . . Pull!
  • 10. Watch for hoaxes – pause before posting
  • 11. Combine human judgment with artificial intelligence
  • 12. Via @patrickmeier
  • 13. Key Points• Identify your objectives• Find your influencers• Give your trusted agents content to share• Pull, don’t push• Marry human and artificial intelligence• Adopt a portfolio of platforms• Manage the risks• Policy