Social media and disasters


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See: Alexander, D.E. 2013. Social media in disaster risk reduction and crisis management. Science and Engineering Ethics (published on line 4 December 2013).

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Social media and disasters

  1. 1. Social Media, Disasters and Resilience David Alexander University College London
  2. 2. Emilia-Romagna, n. Italy 29 May 2012, 09:02hrs M5.8 earthquake: 17 dead, 40 towns damaged Social media provided a clear picture of the situation within 50 minutes
  3. 3. 4 May 2013 Wetteren, Ghent, Belgium Acrylonitrile explosion, fire 1 death, 300 evacuated Social media reports were wildly inaccurate
  4. 4. We have come a long way in a very short space of time...
  5. 5. E.L. Quarantelli: the information technology revolution is in the same class as the invention of writing, printing, radio and television.
  6. 6. ...close inspection of technological development reveals that technology leads a double life, one which conforms to the intentions of designers and interests of power and another which contradicts them—proceeding behind the backs of their architects to yield unintended consequences and unanticipated possibilities." Quarantelli (1997)
  7. 7. Wisdom: ability to take decisions on the basis of principles, experience and knowledge Knowledge: understanding of how things function (or should function) Information: description of physical and social situations Data: basic facts and statistics COMMUNICATION Source: Y.F. Tuan
  8. 8. Information and Communications Technology News and information dissemination Public participation in disaster risk reduction Disaster research Disaster management and risk reduction ICT is the nexus Social media are now a the heart of ICT
  9. 9. Social media: blogs, micro-blogs, social book-marking, social networking, forums, collaborative creation of documents (wikis), sharing audio, photographic and video files.
  10. 10. The age of the "selfie"...
  11. 11. • do not have an absolute centre • do not produce an absolute consensus. Social media
  12. 12. A different architecture: emergency management systems are bureaucratic, social media form a true open system.
  13. 13. • how they are used technically (e.g. designing architecture and software) • how they are used socially (e.g. how people interact). What we know about social media, emergencies and disasters
  14. 14. • help disseminate alerts and warnings • disseminate information to the public • facilitate citizen journalism • stimulate cash donation • aid collaboration (e.g. on mapping). In disasters, social media... • help locate missing people
  15. 15. Impact of disaster Time Deficit Surplus Excess of information Information critical but lacking Shortage of information
  16. 16. Social media in disaster 1. A listening function 2. Monitoring public debate 3. Integration of social media into emergency management 4. Crowd-sourcing and collaborative development 5. Creating social cohesion and promoting therapeutic initiatives 6. Furtherance of causes (including donation) 7. Research.
  17. 17. • rumour propagation • circulating false information • charlatan sites (e.g. earthquake prediction) • deliberate personal attacks and defamation • image manipulation. Negative side of social media • conspiracy theories
  18. 18. Conventional media are just as capable as social media of distorting a story. PS: The death toll was 31...!
  19. 19. Feedback Feedback Direct communication Press conferences, communiques Consumer relations Civil protection service The mass media Call centre The general public Social media
  20. 20. Social media dispense with ‘‘information gatekeepers’’: and use apomediation or disintermediation - i.e., group moderation
  21. 21. Organised Spontaneous Established Kinship groups Individual citizens Disaster subcultures Emergent groups Citizens' organisations Charitable NGOs Some public stakeholders in disaster response Schools Workplace groups
  22. 22. Rebecca Goolsby (2009): ‘‘finding useful ‘tweets’ during a major event… is a little like panning for gold in a raging river.’’
  23. 23. Resilient culture Culture of resilience
  24. 24. Social factors Plan Message Technology Response Perception Culture Optimisation
  25. 25. Long term Short term Emic components Etic components METAMORPHOSIS OF CULTURE Experiences of culture [mass-media and consumer culture] Accumulated cultural traits and beliefs Inherited cultural background Ideological (non-scientific) interpretations of disaster Learned (scientific) interpretations of disaster
  26. 26. Symbolism inherent in technological culture Traditional symbolism and portent Event Interpretation Dynamic cultural metamorphosis
  27. 27. Emergency management: an evolutionary approach Proxy Participatory Civil defence...............Civil protection Command and control Vertical chain of command Population excluded Law and order Secrecy Collaboration Task forces Population consulted and included Problem solving Openness
  28. 28. Are emergencies merely gigantic tests of the duration of batteries?
  29. 29. Change is inevitable: except from vending machines! Oya District, Kesennuma, Japan tsunami area
  30. 30. 1. How should we prepare for computer system-related disasters? 2. Will IT make the rich richer and the poor poorer in disasters? 3. How do we assure that technology that is a "means" is not turned into an "end" in itself in the disaster area? 4. In what ways should we deal with the inevitable information overload problem? 5. How do we deal with information that becomes lost or outdated? 6. How do we handle the increasing likelihood of the diffusion of inappropriate disaster relevant information? Quarantelli, E.L. 1997. Disaster Prevention & Management 6(2): 94-106.
  31. 31. 7. What are the implications of further diminution of nonverbal communication? 8. Will the computer-based revolution make intra- and inter-level communication even more difficult? 9. What are the negative consequences of the probable acceleration of fads and fashions associated with computer use in the disaster area? 10. What kinds of general social infrastructures and cultures are necessary for the adequate functioning of the disaster-relevant technology? 11. How do we develop a critical ability to discern what is useful and what is not from among the plethora of information on the Internet? 12. How can we reorient ourselves to cope with an essentially formless topography that completely changes distance relationships in communication? Quarantelli, E.L. 1997. Disaster Prevention & Management 6(2): 94-106.
  32. 32. Thank you for your attention!