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Social Media in Disaster Communication

This article explored how the rise of socio-technical innovations, along with social media, contributed to changes in the way the public communicates during and after a crisis. It explored these activities of the public: citizen reporting, community-oriented computing, collective intelligence, and distributed problem solving. Social media is shaping perceptions around how members of the public can participate in emergency response. We can use networks to analyze aspects such as how information spreads around the time of disasters.

Network analysis, or examining social media behavior in the large, shows that people who have a close relationship to the region where the event is taking place make use of social media differently than those who are global onlookers. For example, in 2009 when the Red River Flood threat was occurring, residents near the Red River, or those who traveled to assist in flood mitigation, were more likely to tweet original tweets. The information provided by people near the event was also more specific to locals. People who were more physically distant from the flood were more likely to retweet abstract information of the event and redistribute messages and images to the rest of the world more broadly. Another example of this relationship between social media use and proximity to the crisis is that according to research from social media networks before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (a “high-volume event”) locals were more likely to interact with locals on social media platforms. A study exploring twitter use during a crisis found that the network of tweets also tended to filter out incorrect information; this self-regulating behavior means that retweeted messages tended to be more accurate or contributed to situational awareness. By analyzing networks, we can gain information as to how better respond and communicate during disasters.


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October 2018