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Crisis Communication

Critical Questions for Research into the Uses of Social Media in Crisis Communication

The third speaker on our AoIR 2013 crisis communication panel is Megan Finn. She begins by noting that the US Geological Survey is now using Twitter data to detect earthquakes - but more generally, there are also limits to the use of Twitter and other social media data, as not all groups in society are equally represented in such data, and in social media as such.

A disaster is traditionally defined as an event, concentrated in time and space, in which society undergoes severe data and essential functions of society are interrupted. But the components of this definition are problematic - a crisis is more a reflection of the ability or otherwise of the socioeconomic system to cope with unusual conditions in a current situation, and this needs to be better recognised; for one, the recovery period also emerges as an important point of focus here.

Social Media in the Mexican Drug Wars

The next speaker in our AoIR 2013 panel on crisis communication is Andres Monroy-Hernandes, who focusses on emergency responses in the current Mexican drug war. Traditionally, emergency information has been disseminated by government officials and the media, but this is not necessarily the case in Mexico, due to the scale of civil disorder in the country: journalists and government organisations in northern Mexico are essentially operating under a self-imposed news blackout due to the pressure they feel from the druglords.

Instead, social media are increasingly adopted for information: citizens in lawless areas are warning each other of "risky situations" (shootings, bombs, etc.), with hashtags like #mtyfollow emerging as the mechanisms to collate such warnings. A kind of "narco language" is also emerging - for example for kidnappings, dead bodies, etc. - and the occurrence of such language is correlated with the murder rate in specific areas, and with the magnitude of specific events.

The Changing Shape of Emergency Responses

The next panel at AoIR 2013 is on crisis communication, and we have a paper in this one, too... We start, however, with Leysia Palen from the fabulous Project EPIC in Boulder, who begins with a general overview. Disasters are disruptive, unpredicted events which mean that normal daily routines cannot continue; emergencies become disasters when they overtax available local resources.

One aspect of disasters is mass convergence: a slower-motion convergence of people either in local locations or in spaces immediately outside the disaster zone - including affected residents, support staff, and curious onlookers. These groups are often organised around available items of information about the disaster.

Social Media Crisis Communication in Australia

My own presentation at the Project EPIC symposium was next, outlining the Australian perspective on the uses of social media in crisis communication. Powerpoint and audio below:

Social Media in Times of Crisis: The Australian Perspective from Axel Bruns

Mobile Technologies of Social Mediation

It's Wednesday, probably, and I've arrived in Colorado for the 2013 Association of Internet Researchers conference in Denver. Today, though, I've made my way to Boulder to meet with the fabulous Project EPIC research group around Leysia Palen, who have done a great deal of leading-edge research into the use of social media in crisis communication.

Some Recent and Upcoming Work

When this site goes quiet, it’s usually because work is exceptionally busy. My apologies for the long silence since the launch of our major collection A Companion to New Media Dynamics – a range of projects, variously relating to the uses of social media in crisis communication, of Twitter in a number of national elections, of social media as a second-screen backchannel to televised events, and of ‘big data’ in researching online issue publics, have kept me occupied for the past eight months or so.

Now, I’m about to head off to Denver for the annual Association of Internet Researchers conference and on to a number of other events, and you can expect the usual bout of live blogging from these conferences – but before I do so, here’s a quick update of some of the major publications and papers I’ve completed during the past few months. For some more frequent updates on the work of my colleagues and me, you can also follow our updates at Mapping Online Publics and the site of the QUT Social Media Research Group, of course. On the SMRG site, we’ve also posted a list of the presentations we’ll be making at AoIR and beyond – hope to see you there!

Neue Öffentlichkeiten auf Social-Media-Plattformen: Zur Nutzung von 'Big Data' in der Kommunikationsforschung (LMU-CAS 2013)

Centre for Advanced Studies 2013

Neue Öffentlichkeiten auf Social-Media-Plattformen: Zur Nutzung von ‚Big Data‘ in der Kommunikationsforschung

Axel Bruns

Social-Media-Plattformen wie Facebook und insbesondere Twitter stellen eine große Menge öffentlicher Nutzer- und Nutzungsdaten zur weiteren Verwertung durch Markt- und Hochschulforschung bereit. Diese ‚Big Data‘ unterstützen eine in dieser Form bislang noch nicht möglich gewesene, breit aufgebaute Untersuchung aktueller Kommunikationsprozesse, die den Begriff der Öffentlichkeit bis auf die „persönlichen Öffentlichkeiten“ (Schmidt, 2009), die um einzelne Social-Media-Accounts herum entstehen, ausweiten kann. Dieser Vortrag stellt erste Ergebnisse eines solchen Forschungsansatzes am Beispiel der Nutzung von Twitter in Australien dar, wo (für etwa 22 Mio. Einwohner) um die 2-2½ Mio. Twitter-Accounts existieren. Ein besonderes Interesse gilt dabei der politischen sowie der Krisenkommunikation.


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