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Crisis Communication

Some Publications Updates (Mostly about Twitter)

OK, so to save this blog from turning completely into a conference blog (watch out for the Australia/New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference, starting next week), here’s a round-up of my most recent publications. Most of these build on our Twitter research – and you can find more detailed updates about those projects over at Mapping Online Publics.

I’ve had three co-authored journal articles published over the past few weeks. Of these, the most recent one is in First Monday, and was co-authored with Eugene Liang Yuxiang from the National Cheng Chi University in Taipei, following on from a workshop on Twitter and crisis communication research which took place there last October. In the paper, Eugene and I compare our approaches to tracking disaster-related communication on Twitter – I discuss our work with yourTwapperkeeper and Eugene outlines the infrastructure the Taiwanese team have built. For more, see:

Axel Bruns and Eugene Liang Yuxian. “Tools and Methods for Capturing Twitter Data during Natural Disasters.First Monday 17.4 (2012).

Two other publications are co-authored with my QUT colleague Jean Burgess, and appeared in Journalism Studies and Journalism Practice within two days of each other. The first of these is another methodology article, and outlines how our methods for Twitter research may be used by journalists and journalism researchers; it’s based on the paper we presented at the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff in September 2011. More details are here:

Twitter and the #qldfloods

Twelve months ago Brisbane, and the South East Queensland region, were just about to begin the long process of recovery from the major floods which affected Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich, and Brisbane itself. One of the more positive stories to emerge from the crisis, though, was how social media were used as a tool for sharing news and information about the disaster, and for assisting locals with organising the (significantly volunteer-driven) relief and recovery effort.

To document these uses – especially of Twitter, though Facebook was also important –, we’ve now released a major research report through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, as an outcome from our overall efforts in researching the uses of Twitter and developing tools and methods for such research, which we’re sharing over on the Mapping Online Publics site. The report is available here.

Wrapping Up the Year with Some More Publications, and New Projects

Time for a quick update again: I’m hardly even back from the SBPJor conference in Rio de Janeiro in November, but my keynote “Gatekeeping, Gatewatching, Real-Time Feedback: New Challenges for Journalism” from the conference has already been published in the Brazilian Journalism Research journal, alongside the other keynotes. I posted the slides and audio from the presentation last month – and a similar presentation in German, from my visit to Vienna in March, is also online here.

When I arrived back in my office from the Rio trip, I was also very pleased to see that the Digital Difference book, collecting papers from the 2007 Ideas, Cyberspace, Education 3 conference on the shores of Loch Lomond, had finally arrived. It’s been a long road, but congratulations to the editors, Ray Land and Siân Bayne, for sticking with the project. My article, “Beyond Difference: Reconfiguring Education for the User-Led Age”, applies produsage concepts to explore new approaches to education.

Twitter and the Rescue of the Chilean Miners

The next panel at AoIR 2011 starts with the excellent Luca Rossi, whose focus is on the Twitter coverage of the Chilean mining accident and the subsequent rescue of the miners. Luca begins, though, by pointing to the underlying theory of media events – from the royal wedding (as a kind of 2.0 version, now with added social media, of the Charles & Diana a few decades ago wedding) to crisis and disaster events.

Twitter coverage of the mine rescue in Chile was coordinated through the #rescatemineros hashtag. The miners were trapped underground for some three months, following the 5 August 2010 mine collapse; the event transformed from a crisis event to a more organised media event as it gradually unfolded. How did Twitter cover this; how did messages propagate through the network; and how did Twitter interleave with the wider mediasphere?

Patterns of Twitter Use during #eqnz

My own paper (with Jean), on the Twitter response to the second Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011 through the #eqnz hashtag, was next at AoIR 2011. Here are the slides – audio soon, hopefully now also added.

Twitter Activity Patterns during #qldfloods

The next speaker in our AoIR 2011 panel is Frances Shaw, who focusses our attention on the December/January 2010 Queensland floods crisis; the peak period in southeast Queensland followed 9 January 2010. The floods washed down from Toowoomba through the Lockyer Valley (were a significant number of lives were lost) and into Ipswich and Brisbane. On Twitter, discussion of the floods was coordinated through the #qldfloods hashtag, and the Queensland Police Service Media Unit account @QPSMedia emerged as a leading actor.

Frances worked through the #qldfloods dataset as well as through tweets sent by and directed at the @QPSMedia account, manually coding a subset of these tweets according to a set scheme: informational tweets; media sharing; help and fundraising; direct experience; and reactions and discussion. Over the entire #qldfloods dataset, discussion and reactions, information, and help and fundraising were especially prominent, tweets to and from @QPSMedia focussed especially on information.

Introducing a Theory of Acute Events

The next session at AoIR 2011 is our own, fabulous panel on crisis communication. We begin with an overview paper by my CCI colleagues Jean Burgess and Kate Crawford, who introduce the idea of acute events. Kate begins by outlining the idea of media ecologies involving a wide range of different media platforms, and their specific performance during acute events (such as crises, but also a range of similar events).

Jean follows on by defining acute events as significant real-world events which are associated with intense bursts in media activity – from political elections to royal weddings, from celebrity deaths to natural disasters. We can identify acute events on the basis of their timeline: a sharp peak of high volume and identity (whether locally or globally); highly mediated, involving multiple actors and interests; on Twitter, coordinated around specific #hashtags; and producing controversies and other adjunctive conversations associated more broadly with the topic.


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