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Social Media in Times of Crisis (ARC Linkage)

Social Media in Disasters (and a Call for PhD Students)

I’m still blogging somewhat selectively from the Australia New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management conference, given that some of the presentations here really are well outside my own research area. I’m here, though, because I’m presenting a paper with my QUT colleague Jean Burgess on our research into the use of Twitter following the 2010/11 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand. The presentation is below (with audio to come soon, hopefully), and the full paper is also online.

This research is also associated with a new ARC Linkage-funded three-year research project on “Social Media in Times of Crisis” which we’re undertaking along with the Queensland Department for Community Safety and the Eidos Institute. There’s a PhD scholarship attached to this project, and we’re now looking for expressions of interest for this position, to commence shortly: students will be embedded with the DCS in Brisbane to develop, deploy, and evaluate enhanced strategies for the Department’s use of social media; they will also need to develop connections to other relevant emergency and media institutions. Students with strong connections to the local Brisbane and south-east Queensland community would be ideal. If you’re interested, please get in touch: a.bruns [at]

Towards Integrated Information Management during Crises

The next speaker at ANZDMC 2012 is Chris Fisher from the Queensland Department of Community Safety, who presents DCS’s ‘All Hazards’ approach to integrated information management. This is especially important in the context of disasters, in order to accelerate the provision of essential information to stakeholders and the public. But this is limited by existing barriers and silos – and it cannot simply be addressed through better information technology.

Disasters do not respect borders or organisational boundaries – and to address this, ‘All Hazards’ became an informational problem-solving exercise. It was an important recognition of ‘information’ as an independent entity in the disaster management process. The programme delivers planning and intelligence, decision support, resource management and coordination, public engagement, and shared situational awareness, and builds on a foundation of information exchange and interoperability.

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.


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