Crisis 2.0 in the Australian Context: The i-Survive Project

Crisis 2.0 in the Australian Context: The i-Survive Project

Julie Willems (School of Rural Health - MUDRIH, Faculty of Medicine, School of Rural Health, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Moe, VIC, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/ijiscram.2013100103
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Abstract

In the face of disasters and emergencies, Internet-enabled mobile phones (or ‘Smartphones'), coupled with Web 2.0 social networks are swiftly becoming not only a means to personally chronicle the events being experienced, but are also being used to disseminate information, educate and inform civilians. The aim of the i-Survive project was to investigate the use of mobile social media during recent Australian disaster and emergency situations. Participants in the pilot study were representatives of key community stakeholders in the crisis event. The quantitative and qualitative findings of from the study's survey questionnaire will be discussed in this paper. Participants' extended qualitative responses to the follow up interviews and the digital artefacts contributed will be detailed in two separate papers.
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The Social Nature Of Crises

In Australia, the term crisis (plural ‘crises’) is understood to be an umbrella term which encompasses both the type of and the scale of the situation. In relation to the type, crises can occur due to the result of human action and/or inaction, in addition to the result of such naturally-occurring phenomena as fires, storms, floods, and cyclones (DBCDE, 2011). In relation to scale, crises also occur on a scale or a ‘continuum of magnitude’ (Oliver, 2010). These range from an emergency at the lower end of the scale, through to a catastrophe at the other. In large scale crises, there are ripple effects that extend beyond the locale itself, affecting aspects ranging from public health, economies, and civilisations (Howe et al., 2011).

As such, crises are understood to be multifaceted events which affect individuals and communities, businesses and livestock, and the environment. Churchman (1967) eloquently describes them as ‘wicked problems’. They are ‘wicked’ in that they are complex, contradictory, and changeable. Additionally, the needs in one locale may be very different to the needs in another. For this reason, responses to crises need to be informed by a ‘bottom up’ approach, rather than a ‘top down’ approach.

First-responders in crises are often “people from the local and surrounding communities who provide first aid, transport victims to hospitals in their own cars, and begin search and rescue” (Howe et al., 2011). Disaster sociologist, Russell Dynes (1998), observes that in examining events in and around emergencies and disasters, the community needs to be the locus of analysis. It is the community – wherever that community is – which has the capacity and resources to activate a response to the disaster. Further, such analysis has cross-national and cross-cultural applicability (Fischer, 2003). One way of examining community as the locus of analysis is in examining the communications – or ‘crisis informatics’ – which occur during the event.

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