Peripheral Response: Microblogging During the 22/7/2011 Norway Attacks

Peripheral Response: Microblogging During the 22/7/2011 Norway Attacks

Sung-Yueh Perng, Monika Büscher, Lisa Wood, Ragnhild Halvorsrud, Michael Stiso, Leonardo Ramirez, Amro Al-Akkad
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2013010103
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This paper presents a case study of microblogging during the Norway attacks on 22 July, 2011, during which a single person first detonated a bomb in Oslo, killing eight people, and then shot 69 young people on the island of Utøya. It proposes a novel way of conceptualizing the public contribution to mobilization of resources through microblogging, particularly tweeting, as a form of ‘peripheral response’. By examining the distributed efforts of responding to the crisis in relation to emergent forms of agile and dialogic emergency response, the paper also revisits the concept of situation awareness and reflects upon the dynamic and constantly changing environment that social media and crises inhabit together.
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Recent years have seen microblogging and grassroots responses play powerful roles in major crises, from providing information about the development of events to supporting decision-making (Sutton, Palen & Shklovski, 2008; Palen, Vieweg & Anderson, 2011). New forms of identifying, documenting and addressing needs for resources in different locations are emerging through crowdsourcing, self-organized ‘voluntweeting’ and distributed collaboration during crises (Starbird & Palen, 2011, Boulos et al., 2011). ‘Crisis mappers’ like the Ushahidi Haiti Project (UHP) provide novel ways of crowdsourcing and mapping information, even supporting the task of deploying resources to people in need. Morrow, Mock, Papendieck & Kocmich (2011), for example, describe how the Department of State Analysts for the US government interagency task force and US marines used UHP information to enhance situation awareness and identify “centers of gravity” for deployment of field teams (ibid, p.4). Innovations like ‘Tweak the Tweet’ (TtT), a standard which suggests a uniform format for reports through hashtagging needs, locations and contact details, can promote a shared ‘grammar’ that facilitates computational parsing of tweeted information (Starbird & Palen 2011). Starbird & Palen observe how volunteer translators or ‘voluntweeters’ translated reports from different sources, such as text messages or tweets, using the TtT syntax in response to the Haiti crisis, and worked as ‘remote operators’ to facilitate assistance and collaboration from a distance.

The public – those directly affected, as well as bystanders and volunteers – have always participated in self-organized mobilization and coordination of resources, in parallel to the official mobilization of staff and equipment initiated by calls to alarm centres (Fischer, 2008; Stallings & Quarantelli, 1985). One recent example examined by Kendra, Wachtendorf & Quarantelli (2003) describes how members of the public improvised waterborne evacuation of victims of 9/11 by mobilizing boats and ferries available near the shoreline of Lower Manhattan after the World Trade Centre towers collapsed. Social media extend the possibilities for such self-organized mobilization of resources by enabling greater and more localized awareness of needs and available resources and by supporting communication.

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