Crisis Informatics

Crisis Informatics

Christine Hagar
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch128
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Crisis informatics is an emerging, interdisciplinary area of study. The term was first coined in a paper by Hagar (2006) entitled “Using research to aid the design of a crisis information management course” presented at the Association of Library & Information Science Educators (ALISE) conference Special Interest Group Multicultural, Ethnic & Humanistic Concerns, San Antonio. It is broadly defined as the interconnectedness of people, organizations, information and technology during crises. Crisis informatics examines the intersecting trajectories of social, technical and information perspectives during the full life cycle of a crisis: preparation, response, and recovery.

The field of crisis/ disaster research was largely owned by sociologists. Disaster researchers investigated a wide range of social phenomenon during pre- and post-phases of natural, human-induced, and technological hazard events (Perry, 2006). The Disaster Research Project at the University of Chicago in the 1950s was the first organization to systematically study human behavior in disasters (Solnit, 2009). Since then, crises/disasters have been studied from a risk management perspective, from a management perspective, systems perspective, and only more recently from an information science perspective.

Crisis informatics is a growing field of inquiry and requires integrative and collaborative efforts from many disciplines in order to achieve effective and efficient crisis/ disaster preparedness and response. It strives for socially and behaviorally informed development of ICT for crisis situations (Palen, 2012). It is not only of interest to a variety of practitioners, researchers and academics in information science, knowledge management and information systems, but also to other fields, such as government, state and local emergency management and planning; nongovernment organizations; risk management; computer science; communications; community planners, public health, psychology, sociology.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs): Emerging technologies e.g. social media and traditional technologies e.g. radio and television.

Crisis Informatics: The interconnectedness of people, organizations, information and technology during crises which examines the intersecting trajectories of social, technical and information perspectives in crises.

Information Vacuum: A lack of information which may exacerbate and increase the severity of a crisis and may induce rumor and gossip.

Crisis: A natural disaster (e.g. earthquake, hurricane, major flooding, tornado) a human-induced crisis such as a terrorist attack, a pandemic, a nuclear crisis.

Crowdsourcing: Collective intelligence gathered by volunteers.

Social media: Internet-based tools which allow people to interact, and to share resources and user-generated content.

Information Overload: Vast amounts of information created in formal and informal channels by many actors and agencies.

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