The Use of Social Media in Disaster Situations: Framework and Cases

The Use of Social Media in Disaster Situations: Framework and Cases

Guido Lang (City University of New York, USA) and Raquel Benbunan-Fich (City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0167-3.ch002
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Abstract

Recent disasters highlight the importance of social media supporting critical information gathering and dissemination efforts by members of the public. Given that disasters pose unique challenges and social media are evolving rapidly, how can one compare the effectiveness of social media in different disaster situations? Drawing from prior work on e-participation, this paper proposes a novel framework for social media use based on four key modules: selection, facilitation, deliberation, and aggregation. A comparative analysis of social media use following a man-made disaster (the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy) and during a natural disaster (the 2009 Britain blizzard) exemplifies the value of the proposed framework. Future research can build on and leverage the present work by analyzing and incorporating additional cases on the use of social media in disaster situations.
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2. Theoretical Background

Due to the lack of an established body of knowledge on the use of social media by members of the public, we draw from prior work that addresses a similar issue: e-participation. In the fields of policy and political science, e-participation generally refers to the use of web applications for public participation in policy making (Macintosh, 2006). E-participation can be seen as a subset of the general mechanisms underlying public participation, which denotes the practice of integrating citizens in the political decision-making activities of organizations (Rowe, 2005). Also in this field, scholars seem to focus now on efforts to design more efficient and effective public participation processes that make use of social media (Abelson et al., 2003).

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