International Media Studies Master’s Programme (M.A.

)

Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree “Master of Art” (M.A.)

„A Help or a Hindrance? The Role of Social Media in Natural Disaster Management Communication“

Submitted on: 06.17.2011 by: Oscar Rafael Schlenker Balza Matr.-Nr.: 9014507 First supervisor: Dr. Katja Schupp Second supervisor: Dr. Irene Quaile

Bonn: June 17, 2011

Table of Contents
Abstract…………………………………………………………………………….....II List of Tables and Figures ………………………………………………………… III List of Abbreviations ……………………………………………………………….IV  
1   INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................................ 1   1.1   SOCIAL  MEDIA  IN  DISASTER  INFORMATION:  MOTIVATION  THEN  AND  NOW ................................2   1.2   SCOPE  AND  FOCUS ......................................................................................................................................3   1.3   ASSUMPTIONS .............................................................................................................................................4   1.4   THESIS  STRUCTURE....................................................................................................................................5   2   CORE  TERMS.................................................................................................................................. 6   2.1   DISASTER  MANAGEMENT..........................................................................................................................6   2.1.1   Communication  And  Coordination.............................................................................................8   2.1.2   Information  And  Communication  Technologies  For  Emergencies ........................... 11   2.1.3   Disaster  Reporting:  From  Traditional  To  Digital  Media ............................................... 15   2.2   CONCEPTUALIZING  SOCIAL  MEDIA....................................................................................................... 22   2.2.1   What  Is  Web  2.0?............................................................................................................................. 22   2.2.2   Web  2.0  Principles  in  Disaster  Management ...................................................................... 24   2.2.3   Social  Media  Defined ..................................................................................................................... 27   2.3   THEORIES  APPLIED  TO  DIGITAL  COMMUNICATION.......................................................................... 29   2.3.1   Medium  Theory  2.0......................................................................................................................... 30   2.3.2   The  Challenges  Of  The  Tripartite  Network  Society.......................................................... 34   3   SOCIAL  MEDIA  DEVELOPMENT  IN  DISASTER  MANAGEMENT  COMMUNICATION 37   3.1   SOCIAL  MEDIA  TOOLS  FOR  DISASTER  MANAGEMENT  COMMUNICATION .................................... 37   3.1.1   The  Blog  And  Its  Evolution  To  The  Twittering  Revolution ........................................... 38   3.1.2   Social  Networking  Sites  (SNS)................................................................................................... 41   3.1.3   Collaborative  Projects…  What  Is  A  Wiki? ............................................................................. 43   3.1.4   Content  Communities:  I  Tube,  Youtube,  We  All  Tube...................................................... 45   3.2   COORDINATING  GROUP  CMC  THROUGH  SOCIAL  MEDIA ................................................................. 49   3.3   DISASTER  MANAGEMENT  COMMUNICATION  THROUGH  SOCIAL  MEDIA ...................................... 52   4   THE  ROLE  OF  SOCIAL  MEDIA  IN  NATURAL  DISASTER  MANAGEMENT   COMMUNICATION ............................................................................................................................ 55   4.1   RESEARCH  METHODS ............................................................................................................................. 55   4.2   INTERVIEWS ............................................................................................................................................. 57   4.2.1   Selection  Of  Experts ....................................................................................................................... 57   4.2.2   Interview  Guidelines ...................................................................................................................... 61   4.2.3   Interview  Procedures  And  Transcription ............................................................................. 62   4.3   INTERVIEW  ANALYSIS............................................................................................................................. 63   4.3.1   Analysis  Design................................................................................................................................. 63   4.3.2   Coding  Tree........................................................................................................................................ 65   4.4   SOCIAL  MEDIA  SWOT  FOR  DISASTER  MANAGEMENT  COMMUNICATION ................................... 91   5   CONCLUDING  REMARKS ......................................................................................................... 99   6   WORKS  CITED ..........................................................................................................................102   7   APPENDIX.................................................................................................................................. 108  

A Help or a Hindrance? The Role of Social Media in Natural Disaster Management Communication

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Abstract The technological advancements in media and interconnectivity have opened new channels of communication. In recent years, social media have proven to be relevant tools for gathering information when disaster strikes. This research evaluates how social media are being used in natural disaster management communications. Analyzing from the conclusions of disaster management, communication and information technology experts, this research outlines the challenges social media pose and where they serve best in the disaster management process. Additionally, the outcomes from this analysis can serve as suggestions for disaster management organizations looking to develop a social media strategy.

A Help or a Hindrance? The Role of Social Media in Natural Disaster Management Communication

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List of Tables and Figures

Table 1: Attribute codes for experts interviewed……………………..……65 Table 2: Substantive code tree for role of social media in natural disaster management…………………………………………………...…...…….69 Table 3: Internal/External SWOT Division………………………………..91 Table 4: SWOT Analysis…………………………………………………..92 Fig. 1: Disaster Classification ………………………………………………..5 Fig. 2: Disaster management cycle……………………………………….......5 Fig. 3: UNOCHA response cluster approach………………………………...7 Fig. 4: World disaster report 2010…………………………………..……....10 Fig. 5: Peter’s media disaster manager discrepancies……………...……….16 Fig. 6: Laswell’s communication model………………………………...….17 Fig. 7: Peter’s media disaster manager discrepancies…………………...….20 Fig. 8: Social media classification…………………………………………..28 Fig. 9: Jan Van Dijk tripartite participation in the network society……...…34 Fig. 10: Social media and disaster timeline………………………………..40 Fig. 11: Ushahidi platform for Japan……………………………...……....45 Fig. 12: Pew Research Center reviews of Japan Social Media Use……….47 Fig. 13: Communication Formats………………………………....……….48 Fig. 14: Types of GCSS (McGrath and Hollingshead.……………...…….52

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List of Abbreviations

ADRC API CARE DL CMC ENTRi GCSS GIS GISS GPS GPSS GXSS ICT IT ITU IDU IFRC JCMC NGO OECD PEJ RSS SMS SNS SOS SWOT TV UGC UN

Asian Disaster Reduction Centre Application Programming Interfaces Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere Deutschland/Luxemburg Computers mediated communication Europe's New Training Initiative for Civilian Crisis Management Group (internal) Communication Support System Geographic Information Systems Group Information Support System Global Positioning System Group Performance Support System Group External Communication Support System Information Communication Technology Information Technology International Telecommunications Union International Development Index International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication Non governmental organization Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Project for Excellence in Journalism Really Simple Syndication Short Message Services Social Networking Sites Traditional Morse Code Symbol for Aid Request Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Television User Generated Content United Nations

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UNDAC UNISDR UNOCHA UNOOSA

United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination United Nation International Strategy for Disaster Reduction United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs Management and Emergency Response,

UN SPIDER United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster URL US USA V&TC WWW X24 Y2K ZIF Uniform Resource Locator United States United States of America Volunteer and Technology Communities, Word Wide Web As in Day 24. Year Two Thousand Zentrum für Internationale Friedenseinsätze or the Center for International Peace Operations

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“The ultimate basis of social power is communication that sustains cooperation among people. This allows many people to strive toward the same goal, and it allows people to specialize in what they do best.”1

1

Introduction
In his book, The Network Society, Jan van Dijk points out that cooperation and

competition among humans are major historical factors that led to the expansion of network communications for social development. Van Dijk finally concludes: “The power of human communication, both in its cooperative and competitive
forms, has also affected the earth. Increasingly, economic and population growth, urbanization and technology have produced an ecological impact”2

Indeed, with the emergence of densely populated megacities in the past century and a dramatic rise in the number of natural disasters, the 21st century has more people at risk of losing everything when an unprecedented disaster strikes3. However, Van Dijk’s assertion that communication has had an ecological impact is a paradox when considering the importance of communication in dealing with ecological impacts on society. With more natural disasters and people at risk, the disaster management community has an increasing crucial task to maintain effective communications throughout their operations4. Regardless of this, some disaster management operations in the past did not put much emphasis on information management for emergency communications. For example, the response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the southern American shores in 2005, is said to have lacked coordination due to poor information flows resulting in the “inability of disaster response managers to validate and process relevant information and make decisions in a timely fashion”5. Mitigating                                                                                                                
McNeill, J.R. & McNeill, William H. (2003): The Human Web. WW Norton & Company, New York. P. 5. 2 Van Dijk, Jan (2006): The Network Society (2). Sage, London. P. 23. 3 See: Independent Evaluation Group (2007): Development Actions and the Rising Incidence of Disasters. Knowledge & Evaluation Capacity Development/The World Bank, Washington D.C. P. 1-3. 4 See: Haddow, George D. & Haddow, Kim S. (2009): Disaster Communications in a Changing Media World. Elsevier, Oxford. P. 1-2. 5 Gad-el-Hak, Mohamed (2008): Large-Scale Disasters: Prediction, Control and Mitigation. Cambridge University Press, New York. P. 129.
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with community leaders and informing the public about prevention help lower disaster risks; and access to fast and precise information can determine the immediate needs of a community after the destructive path of a disaster6. The flow of information can determine the success of disaster management, so it is important to have a strategy and know how to use the tools available for efficient disaster management communication. Today’s use of the Internet and mobile technology allows networked communications to facilitate better cooperation throughout the disaster management process7. This research explores how Information and Communication Technology, or ICT, Web 2.0 tools and the digitization of media have all contributed to the emergence of a social media that has modified the flow of information in disaster management communication. The analysis presented throughout this thesis attempts to shed light on the impact social media have on disaster management communications by defining the critical features that aid in communication and identifying the challenges that present obstacles for the flow of information through these channels.

1.1 Social Media In Disaster Information: Motivation Then And Now
The terms social network and new media seem to be recent developments popularized by digital applications that connect and inform people through a variety of platforms on the Internet. However, humans have been forming social networks since as early as the development of speech8. Further along in time, early network communications are still visible in roads and trade routes carved during ancient times9. Soon the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, the radio, film and television became mediums of communication10; thus they were all considered the new media during the time of their invention and highly influential in times of crisis. For instance, the 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon is considered to be the first large-scale

                                                                                                               
See: Haddow (2009) P. 2. See: Coyle, Diane & Meier, Patrick (2009): New Technologies in Emergencies and Conflicts: The Role of Information and Social Networks. UN Foundation-Vodafone Foundation Partnership, Washington D.C. & London. P. 10. 8 See: Van Dijk (2006) P. 21. 9 See: Kawamoto, Kevin (2003): Media and Society in the Digital Age. Pearson Education, Boston. P. 20. 10 See: Hui Kyong Chun, Wendy (2006): Introduction: Did Somebody Say New Media? In: Hui Kyong Chun, Wendy & Keenan, Thomas (eds.): New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. Routledge, New York. P. 3.
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natural disaster to have caused an international cultural and historical impact11 that can be attributed to the advances of the printing press. The catastrophic event was printed, reprinted and disseminated among masses in Europe and colonial North America. Witnesses’ accounts were published in the Gazeta de Lisboa, which was able to continue operating after the earthquake and gathered news from Portugal and abroad regarding the disaster. News about the Lisbon earthquake had a relevant impact on everything from literature of that time to the first texts of modern seismology12. Through recent examples of the most notorious large-scale disasters, this research explores how today’s globalized and networked world has witnessed similar cultural and historical impacts but with more immediate, transparent and wide-reaching effects than in the XVIII century. Discussions on whether our generation belongs to an information society or a digital society emerge from our need to be informed and to access the digital tools that keep us informed13. Either way, recent disasters and outrageous events have revealed that social media have a notable strength when informing digitally active niches in society. A poll released by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, or PEJ, noted that shortly after the March 11th, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the top 20 videos on YouTube were about the disaster. Simultaneously, information flows began to pour through other social media platforms. The poll by PEJ also concluded that during the week after the disaster in Japan, 64% of blog links and 32% of Twitter news links circulating on the Internet were about the earthquake and tsunami14. Such a bounty of resources can either help the flow of information or cause an information overload that alters disaster management communication.

1.2 Scope and Focus
The premise of this research presumes that in the context of disaster management communications, social media are tools that allow information to flow between disaster managers, disaster victims, traditional media and the outside world through an                                                                                                                
See: Oliver, Clifford E. (2011): Catastrophic Disaster Planning and Response. CRC Press, Boca Raton. P. 10-11. 12 See: Carvalhão Buescu, Helena (2006): Seeing too much: the 1755 earthquake in literature. In: European Review, 14 (3), 329-338. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 13 See: Kawamoto (2003) P. 15-16. 14 See: Guskin, Emily (2011): PEJ New Media Index: March 14-18, 2011: In Social Media it’s All About Japan. Available at http://www.journalism.org/node/24473. Viewed on 03.05.2011.
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interconnected digital web of social networks. The role of social media is as complex as the networks that compose it. Yet, some of the social media functions presented in this research can be compared to the traditional roles media serve in natural disaster situations, which are detailed in the next chapter. Therefore, this analysis limits the scope of social media to the applications that support the flow of information in disaster management communication. The outcomes of the analysis aim to expose the major changing factors in disaster management communications through the implementation of social media, supported by medium theory. It also aims to discuss the reach of information channeled through social media in a networked society following Van Dijk’s tripartite model. The main purpose of this research strives to achieve a functional framework for agencies considering the development of a social media strategy for their disaster management operations.

1.3 Assumptions
The following chapters evaluate the current information flow in disaster management under the assumption there has been a shift in what was once a top-down process of communication from leaders to masses, to what is now also a bottom-up process through social media; in which interconnected masses interact on the digital platforms and inform leaders of any given situation along the way. Social networks, blogs and other social media provide a wide-reaching platform where disaster victims, media, disaster management organizations and governments on the ground site of a disaster can congregate, contribute in the flow of information, reach out to the outside world and vice versa. These platforms allow users to skip traditional media for accessing information, although processing news from social media does not seem to be as easy as finding it. There may be many encoders and decoders on the Internet, but the flows of information can still get tangled in the massive databases of the World Wide Web, even more so when panic over a disaster can be reflected on digital communication as well. These notions are some of the functions, challenges and changes that this research aims to clarify. The following chapters explore the role social media play in natural disaster management communications. How are social media benefitting or hindering disaster management communications? What functions do social media have in the flow of information? How has disaster management changed? The expert-answers to these questions reveal an interesting pattern that is analyzed through a qualitative

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interpretation of responses resulting from the semi-structured interviews of 10 disaster management professionals. In addition, the content analysis of the given answers are used in this research to offer a SWOT analysis framework that could be instrumental in developing social media for a disaster management communication strategy.

1.4 Thesis Structure
To clarify the relationship between social media and natural disaster management it is necessary to first explore these two concepts and the subjects that relate them. These core concepts are presented in chapter 2 along with the relevant issues regarding disaster management communication, the role of media and the theories that complement the findings. Chapter 3 takes a closer look at social media in the context of disaster management. It classifies the social media tools implemented in recent natural disasters and presents them through the most notorious examples of modern day disaster management. Furthermore, chapter 3 also illustrates the different ways groups of people interact through computer-mediated communication converging in social media. Finally, before concluding this research, chapter 4 examines the answers of 10 disaster management experts who evaluate the use of social media and opine about their relevance in disaster management communications. Based on these results, chapter 4 also offers a SWOT analysis for a recommended social media strategy in disaster management communication.

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2

Core Terms
In order to begin the research analysis, first it is necessary to understand the

theoretical background that supports the topic of social media in disaster management. Included in this chapter are terms and definitions that describe the concepts and relationships between disaster management, crisis communication and social media. Furthermore, this section looks into theories that sustain the research analysis presented in further chapters. Before delving into the role of social media in disaster management communication, the following chapter presents the relationships and concepts behind natural disasters, disaster management communication, social media and the theories that support this research.

2.1 Disaster Management
There are many classifications of what constitutes a disaster and how to classify its scope. Some sources define disasters based on the number of deaths and/or geographic area affected (see Figure 1.) Other definitions distinguish disasters from a less gravely defined emergency to a more complex classified catastrophe15. For the purpose of this thesis I will be using the general definition given by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, or UNISDR, which states a disaster is:
“A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.”16

Natural disasters are more specifically linked with natural hazards, which are geological or hydro-meteorological17 phenomena that occur in nature and have the potential of becoming a disaster. Humans are left with the task of dealing with the                                                                                                                
See: Oliver (2011) P. 7-8. UNISDR (2009): 2009 Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Geneva. P. 9. 17 Geological hazards refer to internal earth processes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, rockslides and are a direct cause of tsunamis. Hydro-meteorological hazards include tropical cyclones thunderstorms, hailstorms, tornados, blizzards, heavy snowfall, avalanches, coastal storm surges, floods including flash floods, drought, heat waves, cold spells and can cause landslides, wild fires, locust plagues, epidemics, and in the transport and dispersal of toxic substances and volcanic eruption material. See: UNISDR (2009) P. 16-18.
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aftermath of a hazard risk18 that becomes reality. If the hazard occurs in a vulnerable19 community and is too overwhelming for humans to manage on a local level, then it is considered a disaster20. Natural disasters can be characterized by magnitude, intensity, speed, duration, and area of extent. For example, a drought develops slowly and can bring famine to large regions, while earthquakes are quick and affect specific locations in comparison21.
Scope I – Small disaster Scope II – Medium disaster Scope III – Large disaster Scope IV – Enormous dis. Scope V – Gargantuan dis. <10 persons 10-100 persons 100-1,000 persons 1,000-100,000 persons > 100,000 persons
Fig. 1: Disaster classification22

<1 km2 1-10 km2 10-100 km2 100-1,000 km2 >1,000 km2

Unprecedented and fast developing disasters demand quick action as well. Media promptly focus attention on the urgent needs of victims and risks to health and social order, governments and donors feel compelled to act swiftly and those initial actions dictate how future actions will develop23. The four components that make up emergency and disaster management are preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. These factors are sometimes aligned in a continuous cyclical manner. (see Figure 2)

Preparedness  

Response  

Mitigation  

Recovery  

Fig. 2: Disaster Management Cycle24

                                                                                                               
Hazard risk is the probability of an event causing negative consequences. See: UNISDR (2009) P. 25. Vulnerability in a community means the state of many conditions that may be altered after a disaster. A community can be vulnerable in terms of poor design and construction of buildings, inadequate protection of assets, lack of public information and awareness, limited official recognition of risks and preparedness measures, and disregard for wise environmental management. See: UNISDR (2009) P. 30 20 See: Coppola, Damon P. & Maloney, Erin K. (2009): Communicating Emergency Preparedness. CRC Press, Boca Raton. P. 46-48. 21 See: UNISDR (2009) P. 21. 22 Gad-el-Hak (2008) P. 7. 23 See: Independent Evaluation Group (2006) Hazards of Nature, Risks to Development: An IEG Evaluation of World Bank Assistance for Natural Disasters. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Washington D.C. P. 6. 24 Author’s design based on general depiction of disaster management cycle.
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Preparedness This is the phase in the disaster management process that deals with acquiring information about possible risks, gathering knowledge on how to act if those risks become a hazard and building capacities to cope with a possible disaster25. Disaster preparedness activities equip and inform communities at risk of experiencing a disaster with the tools and information they need to maximize survival and minimize losses in case of an emergency. Logistically it involves community capacity building in terms of having functional early warning systems with trained and equipped response agencies. Preparedness goals are: knowing what to do if a disaster strikes, having the right tools to deal with the emergency and knowing how to respond after the adversity26. Response Response is sometimes called disaster relief and focuses on providing immediate assistance and emergency services during or shortly after a disaster27. Response actions seek to reduce the impact of disasters and are aimed at limiting injuries, death and property damage, as well as the damage to the environment. The response task develops systems to coordinate and support efforts for immediate activities such as first aid, rescues and setting up relief shelters. This also includes efforts to resume the functioning of infrastructure like communication, electricity, resource distribution, viability of roads, etc. This is the most complex of all disaster management functions because it occurs during times of very high stress where time can cost lives and information is scarce28. This stage in disaster management is where Information and Communication Technologies, WEB 2.0 and social media can play the most crucial role because of the amount information needed with immediate demand among clusters of agencies working on different missions. Most of the information regarding social media and disaster management relate to relief operations due to the impact of information flows during the response phase.

                                                                                                               
25 26

UNISDR (2009) P. 21. Coppola (2009) P. 54-55. 27 UNISDR (2009) Page 24. 28 See: Coppola (2009) P. 55.

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Fig. 3: UNOCHA Response Cluster Approach29

One of the reasons information is in so much demand during this stage is the need for communication among different stakeholders and clusters. The Cluster Approach (see Figure 3) designed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs or UNOCHA, classifies the different areas of relief into different groups of agencies working towards a common goal within the overall response mission. Each cluster builds an information management system with its own data flows to aid in their decision-making. However, these clusters also need to communicate with each other and the coordination of information flows for decision making across the various clusters is sometimes met with structural challenges and delays30. This research shows                                                                                                                
United Nations (n.d.): How are disaster relief efforts organized? Available at http://business.un.org/en/documents/6852. Viewed on 01/06/2011. 30 See: Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (2011): Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies. UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership, Washington D.C. & Berkshire. P. 20.
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how social media is being used to solve these challenges through alternate information channels. Data for response may have many implications and travel through many and any channel. The effectiveness of source is relevant in regards to how useful the information can be, how many people can access it31 and how many clusters can benefit from such data. Recovery Recovery starts once the emergency has passed. It involves cleaning up the aftermath of a disaster, repairing damages and reconstructing whatever has been destroyed. Ideally, recovery tasks try to improve and develop risk reduction measures in case the disaster repeats itself. This is in many levels the most costly phase of the disaster management process because of the amount of reconstruction and development involved with recovering a community devastated by a disaster. It is also the phase with most diverse types of actions that requires a great range of individuals, organizations and groups to help with the tasks32. Mitigation Through mitigation one seeks to reduce the chance of a disaster affecting a community. It is done in anticipation of a disaster in order to make a community less vulnerable to the impact of a hazard risk. Mitigation measures involve the assessment of engineering techniques for disaster-resisting constructions, the advancing environmental policies and raising awareness among the public33.

2.1.1 Communication And Coordination
There are several governmental and non-governmental stakeholders or main actors participating in the disaster management process. Fire departments, law enforcement or police, the military, civil defence, coroner’s office, etc. all form part of government agencies that are generally trained in actions to deal with the aftermath of disasters. Those actions involve planning, performing emergency drills, training, getting equipped and creating statutory authorities for a disaster. Planning and performing mock                                                                                                                
See: Rao, Ramesh R., Eisenberg, Jon & Schmidt, Ted (2007): Improving Disaster Management: The role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. The National Academics Press, Washington D.C. P.29. 32 See: Coppola (2009) P. 55-56. 33 See: UNISDR (2009)P. 19.
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emergency simulations to exercise roles and responsibilities in case of actual disaster are effective preparedness training for governmental agencies. But, it is important to have the equipment available for tackling a disaster situation. Equally relevant is supporting statutory authorities so they can set up legal frameworks that ensure disaster response agencies are staffed and well funded34. All this interagency coordination requires a key element in any type of management, and that is effective communication. From a disaster management perspective, crisis communication must meet several goals that information and communication technologies help fulfil. These goals are outlined in a guide to crisis communication published by the German Ministry of Interior, which states effective communication during a crisis should:   • • Provide without delay, transparent, relevant and truthful (media) reporting and information to the public about the causes, effects and consequences of a crisis.   Consolidate trust and credibility to enable coping effectively with the crisis and to avoid further escalation of the crisis, even appropriate for a media crisis. Proactive crisis communication strengthens the prestige and confidence in the press, the media and the public. This includes the immediate, transparent, relevant, truthful exchange and sharing of information, advice, warnings, rules and measures to the extent possible: within their own departments and to the employees, between all departments, between the departments and the business area authorities, between departments and external organizations, institutions and businesses. With the press, the media and the public sphere, with interested persons and groups in all phases of action, i.e., during and after a crisis.35   However, not every nation’s government is prepared logistically and structurally for a disaster. In fact, developing countries are the hardest hit by the rising number of disasters in terms of lives lost. This is mostly the effect of rising urban areas in the least developed corners of the world. This means poor infrastructures and lack of urban planning result in more vulnerable communities where disasters claim most lives. For                                                                                                                
Coppola (2009) P. 57-63. Translated by author from: Bundesministerium des Innern (2008): Krisenkommunikation Leitfaden für Behörden und Unternehmen. Referat KM 1, Berlin. P. 14.
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example, 98% of the 211 million people killed or affected by disasters from 1991 to 2000 came from low or medium human development countries36. Furthermore, data from the Red Cross research about the effects of cyclones around the world show that even though most of the populations experiencing cyclones live in high-income nations such as Japan, those experiencing the greatest amounts of deaths per year from tropical cyclones are low-income nations. (see Figure 4)

Fig. 4: World Disasters Report 2010 37

This trend was also evident towards the beginning of 2010 when two earthquakes shook the world in very different ways. The strong 8.8 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Chile on February 27th, 2010 left a great amount of damage and hundreds of deaths. Chile, however, had just joined a club of wealthier nations into the OECD and has experienced earthquakes of large magnitudes in the past, adding to their preparedness regarding such a disaster. Chile’s earthquake followed a lesser strong 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti on January 12th, 2010 that left at least 200 thousand dead and over a million people homeless. It shows the disproportionate degree of preparedness and development between both countries and their governments38, it also exemplifies the trend represented in Figure 4. When disaster strikes a developing                                                                                                                
See: Independent Evaluations Group (2007) P. 2. IFRC (2010): World Disasters Report 2010, Focus on urban risks. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva. P. 17. 38 IFRC (2010) P. 15-17.
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country, information channels are easily broken and there is virtually no coordination. Poor transportation and communication infrastructures are easily jeopardized and relief agencies compete for supplies. This adds to the complexity of managing a disaster situation in nations where politics, corruption and social conflicts are constraints to reaching humanitarian goals 39. Civil society and NGOs adopt an essential role in disaster response due to the coordination and cooperation gap they fill during a crisis situation, especially in developing countries. One of the most important response activities NGOs have is to coordinate support for victims, provide a network for other agencies and share the flow of information in order to begin a smooth process into the recovery stage of disaster management40. The coordination of supply chains is also a major function of NGOs. Humanitarian supply chains are the networks that maintain the flow of physical goods, information and cash from donors to aid organizations. Media, governments, logistics firms, suppliers and beneficiaries are all stakeholders in the supply chain along with NGOs and Donors. If the communication flow is hindered and feedback about the result of donations does not reach donors, then the flow of cash and goods may stop or divert to other agencies. An effective humanitarian supply chain combines efforts in communication, coordination and collaboration among supply chain partners41. For this reason developing and using information and communication technologies, or ICT, is an essential task for humanitarian aid organization, because it eases the flow of information and allows coordination and collaboration to run smoothly through the supply chain channels.

2.1.2 Information And Communication Technologies For Emergencies
The tasks of managing a disaster require the coordination and cooperation of a complex network of institutions that involve international agencies, military forces, local authorities, individuals and nongovernmental organizations or NGOs. Such complexity creates bureaucratic, collaboration and communication challenges42. All phases in disaster management are in different ways stressed for time and that is when                                                                                                                
39
40

Gad-el-Hak (2008) P. 122. IFRC (2010) P. 59. 41 Gad-el-Hak (2008) P. 23-24. 42 Gad-el-Hak (2008) P. 121.

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ICT become most useful. Managing a disaster require vast amounts of information to carry out activities in each of the disaster management stages. Information data can be “pushed” from the field to different locations where experts can assess damages, location of responders or aid workers, resources, activities, pictures, videos, etc. In turn, people on the ground or working on the site of a disaster stricken area require information as well and so data is pushed into the field or pulled from different sources. Situation reports, resource deployments, imagery and map updates are commonly shared periodically through different means to inform aid workers about operational status of missions (improving disaster management. 29). Quickly distributed information allow people to understand a developing situation as it happens so fast decisions can be made on how to deal with the challenges if and when a disaster strikes a community43 (Improving disaster management, p.2.). ICT44, like Geographic Information Systems (GIS)45 and remote sensing46, are important tools for preparedness and mitigation in the form of pre-emptive information systems for highlighting vulnerable areas and populations that could be affected by a disaster. Furthermore, communicating an approaching disaster at an early warning stage is crucial for a community’s survival. Developing ICT for disaster management has proven to save lives after a major catastrophe. Countries that are prepared with effective early warning systems and evacuation protocol tend to have fewer casualties despite large-scale disasters resulting in great property damages. For example, the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 left between 15 to 25 thousand dead47 and has been named the world’s costliest disaster with up to €218 billion in damages48. Whereas, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is estimated to have left at least 200 thousand dead49 and some                                                                                                                
Rao (2007) P. 2. ICT includes any communications device – encompassing radio, television, mobile phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning. 45 Geographic Information Systems gather geographic information that combines technology from cartography, statistical analysis and builds on geographic databases. 46 Remote sensing is atmospheric, oceanic and earth surface information obtained generally through satellite and aerial technology. 47 See: National Police Agency of Japan (2011): Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku district - off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake. Available at www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf. Emergency Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters. Viewed on 23/05/2011. 48 See: Kihara, Leika & Kaneko, Kaori (2011): Japan quake becomes world's costliest natural disaster. Reuters. Available at http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/23/us-japan-economyidUSTRE72M10920110323. Viewed on 23/05/2011 49 See: Oliver (2011) P. 33.
44 43

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source amounting the damages to almost €330 million50. Of course, there are many other factors that account for the differences between these two examples. But, Japan, in particular, has the technological infrastructure and overall culture to support ICT for disaster management. In fact, Japan is ranked as the 8th most ICT developed country according to the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) 2008 ICT
Development Index (IDI)
51 52

. Additionally, Japan has invested attention on early

warning systems for many years because it is prone to disasters. It is even home to the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre, or ADRC; which opened in Kobe after the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. The Great Hanshin or Kobe Earthquake is considered to be one of the first disasters of the modern communication age and is an example of Japan’s early adoption of ICT technology for coordinating emergency relief. After the 1995 earthquake struck Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, official emergency communication could not cope with the intake of messages. Online bulletin boards were set up through two computer networks that received 5000 emergency messages and were accessed 650,000 times by 140,000 people. The results showed online communication had been more effective than official efforts53. ICT for disaster response have shown their strength as technology has advanced, converged and become more accessible. Mobile phones have made their mark in the world as essential tools for communication. Convergence has allowed today’s mobile technologies to access the Internet; send and receive files, pictures and videos; navigate using GPS systems and many other functions through an array of digital applications that range from making a map to playing a video game. Although there still exists an evident digital divide in most parts of the world, the ITU concluded all countries have considerably improved their IDI scores. This confirms the growth of a global information society through the use of ICT 54. The diffusion of ICT is important for disaster management in that growing networks gather large masses                                                                                                                
See: China Daily (2009): 2004 Tsunami: Impact and Recovery. Available at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2009-08/19/content_8589535.htm. Viewed on 24/05/2011 51 IDI is “a composite index made up of 11 indicators covering ICT access, use and skills. It has been constructed to measure the level and evolution over time of ICT developments taking into consideration the situations of both developed and developing countries.” See: ITU (2010) P. ix. 52 See: ITU (2010): Measuring the Information Society 2010. International Telecommunication Union, Geneva. P. 23-24. 53 Coyle (2009) P. 11. 54 See: ITU (2010) P. 23.
50

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of users who operate and cooperate across different agencies providing communication when communication infrastructures are damaged55. This becomes particularly important during the response phase of disaster management when communication is met with chaos, loss of critical infrastructure56 and the aftermath of a disaster. ICT becomes exceptionally useful for coordinating relief efforts, tracing missing persons and locating distribution centers, shelters, camps, etc.57 One of the first NGOs to arrive at a disaster site is Télécoms sans Frontières, which operate equipment for telecommunication needs after an emergency situation. That’s because information flows can enhance emergency response, especially from within the affected community. Beyond the humanitarian coordination functioning telecommunications provide, giving the people affected information access can enhance humanitarian efforts because victims are the sources who give the most detailed and accurate information58. That is why journalists and media covering are quick to search for direct quotes and accounts from disaster victims themselves. Disaster management agencies usually rely on the assessments of other agencies to map out a disaster situation, although disaster managers are aware and stress the potential behind a better engagement with members of the public.
“More attention should be paid to the information and resources held by the public because members of the public collectively have a richer view of a disaster situation, may possess increasingly sophisticated technology to capture and communicate information, and are an important source of volunteers, supplies, and equipment.”59

Disaster management communication today occurs along a long list of platforms and technology that range from the traditional walkie talkies to the new approaches of social media. However, information found in social media platforms must be thoroughly evaluated before taken seriously because:

                                                                                                               
See: Rao (2007) P. 3. Critical Infrastructures are considered the essential structures that allow society or businesses to function properly, assets such as: electric plants, transportation and telecommunications. 57 See: Wattegama, Chanuka (2007) ICT for Disaster Management. UNDP-APDIP and APCICT, Thailand. P. 22. 58 See: Coyle (2009) P. 30-43. 59 Rao (2007) P.7.
56 55

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“The tendency of citizens to exaggerate under extreme stress should not be underestimated, nor should the potential service that crowdsourcing will serve in future operations as citizens learn how to use social media.”60

With that said, the key to good decision-making and action during any phase in the disaster management process is having access to communication, computer platforms, software that facilitate the exchange of information and, above all, knowledge on how to process the data. These resources can be used to effectively manage volunteers, locate objectives on a map, exchange information with colleagues and evaluate dynamically changing scenarios61.

2.1.3 Disaster Reporting: From Traditional To Digital Media
The flow of information is very important when there is an emergency. However, disaster managers and journalists are not always in agreement with each other’s efforts after a disaster situation. Social scientist Hans P. Peters offers a critical perspective with insightful analysis:
“Sources who want to communicate with the public have to deal with journalists who do not form a passive ‘information channel’ but act as gatekeepers, interpreters and communicators. Media hence can support or obstruct the disaster management of government agencies and relief organizations” 62

Peters identifies the discrepancies between disaster manager’s expectations from the media. (see Figure 5)

                                                                                                               
See: Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (2011): Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies. UN Foundation & Vodafone Foundation Technology Partnership, Washington D.C. & Berkshire. P. 48. 61 See: Rao (2007) P. 4. 62 Peters, Hans P. (n.d.) Natural Disasters and the Media: Relevance of Mass Media for Disaster Management. Research Center Juelich, Program Group Humans, Environment, Technology, 52425 Juelich. Available on http://www.chmi.cz/katastrofy/peters.html. Viewed on 13/11/2010.
60

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Fig. 5: Peters’ Media/Disaster Manager Discrepancies63

In addition, the ISDR gives three reasons for the before mentioned discrepancies in expectations:
“1. Journalists work awfully bad. They have no sense of responsibility, they lack of background knowledge, they prefer sensationalism over serious information. 2. Disaster management is bad-prepared to deal with the media. There is a lack of resources allocated to public communication, a lack of preparation and a lack of competence. 3. Professional rules of journalists and expectations of disaster managers differ according to different tasks, subcultures and constraints.”64

In effect, these discrepancies are supported through a number of media effects that define news communication, particularly when it comes to disasters. However, this is a disaster management perspective on the information problems focused on media and the information channels that conduct communication. William Leiss offers a more complete media perspective on the problems that can result in risk communication. Leiss identifies the source of the communication problems using Harold Lasswell’s well-known communication model that questions: Who, says what, in which channel, to whom and with what effect. (see Figure 6)

                                                                                                               
63 64

Peters (n.d.) Ibid.

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Communicator  

Receiver  

Medium  

WHO  

Message  

Says   What  

In   which   Channel  

To   Whom  

Effect  

With   what   effect?  

Fig. 6: Laswell’s Communication Model

65

Leiss classifies four problems resulting from the communication process: source problems, message problems, channel problems and receiver problems. Source problems result from the experts themselves. Leiss points out disagreements within the community of scientists, or experts, result in different messages regarding the same conditions. In addition, problems with accuracy, veracity and incomplete messages when assessing risks are also an issue. The message is also subject to problems. This is especially so when important messages are encoded in terms that only the experts understand and thus, cannot reach resonance among the public during a crisis situation when clear and quick messages are the most crucial. Leiss also lists the channel as prone to having problems. He agrees that bias, sensationalism and oversimplification of reported material about hazards fall under journalists’ responsibility and that the unwillingness of experts to communicate with the media also affects the quality of the channel. Finally, there are also problems on the receiving end of the communication process. There are a number of factors that influence society to react to information about a disaster, in any stage of the event. There are fields of research in risk perception to determine these reactions to emergency and crisis news66. Whether problems are stemming from sources, messages, channels or recipients, disaster risk is one of the most important information that needs to reach people as quickly as possible for them to seek safety during a disaster. Any flaw in the communication process could cost lives and it’s one of the reasons why the disaster management community regards communication as highly important. The intensity linked to dramatic events resulting from unpredicted natural phenomena is also the reason why media regards this information process as a high priority in news reporting.                                                                                                                
Author’s design based on general depiction of Laswell’s Communication Model See: Leiss, William (1994): Risk Communication and Public Knowledge. In: Communication Theory Today. Polity Press, Cambridge. P. 132-135.
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Disasters, catastrophes and emergencies fill all the requirements of western media primary news values. Generally, disasters are large-scale events that affect many people at once and occur during a short time scale. They are relevant because people are drawn to negativity and how it would affect them. Theorists like Mary Ann Doane even suggest that catastrophes are crucial to the relevance of television because it corroborates this medium’s access to “the momentary, the discontinuous, the real.67” Therefore, emergency situations reinforce the importance of television reporting at a time of crisis. However, the emergence of digital technology also incorporates the notion of 24-hour availability and depicting what is real, yet it adds the element of interactivity to the mix. In addition, users may feel an even stronger sense of reality on the Internet through messages and accounts from victims themselves who upload picture, videos, messages and interact on social media. Doane points out that digital “real time” has broadened the concept of disasters or catastrophes because they set the stage for technology to show their potential in terms of “liveness” of representation.68 The idea society is dependant on receiving information from broadcast communications is constructed by the timely audiovisual realities technology are able to transmit, especially in times of crisis. Now, the information society has long welcomed the Internet as a new ICT platform, which is in constant development and evolution. What broadcast would refer to as audience; the Internet refers to as users. The real time of a live broadcast is now met with online interactivity. Digital media has emerged and disseminated rapidly, especially in the most developed countries. Receiving information about a disaster has changed in many ways. Users are in touch with direct sources of information that can instantly report on their situation. It is now common to see traditional media reporting about the online activity of users during and after a disaster. The social networks, blogs and communities that interact in digital platforms are beginning to govern people’s media intake through a democratic production and consumption of media. Users decide what, when and how they wish to receive information through the Internet, and on which technology from video game                                                                                                                
Doane, Mary A. (2006): Information, Crisis, Catastrophe. In: Hui Kyong Chun, Wendy & Keenan, Thomas (eds.): New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. Routledge, New York. P. 260. 68 Ibid. P. 263.
67

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consoles to cell phones. Furthermore, the convergence of satellite, mobile and other ICTs with traditional media such as radio, television and newspapers have produced what some call a digital revolution. In Media and Society in the Digital Age, Kevin Kawamoto explains that when satellites, computer networks, cell phones and other technology started converging with traditional media a new form of language spread throughout the planet. Pictures, audio, videos and messages coded into binary digits of “1”s and “0”s made it easy for computers to distribute the media through a similar digital language. Technology then decodes the digital information and present the original media back to humans through different ICT tools. The digitization of media has spread rapidly. In part, because digital media have a global reach and are less limited by time and space like traditional media.69 Today, media is more digitally encoded than ever before, which results in mass distribution or sharing of digital media among users. This online interaction among users who digitalize and share media is one of the aspects that define social media. The other aspects have to do with the digital platforms where users interact and what tools they use, but that will be covered in the following section of this chapter. In terms of disasters, both traditional and digital media have similar effects. Largescale disasters can fill the news reports for weeks, garner massive interest on social media platforms and generate a wide variety of stories that range from early warnings to response. During the recovery and mitigation processes media has the role of keeping stakeholders accountable by reporting on corruption issues, unfulfilled promises, finances, etc. What worries many in the disaster management community is that news is subject to a series of fact distorting factors that result from the media. Several studies on disaster management and media do seem to show a communication gap between both entities. While disaster management organizations need to improve their public information efforts, media agencies are asked to focus their reports on disaster prevention and reduction rather than on deaths and damages. Relief aid workers interviewed for this research agreed that it is difficult to address the media’s demands while trying to help people after an emergency. The gap widens once the functions of media are taken into consideration. Based on the theories of media                                                                                                                
69

See: Kawamoto (2003) P. 9-10.

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functionality proposed by Lasswell and those by Wright, Denis McQuail notes there are four functions that remain prevalent in media. These functions are:
“Surveillance of the environment, correlation in the parts of the society in responding to its environment, and the transmission of the cultural heritage (…) 70 entertainment as a fourth key media function”

These same functions can also apply to social media and even help fill the gap between media and disaster management. There is a symbiotic relationship between traditional and social media during crisis reporting. When disaster management officials withhold information, journalists turn to social media as a source of information.71 Despite the criticism on media, the disaster management community recognizes the communicative importance of information flows. Peters cleverly establishes three dimensions to understanding the media effects regarding disaster management. (see Figure 7)

Fig. 7: Peters’ Disaster Management Media Effects72

                                                                                                               
70
71

McQauil, Denis (2005): McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. Sage, London. P. 97. See: Haddow (2009) P. 112. 72 Peters (n.d.)

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These dimensions are also useful to describe online users and stakeholder of social media during disaster management communication. The first dimension are the past, present and future stages of the disaster. First is prevention then comes acute disaster situation and finally coping from the disaster once it has past. The second dimension is the audience, which is divided into those affected by the disaster and those who are not affected, and are probably watching the images or reading about the disaster on the news. The last dimension is the level of media effects, whether it is the effects of media upon a single individual or collectively on society. These dimensions are based on a disaster management point of view and concentrate on the media’s influence to inform society about how to avoid disasters, remain calm during the disaster and help victims cope from the aftermath or encourage non-affected audiences to donate money or charitable goods. Throughout this research it will become evident that the role of social media in disaster management shares many of the media effects shown here. This does not mean or suggest that the advances of digital media can replace the functions of traditional media. Radio and television remain highly effective in times of crisis and particularly for early warning73. This is because broadcast can inform audiences quickly, they do not require complex or expensive technology to operate and they are easy to use. For these reasons radio and T.V. have the most reach among poor communities in developing countries, which we have discussed are generally the most affected by disaster situations. The role of media in disaster management is changing. In fact, the role of media in all aspects of society is constantly changing, at an even faster rate in these current times. As mentioned before, with fast evolving media and technology our timeline in history has been coined the information age, or information society, because of how easy it has become to send and receive information through ICTs in today’s global digital networks. There is no single definition regarding the information society and it is said to have originated in Japan during the 1960’s in order to define a ‘post-industrial’ society74. The terms that describe the information society suggests there is a dependency on electronic information networks serving an evolving culture that is dominated by                                                                                                                
73 74

See: Wattegama (2007) P. 9. See: McQuail (2005) P. 106.

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media and information75. Furthermore, as the world became dependant on communication, the media that delivered news and information gained power in society, giving rise to the concept of mediatization. This concept is based on human dependency on media as a platform for communication in society. The process of adapting to new forms of communication and later adopting them is one of the core notions of mediatization
76

. This research has found that as the disaster management community

adapts to social media, some of its members have begun adopting social media strategies for communication. Through this process it can be said that the disaster management community is becoming mediatized through social media. Thus, social media as a channel or medium is altering some aspects of disaster management communication.

2.2 Conceptualizing Social Media
The disaster management community has seen an opportunity to enhance their crucial communication needs through social media. Doing so requires techniques that maximize time effectiveness and the quality of information uploaded and, especially, downloaded from the Internet. To effectively understand the potential behind creating a social media strategy it is crucial to understand the background and tools that are used to share, develop and distribute social media content.

2.2.1 What Is Web 2.0?
Before providing a definition of social media it is necessary to make its distinction from Web 2.0. The term Web 2.0 refers to Internet applications that allow users to interact and contribute with online service development through many different digital platforms. It is the foundation that allowed the development of social media. However, the concept of Web 2.0 combines technical, financial and legal aspects that have more to do with the collective knowledge of users intended for business and marketing than with social interaction through the web77. Nonetheless, it is essential to understand the

                                                                                                               
See: Van Dijk (2006) P. 19. See: Krotz, Friedrich (2009): Mediatization: A Concept With Which to Grasp Media and Societal Change. In: Lundby, Knut (ed.) Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. Peter Lang Publishing, New York. P. 25-38. 77 See: Ebersbach, Anja; Glaser, Markus & Heigl, Richard (2011): Social Web (2). UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Konstanz. P. 27.
76 75

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use of Web 2.0 tools in order to define social media and how the disaster management community uses these tools to disseminate information. The Web 2.0 concept began to develop after the dot-com speculative financial bubble burst in 2001. Since then, surviving websites began strengthening applications that set them apart from the websites that crashed78. Some refer to Web 1.0 as the “web of documents” because many early websites simply published data and stored content for passive users to access; whereas Web 2.0 became the “web of services”79. Web 2.0 does not refer to a change in technology or an improved version of the Internet. It stands for a change in how websites developed new services that integrated users, allowing them to participate and become active developers of the Internet to form a “participative web”80. This aspect of web participation is what makes social media so relevant in the world of disaster management. The development of Web 2.0 tools allows users to participate in disaster management communication and play significant roles in emergency relief efforts and other aspects discussed throughout this research. Having said that, Web 2.0 marks a new era of Internet use and is the main perspective from which social media function81. Simply put, Web 2.0 tools are web applications that allow greater user participation on the Internet. To understand how users become active social media participants one must understand the main principles of Web 2.0.

                                                                                                               
See: O’Rielly, Tim (2005): What is Web 2.0:Design Patern and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Available at http://oreilly.com/lpt/a/6228. Viewed on 4/15/2011. 79 See: Blumauer, Andreas & Pellegrini Tassilo (2009): Social Semantic Web: Web 2.0 – was nun? Springer-Verlag, Berlin/Heidelberg. P. 12. 80 See: Safko, Lon; & Brake, David (2009) The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools and Strategies for Business Success. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey. P. 6-7. 81 See: Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein Michael (2010) Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. In: Business Horizons, 53 (1) Elsevier, Indianapolis. P. 60.
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2.2.2 Web 2.0 Principles in Disaster Management
The key points of Web 2.0 regard the web as a service platform and embrace the value of the collective knowledge users provide. In What is Web 2.0? Tim O’Reilly developed a series of technical and ideological principles that define Web 2.082. These principles classify different approaches of how social media are used today and the most relevant aspects that apply to disaster management communication.

The Web as a Platform

Developments in broadband communications and digital applications allow websites to provide greater services than before. In the past decade, websites have become platforms where users can exchange information, upload and download data, make transactions, edit content and personalize profiles. The web went from pages of content to a stage and a tool for developers, companies and general active users to interact with each other. eBay.com fits well into this description. More than just a website, eBay is a platform that serves as an online marketplace where buyers and sellers congregate. Furthermore, websites today allow multimedia convergence that enable text, pictures, audio and videos to be displayed, edited and arranged to user preferences through an array of technology. Web 2.0 introduced the concept of serving the users and using their collective knowledge by opening the information flows to all who wish to participate on these digital platforms acting as mediums of communication. This concept is what allowed digital media to become social and to ultimately be a source of information exchange for disaster management operations.

Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Allowing more online services increased the activity of WWW users. Attractive and easy to use functions began developing the Web 2.0 era. Users did not need to download and install software to consume or create content as it became available to use directly from the Internet. These new web services empowered users to be contributors in a participative web, allowing the concept of User Generated Content, or                                                                                                                
82

See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 28.

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UGC, to become an important factor for Web 2.0 tools and Social media83. UGC allows users to produce and consume content on the Internet, which brought back the term prosumers84 as an acronym that defines activity on the web. Websites that embraced the value of the collective knowledge provided by users were successful in surviving the 2001 dot-com financial bubble 85. Furthermore, cooperative and collaborative functions gave websites the resources to build vast databases86. One example of this is the website Wikipedia.com, an encyclopedia with a browser based platform that allows users to upload articles, edit and update content with developing information87. The larger and more organized the database is the more users will contribute to enhance it. This is also evident in collaborative projects like Ushahidi.com, where users can aggregate information onto maps to show the devastation of a disaster-affected area, pinpoint relevant locations for victims and congregate information through different multimedia data uploaded to social media platforms. It is an example of how Internet applications are powered by the information that users upload to the digital platforms, which leads us to the next principle.

 

Data at the center of applications

Having and managing large databases is one of O’Reilly’s core competencies for Web 2.0 tools88. The capital and reach of a website are reflections of the quality and quantity of a database that is constantly being developed by users and thoroughly revised by website administrators or webmasters89. Users aggregate core data like location, identity, event-dates and such, and that information is then offered as services by the website’s platform90. How to use and profit from the data is a constant development. Google maps, for example, offer a vast amount of geographical data that is used by other services using data mashups. This means different web data are used                                                                                                                
See: Wunsch-Vincent, Sacha & Vickery, Graham (2007): Participative Web: User-Created Content. OECD Directorate for Science, technology and Industry. Available at www.oecd.org/sti/digitalcontent. Viewed on 19/02/2011 84 See: Hamblen, Matt (2005): Managing 'Prosumers': The new wave of handheld consumer devices in the workplace means new headaches for IT managers. ComputerWorld. Available at http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/103678/Managing_Prosumers_?taxonomyId=015. Viewed on 19/02/2011. 85 See: O’Reilly (2005) P. 6. 86 See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 28. 87 See: Safko (2009) P. 181. 88 See: O’Reilly (2005) P. 10. 89 See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 30. 90 See: O’Reilly (2005) P. 18.
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and repurposed as new web applications91. Data mashups are commonly used in websites that generate emergency response information. The Havaria Information Services’ AlertMap, for example, uses data mashups from more than 200 sources related to severe weather conditions, biohazard threats, and seismic information92. Therefore, sharing and using other databases is a form of advertising for the data’s owner, which adds quality content for the host website using it.

Software shared by multiple devices

Data mashups require software that includes Application Programming Interfaces (API). API’s help establish a common software language between different websites, so that a map from Google can be modified to target an emergency on crisismappers.net. The versatility of software that converges on different Internet platforms, and even different devices beyond the computer, is another feature of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 principles. I-Tunes was one of the first examples of software that operates on a computer and on a mobile device93. Today, there are many applications that allow mobile phones to access websites, in particular, social media, making it an important feature for disaster management. A report from the UN Foundation, titled Disaster Relief 2.0, points out that hundreds of thousands of messages were sent out via SMS to facebook.com, twitter.com and Ushahidi.com after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The report states Haiti’s disaster was a tipping point in the use of social media, demonstrating the humanitarian potential of Web 2.0 tools94. However, some believe the use of Web 2.0 tools during Japan’s 2011 earthquake/tsunami shined a spotlight on the “critical role”95 social media increasingly play in crisis response around the world.

                                                                                                               
See: Maximilien, E. Michael; Ranabahu, Ajith & Gomadam, Karthik (2008): An Online Platform for Web APIs and Service Mashups. IEEE Computer Society, 1089-7801 (08), New Jersey. P. 34. 92 See: Peenikal, Sunilkumar (2009): Mashups and the Enterprise, White Paper. MphasiS, 88 Wood Street London EC2V 7RS. P. 2. 93 See: O’Reilly (2005) P. 18. 94 See: Coyle (2011) P. 32. 95 Sternberg, Steve (2011): Japan crisis showcases social media's muscle. USA Today. Available at http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-04-11-japan-social-media_N.htm?csp=usat.me. Viewed on 19/05/2011.
91

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2.2.3 Social Media Defined
Most of the concepts or descriptions that define social media derive from a business perspective rather than an academic, a communication, or even a social perspective. This is mostly because of the marketing value social media garner from prosumers. From a business perspective, social media enable conversations to be “prompted, promoted and monetized96. All fields, from the most technical to the most conventional, agree that social media are digital mechanisms that allow users to interact, share and develop information on the Internet through ICTs. A similar term called social web, explores the social connections enabled by Web 2.0 applications. It differs from social media in that social web concentrates on the building blocks of collective knowledge through networks. Social web focuses more on the structure of the Internet from a social perspective97 rather than the media exchange that it channels. Both terms are indeed interchangeable in many aspects. However, an academic approach from Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein describe social media as such: “Social Media are a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content”98 Kaplan and Haenlein go on to classify the types of social media that exist today using theories about media research and social processes, stating these are the two key elements of social media. On the subject of media research, social presence and media richness theories play a significant role. Social Presence refers to the level of prominence a communication medium brings between two communicators99. In other words, it explores how a communication system can enable the feeling of being in an actual place or time despite the individual not being physically present
100

. Mediums

with high degree, like television, are more prominent than say text, which requires readers’ imagination to picture situations. So, “the higher the social presence, the larger                                                                                                                
96 See: Safko (2009) P. 4. 97 See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 36. 98 Kaplan (2010) P. 61. 99 See: Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). The evolution and influence of social presence theory on online learning. In T. T. Kidd (Ed.): Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices. IGI Global, Hershey. P. 4. 100 See: McMillan, Sally J. (2006) Exploring Models of Interactivity from Multiple Research Traditions: Users, Documents and Systems. In: Lievrouw, Leah A. & Livingstone, Sonia (eds.) The Handbook of New Media. Sage, London. P. 218.

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the social influence”101. Media richness, on the other hand, refers to a medium's capacity for immediate feedback, face-to-face communication being the richest media available. In terms of social processes, Kaplan and Haenlein point out self-presentation and self-disclosure. Self-presentation refers to how people create an image of themselves to control the impression others have of him or her in a social setting. This image is constructed through self-disclosure, which refers to one’s personal knowledge of the image one would like to present102. The social dimension in Kaplan and Haenlein’s classification evaluates the degree to which users disclose information about their personal life on the social media platform. Whereas the media dimension classifies the platforms with regard to how fast information is disseminated and the social influence they carry. Social Presence/Media Richness Lower Higher Selfpresentation/ Selfdisclosure High Low Blogs Collaborative Projects Social Networks Content Communities

Fig. 8: Social Media Classification103

By grouping both dimensions, Kaplan and Haenlein are able to produce a table that classifies social media into different categories (see Figure 8) In the context of this thesis, self-presentation/self-disclosure is relevant in evaluating the credibility behind the users who actively produce content distributed through social media. The trustworthiness of content material is an issue the disaster management community sees as a threat to the social media flow of information and will be discussed in chapter 4. However, for this research, most important are the social presence/media richness columns that classify how communication is conducted through social media and the importance this carries on to disaster management.                                                                                                                
101 102

Kaplan (2010) P. 61. Ibid. P. 62. 103 Author’s design based on Kaplan (2010) P. 62. Table 1.

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Regarding social presence/media richness, blogs and collaborative projects score the lowest according to Kaplan and Haenlein. This is because content is generally textbased, which allow simple discourse. The next score is given to content communities and social networking sites. Not only do these two groups enable text-based communication but users can also share pictures, video, audio, interactive maps and other forms of media through these platforms. These classifications are unique but technology allows these applications to converge as well. Chapter 3 presents the platforms and tools that define blogs, collaborative projects, social networks and content communities with regard to disaster management communication.

2.3 Theories Applied To Digital Communication
Many theorists concur that towards the end of the 20th century the Internet emerged as a major ICT. The Internet has been available to the public since the 1960s. But, it wasn’t until personal computers with network capabilities emerged in the 1990s that the Internet became widely used by the public104. In just a decade society was hooked online. The proof was when the Internet’s popularity as a global computer network for operating systems was briefly marred by the hype created from predictions of an apocalyptic technological disaster that would strike digital apparatuses at the turn of the new millennium. Predictions of Y2K, as in Year Two Thousand, were wrong. Yet, it was estimated that governments, companies and individuals around the world spent around $500 billion anticipating for the chaos that could ensue from the digital transition of xx99 to xx00105. The worldwide concern on Y2K is evidence that society was becoming dependant on the Internet’s networks. Computer mediated communication has become a staple of our society and generation. The theories that radically explained the influence of television and radio on society seem less radical when applied to how we receive information and how we communicate with each other today. Early computer assessments and predictions that seemed too futuristic to fathom are coming true. Versatile technologies are at our doorsteps and in our living rooms as manifests of the technological evolution that has                                                                                                                
See: McNeill (2003) P. 315. See: Carrington, Damian (2000): Was Y2K bug a boost? BBC. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/590932.stm. Viewed on 14/05/2011.
105
104

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indeed brought change to how society communicates. This research aims to discover how social media has altered the disaster management communication framework. The following theories support the findings of this research regarding the structure, characteristics and development of disaster management communication through social media and ICTs.

2.3.1 Medium Theory 2.0
Scholars have long debated the influence of ICT’s on society. One controversial approach to theorizing this impact is called technological determinism. Academics who support technological determinism assume technology is the major cause of social transformations at the level of institutions, social interaction and individual cognition106 As we have discussed, by entering social media platforms many institutions and communities dealing with disaster management have adopted changes to how they handle communications, mostly because of the advancement of ICT. But, just like other determinist theories, technological determinism attempts to explain social phenomena through one determining factor: technology. The exclusion of other important factors that can determine societal change has led to criticism about this theory. One of the most talked about media theorists who embraced technological determinism was Marshal McLuhan, who developed his theories through the Toronto School. In Understanding Media: the extensions of man107 McLuhan claims that the advancement of electronic technologies (referring to T.V.) could bring back the senses left out by print in human face-to-face communication and could extend the message beyond borders and language. McLuhan even introduced the notion of audience interaction through media way before knowledge of Web 2.0 technology, much like we have today with the prosuming digital community. Thus, creating new communications technology would progress society towards a “global village,”108 a world brought together by the timeless, border-free media space proposed by McLuhan. His global village consisted of a free flow of various types of information reaching every corner of the world and channelled through different electronic media. Although not everybody                                                                                                                
See: Thurlow, Crispin; Lengel, Laura & Tomic, Alice (2008): Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet. Sage, London. P. 41. 107 See: McLuhan, Marshall (1994): Understanding Media: the extensions of man (2). MIT, Massachusetts. P. 7-20 108 Ibid. P. 61.
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has the same access to media, much less digital media, technology adept communities are located throughout most of the planet. Text, images, videos, audio, etc. have become major sources of communication in today’s digital communities. McLuhan’s vision of a global village is more than ever supported with emerging ICT, today the media perspective of the portmanteau word: glocalisation, from global and localization, refers to the expansion of global reach for local interaction. From a social media perspective, glocalization occurs because the Internet facilitates contact with many neighbors through set platforms that are free of constraints by time or space109. In this way, the term glocalization supports McLuhan’s technological determinist dream of the global village. However, many arguments opposing technological determinism root from the idea that social interactions are complex and therefore, determined by many other factors rather than by the specific relationship society has with new ICT. Although, the theories from the Toronto School have been a criticized as means to explain social phenomena through media, the notions based on technological determinism have resurfaced with the emergence of the Internet, social networks and digital media. It’s an accurate assessment to acknowledge all aspects of human ingenuity for improvements in communications that makes them more accessible, simple to use and democratic. Furthermore, opposing approaches to technological determinism assert that the continuous development of technologies depend on what users do with the technology available110 and not just how humans are affected by their own creations. Taking all criticism under consideration, technological determinism can be useful to evaluate the impact of computers mediated communication, or CMC111. Some scholars even suggest the term digital determinism can derive from the debates about technological, cultural and social determinism theories as a theoretical approach to analyze the impact of digital communication on today’s society112.

                                                                                                               
See: Bowman, Shayne & Willis, Chris (2003): We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and information. The Media Center at the American Press Institute, Reston. P. 39-42. 110 See: Lievrouw, Leah A. & Livingston, Sonia (2006) Editorial Introduction. In: Lievrouw, Leah A. & Livingston, Sonia (eds.) The Handbook of New Media. Sage, London. P. 21. 111 See: Thurlow (2008) P. 41. 112 See: Breen, Marcus (2010) Digital Determinism: culture industries in the USA-Australia Free Trade Agreement. In: New Media & Society 12 (4). Sage, Berlin. P. 659.
109

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Adding to this notion, medium theory is applied under the influence of McLuhan’s staple premise of “the medium is the message.113” Medium theorists focus on how society is potentially influenced by the characteristics of each individual medium or of each particular type of media, besides or apart from the content they convey. This is mainly because “medium theory insists on the need to look first at the architecture of each medium, to assess the ‘subject position’ of actors within the medium.”114 Medium theorist Joshua Meyrowitz stresses that by broadcasting emphasised feelings, appearances and moods, Meyrowitz stresses that with the widespread of electronic media, referring to radio and television, people feel a stronger involvement to societies across the globe that would otherwise be foreign. He points out that electronic media are not subject to time or space and messages can be preserved and received by a large number of audiences simultaneously, thus fostering more shared experiences115. This leads Meyrowitz to argue that society and social periods are characterized as much by patterns of access to social information as by the content of the information itself. In other words, society changes not just because of what a society knows, but also what societies know about each other, and more importantly what a society knows in comparison to another. It is under these assumptions that information has led to the evolution or demise of societies116. Furthermore, it can be argued that the realization of the importance of access to information is the reason why now we live in the so-called information society and why distribution of information is so important in modern times. In relation to social media in disaster management communications, medium theory defines the non-affected users’ interest in using digital platforms to interact and share information about notorious disasters. As seen in the PEJ research117, a heightened interest in the 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami was evident through stark spikes in social media use. The mediums power becomes more evident when communication is broken due to a disastrous event that rattles our global village. This happens because:
“The greater the urge to check an incoming call or email, to roam channels, websites and stations, and the more fragmented are the communication events, the more the individual becomes a subject enveloped by the medium. When the

                                                                                                               
McLuhan (1994) P. 7. Holmes, David (2005): Communication Theory: Media, Technology and Society. Sage, London. P. 143. 115 Meyrowitz, Joshua (1994) Medium Theory. In: Communication Theory Today. Polity Press, Cambridge. P. 50. 116 See: Meyrowitz (1994) P. 59. 117 See Guskin (2011)
114 113

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linearty of communication events is removed, the medium becomes more visible.”118

Information about situations one would otherwise be oblivious to, become accessible through social media. Meyrowitz explains that separating people into different informational worlds creates social distinctions, status, professions etc. But, media break those walls in various ways by creating channels of information between the differentiated worlds. Meyrowitz’s arguments go even a step further when referring to today’s ICT, because in addition to sharing experiences, social media allow users to virtually interact and communicate with each other, disseminate information throughout an established community, and organize fellow users to act upon or even be a powerful influence on the outcome of an experience. This notion of many-to-many information system rather than broadcast one-to-many approach, influences the idea of social media as an information democracy that entices the masses.
“In general, the more situations and participants are segregated, the greater differentiation in status and behaviour. Conversely, the more situations and participants overlap, the less differentiation in status and behaviour.”119

The attractiveness of being able to wander through different informational worlds and participate in action through the Internet has led to a mass flow of information causing scepticism on accuracy and valid information, not to mention the action it actually leads to. In terms of natural disasters the Internet breaks boundaries between victims and rescue workers, donors and recipients, policy makers and developers. Media has become more than what audiences hear on the radio or see on the television, it has become more what users do on the Internet. Therefore, if we take Meyrowitz social roles as information networks where access to the knowledge of situations allows users to interact as equals then the digital revolution can be described as a democratic one as well.

                                                                                                               
118 119

Holmes (2005) P. 143. Meyrowitz (1994) P. 59.

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2.3.2 The Challenges Of The Tripartite Network Society
Medium theory explores how technology integrates people through media and enhances society’s knowledge. However, the Internet also segregates participants from situations since the majority of the world’s population does not have regular access to the Internet. The digital divide in developing nations sustains that structural inequality of information flow adds to the gap between information haves and have-nots, thus dividing separate groups in society. As the digital divide gap closes in developed countries it widens in developing ones120. Visualizing the information gap in society is complex, especially because those who are networked within society have complex routes of communication, which sometimes converge in social media. For Jan Van Dijk the networked society is unstable because of the information age paradox that it is both too connected and yet too divided as well. In his book The Network Society, Van Dijk explains the structure of what he calls the tripartite network society. The diagram sketches a developed society with 15% of its population as information elites; a 50%65% majority representing all levels of society that participate, to some extent, in media and social networks; and then there are those excluded from new media networks and have small social network circles in society121.

Fig. 9: Jan Van Dijk’s Tripartite Participation in the Network Society122

                                                                                                               
120 121

See: Van Dijk (2006) P. 184. Ibid. P.185-186. 122 Van Dijk (2006) P. 186.

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According to Van Dijk, highly educated people who hold the best job positions are in the inner most elite information group with nearly 100% access to ICT. Most of the people in this group are constantly connected to the Internet and have constant access to social media. They form what Van Dijk calls a ‘broadband elite’ who are densely connected to both social and media networks and can make important decisions in society. The majority in society is represented in the second ring; which contains a large part of the middle and working class in society. They do have access to technology but have less technological, information and strategic skills than the information elite. This second group is more focused about entertainment and recreational uses of the Internet than the informational value the elite group render. The group in the outer parts of the diagram represent the people who, voluntarily or not, have no access to the technology that networks the other groups. They are unconnected and excluded and they represent a quarter to a third of the population, even in developed countries. These people are not necessarily in the lowest social class but do increasingly represent ethnic minorities and elderly people who are socially isolated and with no access to computers or the Internet.123 Van Dijk’s tripartite network society is either connected through social and/or media networks (by social networks he means actual face-to-face acquaintances and not online social networks.) Through the focus of social media and the interconnectivity it allows, it can be argued that these lines of connection become stronger and information passed around by the information elite reach the majority of the population through social media platforms. Thus, important information also gets through to the excluded group in Van Dijk’s model by the routes that reach their social networks. When a situation of crisis or an emergency occurs these networks can be activated to alert all members of society and keep them informed. The information elites have the resources to mobilize information, the majority group have the tools to receive it either through actual media or even infotainment that can be easily processed and then through different traditional means have those messages delivered to the excluded members of the information society.

                                                                                                               
123

Van Dijk (2006) P.185.

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What are most fascinating about this model are the challenges represented in the fastmoving, wide-reaching information flows of the network society that Van Dijk proposes. More information can also mean bad information. Easier access to social media encourages for rumours to spread faster to more people. More attention to space and time shortens the life span of information that shouldn’t be forgotten in the first place.
“In the media all kinds of rumours, fads, fashions, hypes and innovations are spreading faster than ever before. The diffusion power of broadcasting, telephony and computer networks multiplies the speed of the age-old transmission of gossip and local news in social networks. It leads to all kinds of message cascades. The lifecycle of fashions, hypes and innovations is shorter than ever before. Still, their impact on society rises accordingly” 124

It is important to understand the social structures proposed by Van Dijk because they reflect upon a current dilemma in disaster management communication: How can information be validated and verified for the operation at hand and how can accurate information reach the people that need it most? These are questions that will be discussed in chapter 4 through the analysis of the expert interviews. The theoretical insights from medium theory and the structures of a network society map a progressive and communicated society that serves as an ideal concept for the analysis of social media structures in disaster management communication. Both theories rely on different sets of networks. While medium theory renders the network connections through which media become relevant, the social network depicts the people that interact with the media through a tripartite model. The disaster management aspect is given by the application of social media to efforts that aid areas stricken by a natural disaster or efforts to reach an external audience of donors. Disasters are the triggers that activate both the power of mediums and the importance of human networks for a stronger, more informed society. The following chapter describes how the disaster management community has come to embrace social media in the past years through some of the most notorious disasters. The subjects addressed in Chapter 3 will shed light on the social media structures in disaster management that will be evaluated in Chapter 4.                                                                                                                
124

Van Dijk (2006) P. 187.

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3

Social Media Development In Disaster Management Communication
The previous chapter presented the core definitions regarding disaster management

communication, social media and the theories that support this research. This chapter presents how social media is applied in disaster management communication. It takes a closer look at the efforts behind the adaptation and application of social media as a communicational tool for managing disasters. Additionally, this chapter defines the structures behind computer mediated communication, or CMC, to grasp how information flows are perceived in disaster management communication through social media. Finally, it will briefly touch on some of the issues regarding the application of social media strategies in disaster management before evaluating the results of this research in chapter 4.

3.1 Social Media Tools For Disaster Management Communication
Social media are classified depending on the attributes and applications defined in chapter 2. This section explores the main social media platforms that aid in disaster management communication, which can be classified as blogs, collaborative projects, social networking sites and content communities. These four different types of social media are unique platforms that offer different services. Nonetheless, they are not entirely disconnected from one another and services often converge on the Internet. Furthermore, these platforms are constantly and rapidly evolving to serve multiple needs to their users. Therefore, these classifications are a simplified attempt to explore a complex system of digital services that often overlap. One example of this is Twitter, which is one of the most used social media platforms in disaster relief as confirmed by this research. Twitter can be categorized as a microblogging platform making it difficult to group with other platforms because of its multiple uses, yet simple standards of operation. In order to define Twitter and microblogging it’s relevant to go to the core of what constitutes a blog.

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3.1.1 The Blog And Its Evolution To The Twittering Revolution
Web logs or “blogs”125 are generally online journals usually managed by one person or community. Although the personal webpage existed since before the rise of Web 2.0, blogs were arranged chronologically in a diary type format, with the newest posts at the top of the screen. Some say the rise of blogs came with the development of web feeds like RSS (Really Simple Syndication) technology. RSS is a format that allows users to subscribe to a webpage and receive updates and news to their emails or mobile devices126. However, RSS was not the only difference separating a personal webpage from a blog. Other characteristics of a blog include user interaction through comments and discussions on posted items. Another feature were permalinks or links that led directly to and individual post on the blog. The growth of bloggers, or users who blog, began to form a “blogosphere.”127 The blogosphere is a type of social network that is connected through blogrolls128 and re-posts linking blogs together. However linked blogs can become, the chances of a post reaching a large population are slim to none. Some blog posts become popular when they address a particular newsworthy event. For example, sites like tsunamihelp.blogspot.com coordinated and mobilized aid and volunteers after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster. Furthermore, crisis situations led to a rise in blog readership, many sources pointing at the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York as a catalyst. It may be because readers get the impression blogs post “unmediated raw information”129 after an event’s newsworthiness dies down so do the blog’s readership and activity. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami blog is inactive today and 74% of its activity happened during the year after the disaster in 2005130. A blog’s survival in the blogosphere depends on the following it gathers, the credibility it builds, traditional media attention or if they serve as a platform for other blogs.

                                                                                                               
Thurlow (2008) P. 63. See: O’Reilly (2005) P. 7-8. 127 Tremayne, Mark (2006) Introduction: Examining the Blog-Media Relationship. In: Tremayne Mark (ed.): Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media. Routledge, New York. P. x-xii. 128 The ‘blogroll’ is a list of relevant links that are always visible on the blog. Bloggers also re-post on their blog a post from another blog, linking them together. See: Tremayne, Mark (2006) P. xi. 129 Tremayne, Mark (2006) P. xii. 130 Tsunamihelp.blogspot.com. Available at http://www.tsunamihelp.blogspot.com. Viewed on 20/03/2011.
126 125

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Blogs are the earliest expression of social media131. As more applications were developed to include in blogs, the more popular they became. Ushahidi.com, meaning witness in Swahili, began as a blog to monitor violence that broke out in Kenya after the 2007 elections. It soon developed into a platform that gathers information from users on crisis situations using SMS mobile technology, Google maps and Twitter132. Soon it began developing free and open source software for collaborative projects to collect information, visualize data and create interactive maps that can be used for disaster management. Microblogging may be considered an evolution of blogging, but it is actually quite different and Twitter is the best way to represent it for many reasons. Twitter was launched in 2006 with a simple question to users: What are you doing? It was originally developed to send 140-character messages to mobile phones, probably as a bridge between the Internet and the mobile texting worlds. Indeed, Twitter has become synonymous with microblogging although websites like Tumblr.com, whatyadoin.com, Plurk.com, etc. are also considered microblogging sites. But, Twitter is by far the most prominent of all133 in terms of the most amount of users; around 200 million subscribers around the world134. The larger number of followers a user has the larger number of Twitter accounts a user can follow. In addition, Twitter manages 140 million tweets a day. Microblogging allows users to easily send messages, audio, video, and even attached files to their networks. It empowers users to get directions, give and receive advice from experts, etc. Furthermore, this vast and accessible amount of information encourages active users to form small communities that are centered around topics135 such as politics, health and even disaster management. Twitter is still like a blog in that it allows users to publish what they have to say and people can respond to those posts or tweets. Also, users can re-post or retweet and can build a blogroll by following or receiving information about other users’ activity. However, the limited 140 characters per tweet makes information very direct, which defines the micro in microblogging. What's more, Twitter has been called the SMS of                                                                                                                
See: Kaplan (2010) P. 63. See: Coyle (2009) P. 29. 133 See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 86. 134 See: Shiels, Maggie (2011) Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey rejoins company. BBC. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12889048. Viewed on 01/05/2011. 135 See: Safko (2009) P. 263.
132 131

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the Internet for its similarity to the briefness of mobile text messaging136. Although it seems limiting, Twitter is versatile in distributing all kinds of information using shortened URLs. ‘Tweets’ can be sent as text messages to cell phones, added to a website, RSS, email and/or posted to a social network profile. Through Twitter users can distribute breaking news, monitor situations as they develop; companies can network with clients and politicians with constituents. Twitter organizes communication,

political movements and information through an array of networks and developing applications from Tweetstats to Twittermaps137. Twitter is one of the most discussed social media trending in disaster management communication. On the day of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan on March 11th, 2011, Twitter processed 170 million tweets, more than 20% above their average intake. The day after, on March 12th, users opened 572.000 new accounts, a 25% increase from the regular 460.000 daily Twitter subscribers138. The USA Today timeline shows some of the disasters that acquired relevant attention throughout the development of social media. Like the blog with 9/11, twitter also thrives on crisis situations as humans use new technology to bridge communication and information gaps when they are most needed. (see Figure 10)139 Aside from the numbers in data flow, Twitter is being hailed in the disaster management community for its impact on some isolated but powerful                                                                                                                
136

Fig. 10: Social Media and Disaster Timeline

See: Israel, Shel (2009) Twitterville: How Businesses can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods. Penguin Group, London. P. 4-5. 137 See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 89-94. 138 Twitter Blog (2011) #numbers. Available at http://blog.twitter.com/2011/03/numbers.html. Viewed on 25/04/2011. 139 Stemberg (2011) USA Today.

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instances. For example, In a list of “The 10 most powerful Tweets of 2010” compiled by Twitter, the number one spot had to do with response to the Haiti disaster. The power of the Tweet was revealed after a plane carrying volunteers from Doctors Without Borders was finally allowed clearance to land by the U.S. Air Force only after Anne Curry, a renowned American journalist, Tweeted:
“@usairforce find a way to let Doctors without Borders planes land in Haiti: http://bit.ly/8hYZOK THE most effective at this.”140

The shortened URL led followers to a Doctors Without Borders press release indicating how their cargo planes filled with staff and hospital supplies were blocked from landing in Port-Au-Prince. When the organization’s communications director, Jason Cone, tweeted about the problem “Curry saw the tweet and in turn, tweeted the request asking the military to let the plane land.”141. This example shows how a communication officer effectively used the power of social media and microblogging for immediate results in a situation that needed swift action.

3.1.2 Social Networking Sites (SNS)
Most of the literature regarding or addressing social media begin with the staggering number of users accumulated by Facebook.com, which is a web-based platform that provides users with social networking services. As of April 2011 the number exceeds 500 million active users and growing, making it “the world’s biggest social network”142. Facebook began in 2004 supporting certain college networks only. Then in 2005 it became available to any student, professionals and eventually everyone. Friendster.com and Myspace.com were SNS pioneers, but Facebook’s expansion is a good example of how the rise of SNSs marked a shift in the organization of online communities. SNSs are organized around people and not their interests, as is the case with community interest websites. Early online communities were structured around topics of interest,

                                                                                                               
Twitter (2010) The Ten Most Powerful Tweets of 2010. Available at http://yearinreview.twitter.com/powerful-tweets/. Viewed on 19/05/2011. 141 See: Today staff (2010) Anne Curry’s Haiti tweet Ranked most powerful of 2010. MSNBC Interactive. Available at http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40645273/ns/today-today_celebrates_2010/t/anncurrys-haiti-tweet-ranked-most-powerful/. Viewed on 19/05/2011. 142 See: The Economist (2011): Trolling for your soul. Available at http://www.economist.com/node/18483765/print. Viewed on 13/04/2011.
140

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SNSs are based on the user’s personal networks143. This new online community organizational framework makes social networks a heterogeneous source of information for research such as this one, so it is necessary to break down the components that define social networks. SNSs can be defined under three criteria. First, they allow users to create an account that displays a public or limited profile under the website’s standards. Second, users can construct a list of connections they have with other users. And third, users can navigate and view their connections as well as other public profiles in the system144. In addition, a SNS can be specialized or multiplex depending on the user’s interests. In other words, users can join groups of interest that focus on specific topics of discussion or they can wander the site to discuss any issues and concerns145 SNSs also gave rise to microblogging through their status update feature. Status updates were designed to inform one’s network of their activities. Just like the main premise of Twitter: ‘What are you doing?’, status updates became an important feature of SNSs. Furthermore, through these status updates users can communicate to their network and post all kinds of multimedia material. Facebook friends have the option to send private messages like email, or leave comments to posted items or add messages, pictures and videos to a profile’s ‘wall,’ or personal message board. Another important factor regarding Facebook is the feature to create Facebook Groups or Facebook Pages regarding an event, an organization, a fan page or movement of some sort. Users become linked to the group pages by just pressing the ‘like’ button. Much like the microblogging sites, these networks of fans and followers then receive the status updates and posts regarding meeting dates, organization and developments generated by the group’s page. These features become an important tool for NGOs and other disaster management organizations that use these features as a way to raise awareness and advocacy about a disaster to encourage user donations for fundraising activities. On the other hand, casual                                                                                                                 143  Boyd, Danah M., & Ellison, Nicole B. (2007) Social Network Sites: Definition, history and
scholarship. In: Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. Available at http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html. Viewed on 13/02/2011 144 Ibid. 145 Thurlow (2004) P.113.

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or passive SNS users feel they are participants in social change by simply joining Facebook groups regarding social actions. This sentiment has been termed by some as “Slacktivism” 146 as criticism to the lack of action clicking to an online group actually reflects in the real world. Indeed, a German study concluded that information through the “Soziales Informationsfunktion” of social networks is not a main reason why users join Facebook. Social interaction and contact through these online networks are what attracts users the most. Nonetheless, Facebook has become an important communications channel for Internet users, particularly regarding interaction with friends and family147. Although, the use of SNSs for propagating information does not have a preordained outcome, social media increases awareness by disseminating shared messages through social networks. The fact that passive Internet users are not influential in clicking ‘like’ or ‘follow’ on a group’s page does not mean that committed actors cannot benefit from the use of social media tools to communicate their cause and contribute to a shared knowledge about the issues they try to promote through social networks148.  

3.1.3 Collaborative Projects… What Is A Wiki?
Kaplan and Haenlein suggest collaborative projects are “the most democratic manifestation of UGC”149. That’s because they rely entirely on information based on volunteers. Collaborative projects also rely on wikis. A wiki is an online platform that allows users to contribute and edit content on specific articles based on their expertise and knowledge. Wiki sites have been reffered to ‘What I Know Is’ but the word comes from the Hawaiian word for ‘fast,’ which describes the speed content on wikis is created150. Indeed, adding and collaborating on information is as easy as sending an email. A wiki page is as good as the cooperation behind its users. Generally, anybody can add information to a wiki, even anonymously. Thus, information is not structured                                                                                                                
Shirky, Clay (2011) The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere and Political Change. In: Foreign Affairs 90 (1). Council on Foreign Relations, New York. P. 38. 147 See: Kneidinger, Bernadette (2010) Facebook und co. Eine soziologische Analyse von Interaktionsformen in Online Social Networks. Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden. P.129-135. 148 See: Shirky (2011) P. 39. 149 Kaplan (2010) P. 62. 150 See: Safko (2009) P. 181.
146

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because users can also modify the layout of the article. They can add new pages and links to the information as it develops151. So much freedom on the web comes with consequences of uncorroborated information, errors and vandalism to the wiki articles. However, wikis are designed to correct mistakes as quickly as they are made and many contain a “Recent Changes” page that shows recent edits, who made them and when152. Many popular platform that use wikis are known by the same incorporated name Wikipedia, mentioned earlier, is an online encyclopedia, wikitionary.com is an online dictionary and Wikileaks.com publishes classified information from anonymous sources. Content communities can also be associated with Open Source Communities. An open source community is one made up of developers connected through online ICTs who cooperate to develop software on the Internet. Like wikis, platforms that are open source software rely on anyone willing to contribute to the project153. Humanitarian operations rely on these communities, called Volunteer and Technology Communities, or V&TCs, in the disaster management community. During the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami the Sahanafoundation.org developed an open-source disaster response management system to help track victims and supplies but resourcing V&TCs from disaster management expert communities. New and improved V&TCs became available after the 2009 earthquake in Haiti, offering services that had not been seen before in the humanitarian response system. These new V&TCs for disaster management tend to converge on sites like ushahidi.com, crisismappers.net and crisiscommons.org. These platforms rely on the GIS data from V&TCs to pinpoint the source of the information about an event or crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing allows visualizations that depict the areas of most damage or activity on a map. Ushahidi goes a step further with this technology because it:
“Allows individuals to subscribe to alerts in specific locations. These can be communicated by email and SMS. In other words, Ushahidi’s innovative approach allows for ‘crowdfeeding’ as well as crowdsourcing crisis information.”154

                                                                                                               
See: Ebersbach (2011) P. 41. See: Safko (2009) P. 185-184. 153 See: Denner dos Santos, Carlos (2011) From the Characteristics of Open Source Software Projects to Success: An empirical Verification of a Casual Path to Software Quality. LAP Lambert, Saarbrücken. 154 Coyle (2009) P. 23.
152 151

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Fig. 11: Ushahidi platform for Japan launched by Japanese OpenStreetMap community155

The Ushahidi platform in Figure 11 shows how crowdsourced information gathered from other different social media platforms create an interactive map where users can pinpoint the source of the information. One of the challenges with this system is the trustworthiness behind the data that is uploaded by users or victims. Nevertheless, it gives a visual perspective of the most affected areas that generate the most amounts of data.

3.1.4 Content Communities: I Tube, Youtube, We All Tube
Whether it is sending an email, tweeting about daily activities or posting a comment on a friend’s Facebook profile, people are sharing content on the Internet. Content community sites share media content as their main objective on the Internet
156

. All

kinds of media content are being shared online; scribd.com is for written texts and document, flickr.com for photos, slideshare.com for powerpoint presentations and of course, YouTube.com for video content. Needless to say they all thrive on UGC.                                                                                                                
Ushahidi (2011) Platform for Japan. Available at http://blog.ushahidi.com/index.php/2011/03/16/crisis-mapping-japans-earthquake-and-how-you-canhelp/. Viewed on 15/03/2011 156 Kaplan (2010) P. 63.
155

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YouTube is an online video-sharing platform made available on the Internet in 2005, owned by Google since November of 2006. Users upload and share videos online that can be watched directly on YouTube.com or embedded to be wathced on other websites, blogs, SNSs, email and mobile devices. With the tagline ‘Broadcast Yourself’ YouTube has constructed a video sharing empire on the Internet where user videos range from amateur to professional levels of media, including T.V. shows, newscasts, sports and homemade videos157. There are other important video sharing sites like dailymotion.com and vimeo.com. However, according to YouTube “More than 13 million hours of video were uploaded during 2010 and 35 hours of video are uploaded every minute.”158 In addition, YouTube has the most amount of large and small communities found within the website. YouTube users or ‘YouTubers’ can subscribe to other YouTuber’s channels, where active members keep their subscribers informed on the topics and information they handle. Every other video is rated, forwarded or commented and all activity is recorded and statistically analyzed to show data on the activity of views and sharing a particular video experiences. Communication with other YouTubers, interaction with video content and consistancy in updating uploaded material on the platform has a high value of importance for serious YouTubers and advertisers using YouTube159 One characteristic of content communities is their ability to share information with so many networks that the information becomes ‘viral’ or widespread and even becomes popular among traditional media. The word ‘viral’ particularly refers to videos and marketers use the term to describe a successful Internet marketing strategy. The “viral effect” is even equipped with techniques to get a video more views for it to become a viral video. Techniques to achieve the viral effect include “Quick Testing” the video to the most active members of the content community, “Push seeding” or embedding the video on webpages that target audiences would access, and finally, “Wave Riding” or using a succesful viral video to promote the product with further                                                                                                                
See: Safko (2009) P. 529-530. YouTube (2011) Press Statistics. Available at http://www.YouTube.com/t/press_statistics. Viewed on 23/04/2011. 159 See: de Buhr, Thomas & Tweraser, Stefan (2010) My Time is Prime Time. In: Beisswenger, Achim (ed.): Youtube und Seiner Kinder. Nomos, München. P. 86.
158 157

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videos160. For disaster management NGOs YouTube is a useful platform to show supporters the work they are doing in a disaster affected area. Through videos uploaded to the site NGOs are able to ask for donations to their disaster relief cause and show how their funds are being used. However, these types of videos rarely go viral.  
Attention to Japanese Earthquake Overtakes Social Media

YouTube Blogs Twitter

All top 20 news videos 64% of news links 32% of news links

New media Index, March 14-18, 2011 Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism
Fig. 12: Japan’s Social Media disaster aftermath.161

Videos showing a developing disaster shot by victims themselves often go viral. Disaster managers can also use these videos to assess the amount of damage caused and see how the disaster developed in order to prepare a plan of action. Videos that become the most viral are those that show outrageous or extraordinary footage. In 2009 amid the protests in Iran, a video filmed with a camera phone of a dying woman was uploaded on YouTube and distributed through Facebook five minutes after it was shot. An hour later the shocking video had gone viral and the deceased Nida Soltani had become symbol in the struggle of Iran’s opposition.162 (Robert Tait and Matthew Weaver guardian.co.uk Monday 22 June 2009 21.59). Similarly, just hours after the March 11th, 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster in technology driven Japan, more than 9,000 earthquakerelated videos and 7,000 tsunami-related videos had been uploaded to YouTube and the No.1 video about the disaster had 12.7 million views compared to a normal weekly average of maximum three million views for a leading video. The one other time that an event was the leading information on blogs, Twitter and YouTube was during the protests in Iran in 2009163.

                                                                                                               
See: de Buhr (2010) P. 86-89. Author’s creation based on PEJ table and model. See: Guskin (2011) 162 Fathi, Nazila (2009) In a death seen around the world, a symbol of Iranian protests. New York Times. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/world/middleeast/23neda.html?ref=middleeast. Viewed on 12/05/2011 163 See: Guskin (2011)
161 160

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Fig. 13: Communication Formats164 (Tech emergency p.12)

Humanitarian and emergency response agencies rely, feed and are resources that contribute with social media by keeping blogs, twittering, using social networks, collaborating with online projects and even forming part of content communities. It is all part of a strategy to fit in to new formats of communication that social media channel (See Figure 13). All three formats are still relevant in disaster management whether it’s one-to-many through broadcast, one-to-one through phone and email or many-to-many through social media165. The relevant shift is in the last format, which allows many people to communicate with many other people making the process much more complex and intertwined. The following section offers a traditional classification that simplifies the understanding of how people converge on the Internet. Through the different social media tools we have covered, it becomes relevant that classifying their communicational scope is difficult to define. Although social media platforms have overlapping aspects in many of the following categories, this classification defines feature of computer-mediated communication that remain current to this day.

                                                                                                               
164 165

Coyle (2009) P. 12. Ibid.

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3.2 Coordinating Group CMC Through Social Media
By hypothetically referring to Internet users as behaviourally homogenised and belonging to a uniform status, it is easy to then categorise different attitudes of user interactivity in social media. Using this perspective can help show evidences of how groups of people collaborate with information using computer-mediated communication or CMC for disaster management purposes. During the early 90’s, when Internet was still in its infancy, Jason E. McGrath and Andrea B. Hollingshead presented a classification that categorises the functional role of technology in-group collaboration in their book Groups Interacting with Technology166. This is particularly important for disaster management because internal and cluster communication within relief groups, NGO’s and other agencies are crucial to getting their work done in time. However, these groups classified by McGrath and Hollingshead generally work within closed systems of information, today social media blurs those boundaries and makes all information somehow available. The problem many institutions have is that with all the available information it is challenging to pick out the most accurate, useful data from the countless lot of data smog. Before we explore these challenges lets look into the computer-mediated group collaboration classification by McGrath and Hollingshead. This section aims to depict the communicational architecture social media present in order to analyze their function as a unit rather than the complex system of platforms we have just explored. McGrath and Hollingshead distinguish four categories that sometimes intermesh in practice: I. Group (internal) Communication Support System: GCSS Refers to communication that occurs within a group through video conferencing, private emails, text messaging, etc. This classification can be compared to online social networking sites and blogging. It is a means of communication using a network of family, friends, co-workers, general and specific interests or any other affiliation. II. Group Information Support System: GISS Are technology that allow group members to access and interact with databases such as document archives, intranets that support group discussions, forums, net meetings,                                                                                                                
McGrath, Joseph E. & Hollingshead, Andrea B. (1994) Groups interacting with technology : ideas, evidence, issues, and an agenda. Sage, Thousand Oaks.
166

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schedules, etc. Members can add data, update information, etc. This classification works in the same way collaborative projects do to build an extensive database. However, the classification by McGrath and Hollingshead suggest these systems are internally built and managed unlike collaborative projects, which can be represented by the following classification as well. III. Group External Communication Support System: GXSS These are technologies that allow groups to communicate with each other either through GCSS or GISS platforms that open channels of information flow to obtain data from each other or even build upon those databases. One example of this can be attributed to open source software that relies on external input of information and efforts to develop their database and digital performance. IV. Group Performance Support System: GPSS

This classification can also be compared to open source software systems because it refers to technology that allow experts to enhance its performance often under the guidance of a supervisor or, as they are referred to today, a webmaster; but, it is not limited to constraints in all platforms. GPSS support cooperative work through computer technology. We see characteristics of all these systems mesh in what today we call social media. Interactive maps like the ones developed through the Ushahidi platform can be used as an example in all these support systems. Social media mediate communication internally through groups and networks where members join, supporting the GCSS classification. Once in the social media system, members can access information from databases, add, modify and extract information from data as explained through the GISS. Furthermore, social media interact with several groups at the same time. By navigating or surfing the web through standard platforms like Facebook and Twitter, groups, networks and individual users cross paths to aggregate information to any issues, provide opinions on forums and leave comments to just about anything on the web today. This openness to external input suggests GXSS develop easily through social media. Equally so, GPSS can be highly enhanced or also cluttered by social media information and the involvement of GXSS and large GISS databases in the pursuit of enhancing performance on the Internet. The disaster management community

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is still, in some ways closed off to GXSS, although communication between organizations, institutions and programs flows freely. For example, the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, or UN-SPIDER, use GCSS, GISS and GPSS technology through their website or knowledge portal. The UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal offers users information on where to obtain space-based information regarding disasters, specifically to enhance performance and network NGOs, satellite imagery providers and governments through their platform. Although their platform is open-source, the information aggregated to the Knowledge Portal is met with some restrictions to ensure it displays accurate information from trusted sources. All the technologies that make up these classifications are governed by the relationship with time and space and compared to the most communicative process of face-to-face communication. ICT has advances to match the face-to-face process with videophones, teleconferencing and so on. These technologies are considered synchronous because they happen in real time but are generally not bound by space. McGrath and Hollingshead explain that asynchronous types of systems are not interactive, referring to the fact that they do not provide immediate interactivity. This does not mean, however, that asynchronous types of systems are completely divorced from interactivity when applied to social media. Platforms like YouTube allow users to respond to videos by comments or even videos responses that are uploaded to the same page of the initial video. These digitally broadcast conversations are set within the standards of the YouTube platform and rules or restrictions chosen by the channelowner but are not bound by time or space as we have discussed. McGrath and Hollingshead’s graph is useful to understand the different types of systems that have evolved to what we now consider social media. For example Twitter, which allows quick upload and access to text communications, can be synchronous as well as asynchronous depending on how fast responses are received from a tweet. Similarly, through the software application Skype, users can call other Skype users and regular. Skype also allows for chats, video chats and file sharing with one user or a group of users linked into a group chat or conference. Skype also allow users to leave voicemails and even send video files if the receiver is not present. So through social media the lines between synchronous and asynchronous become blurred. However,

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unlike the contiguous face-to-face communication, space is still distal through any type of computer-mediated communication. (see Figure 14)

Fig. 14: Types of GCSS167

3.3 Disaster Management Communication Through Social Media
It has become evident that through recent large-scale disasters social media has emerged as a relevant source of data for the disaster management community and a channel for its flow of information, especially in disaster response. For example, in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti:
“For the first time, members of the community affected by the disaster issued pleas for help using social media and widely available mobile technologies. Around the world, thousands of ordinary citizens mobilized to aggregate, translate, and plot these pleas on maps and to organize technical efforts to support the disaster response.” 168

One of the most interesting aspects about the disaster that struck Haiti in 2010 was that the use of social media was seemed unprecedented due to the assumptions that technology would be obsolete in a developing country so devastated by the effects of massive death and destruction. In effect, during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, a culturally technology-driven society, evidenced the power of social media as a                                                                                                                
McGrath, Joseph E. & Hollingshead, Andrea B. (1994) Groups interacting with technology : ideas, evidence, issues, and an agenda. Sage, Thousand Oaks. P. 12 168 Harvard (2011) P. 32.
167

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tool for disaster management communication and revealed a stark contrast with former events.
“Japan's disaster has spotlighted the critical role that social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube and Skype increasingly are playing in responses to crises around the world.”169

The influx of information generating from or flowing through social media has prompted some disaster management organizations to develop strategies for using social media tools and platforms to include in their communications operations. One of the reasons why the disaster management community is beginning to use social media is because these platforms help change and improve communication. Social media changes communication in that it allows more people to access and be part of a decentralized flow of information, it fosters interactivity within a globally networked community of users that converge and exchange information in social media platforms. It improves information in terms of speeding the process of sending and receiving large quantities of information. Social media also enlarge the perspective of information by providing first-person video accounts, pictures and visually displaying data through maps and graphs that show the impact of a disaster and how many people have been affected170.
“The network effects associated with many of these technologies can create a critical mass of users that provides a potential point of interoperability and cooperation across agencies.”171

Despite the benefits in communication, social media present different challenges to the disaster management community. Some of these challenges have to do with processing the vast amounts of information and that includes verifying and validating the accuracy in data provided by unknown sources. Agencies dedicate efforts to providing supporters and staff with the most accurate data because if the information is false it can create confusion in an emergency situation172. Another major challenge within disaster management organizations is standards of operation. Standards are a controversial topic because many agencies require a framework of values to facilitate                                                                                                                
169 170

Stemberg (2011) See: Haddow (2009) P. 115-117. 171 Rao (2007) P.3. 172 See: Rao (2007) P. 85.

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operations, but the Internet operates with a relaxed approach to standards regarding information exchange through social media. An Emergency Social Data Summit met at the American Red Cross headquarters in August 2010 to discuss the best approach in which disaster response could integrate data provided by social media. Among the challenges brought to the table, special attention was given to the issue of standards because:
“Finding a uniform code, data set and/or application programming interface (API) remains crucial to response because it affords organizations the opportunity to educate the public about the codes or procedure in the event of an emergency. One suggestion included using a code word like “e911” or other key data phrase that can be monitored and aggregated regardless of the social network in which it appeared.” 173

This discussions reveals that there are solutions being developed to tackle challenges that could obstruct the potential of social media as a source for information and a channel for communication in disaster management. The following chapter presents the core analysis for this research paper. Chapter 4 is the result of discussions held with disaster management experts and reveals concrete characteristics about social media in disaster management. Through the evaluation of the interviews sustained with experts, chapter 4 evaluates a series of elements that describe a framework of action regarding this topic including the requirements for a social media strategy and the changes brought about in disaster management due to new ICT. Additionally, these topics were used to create a SWOT analysis that could be implemented to evaluate the practicality behind a social media strategy.

                                                                                                               
Red Cross America (2010) The Path Forward: A follow up to The Case for Integrating Crisis Response with Social Media and call to action for the disaster response community. Red Cross Witepaper. P. 7-8.
173

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4

The Role Of Social Media In Natural Disaster Management Communication
The previous chapters present a versatile architecture of communication through

social media platforms that have been used in natural disaster management. This chapter evaluates the use of social media in disaster management agencies to analyze the impact they have had on the institutional structure of operations. It also aims to discover how the changes in the flow of information through social media have affected disaster management communications in the case of natural phenomena. Through the analysis of the findings presented in this chapter, disaster management agencies will be able to develop a social media strategy to best adapt to the possible changes in networked social structures. The basis of this research is supported by a series of interviews with several experts from different fields involving communication practices in disaster management. The methodology, thus, will rely on basic qualitative research methods to evaluate the role of social media in disaster management communications. The intention is to evaluate the use of social media in emergencies, when are they most effective and what challenges or threats can result from their use. This analysis will serve to answer questions disaster management communication practitioners might have regarding the implementation of a social media strategy for their operations. The results from this research can also be useful to the general public who are practitioners of social media and as any user they could also at some point become victims of a natural disaster. Furthermore, this research will evaluate findings based on a SWOT analysis to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of social media and their impact on natural disaster management. The empirical basis of this study relies on the expert interviews and the analysis of the qualitative content provided by the expert’s answers.

4.1 Research Methods
Research about social media is relatively new and most of the literature regarding this digital phenomenon is based on marketing techniques or business strategies. Moreover, social media are still developing and the disaster management community is finding new uses that have not been tested or implemented yet.

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For the themes presented in this research it is best to analyze the findings through qualitative methods. This is because the research is based on semi-structured interviews and the answers given are best suited for qualitative interpretation rather than using quantitative approaches. The qualitative methods that will be used in this study are based on the interpretive paradigm by analyzing the content of the research and interpreting its value and significance through this researcher’s own cognitive judgment174. Therefore, the research objective will be met using an interpretive method in order to determine the structure of the disaster management community and its relationship with social media communication. Through qualitative social research, insights about social realities can point out structures, significance and processes linked to disaster management communication175. In turn, basic communication research seeks to establish general communication principles176 that will focus on the channels of communication, in this case, represented by social media for the purpose of this research. A qualitative method is appropriate to discover unknown factors about social media use in disaster management because those factors cannot be quantified but can be qualified by the actors and stakeholders that implement these communication techniques. Therefore, the design of this research seeks to evaluate through interpretation the answers given by experts on this matter and the application of medium theory as a changing factor of natural disaster management communications. Having said this the analysis of the interviews remained faithful to the interviewees answers and with the goal of remaining impartial throughout the interpretation process. Qualitative research and analysis on this topic generates feasible structures and results that classify and evaluate the role of these communicating digital channels for the unique cases of natural disaster and emergency communications. Finally, the discussion will evaluate findings through a social media SWOT analysis proposed for a marketing strategy but with the topic of natural disaster management as the fundamental focus of said analysis.

                                                                                                               
See: Pohl, J. (1998): Qualitative Verfahren. In: Akademie für Raumordnung und Landesplanung (Ed.): Methoden und Instrumente Räumlicher Planung. Handbuch, Hannover. P. 96. 175 See: Flick, U. (2003): Design und Prozess Qualitativer Forschung. In: Flick, U.; Kardorff, E. Von & I. Steinke (Eds.): Qualitative Forschung. Ein Handbuch, Hamburg. P. 252-264. 176 See: Frey, Lawrence R.; Botan, Carl H. & Kreps, Gary L. (2000) Investigating communication: An Introduction to Research Methods (2). Pearson Education Company, Needham Heights.
174

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4.2 Interviews
The empirical basis of this study is based on the answers obtained through the interviews of experts and their content analysis. In semi-structured interviews the interviewer has a set of basic questions but has the freedom to ask follow-up questions, ask for more detail or question the expert’s opinion to achieve a more complete answer or a different perspective177. For this research, semi-structured interviews were ideal because it allowed for questioning subjects about their area of expertise in more detail and explore deeper into how social media play different roles in different agencies. Furthermore, the experts interviewed come from similar yet very distinct communication operations within the disaster management community and the questions had to fit their concentration of work as well as indulge the relevance of their duties regarding disaster management. Interviewing experts in particular, involve discussing activities, analyzing observations and evaluating the expert’s specific knowledge on the subject at hand178. Data collection took place between March 28th and April 14th, 2011. Interviews were conducted with 10 experts from five different institutions or programs: Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) Red Cross, The United Nations platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UNSPIDER), the blog Ushahidi.com and Zentrum für Internationale Friedenseinsätze (ZIF ENTRi) or the Center for International Peace Operations (ENTRi is their program for Europe's New Training Initiative for Civilian Crisis Management.) The experts, their position in their respective institutions and the methods used to interview them will be detailed in the following section.

4.2.1 Selection Of Experts
In first order, it should be noted that experts in the context of this research require the competences and knowledge relevant to disaster management and/or social media. This means that the people selected to participate have experience and work in the areas of emergency response, humanitarian aid, disaster management communication, web developing, information technology or specialize in social media, which defines them as                                                                                                                
See: Frey (2000) P. 100. See: Gläser, J. & G. Laudel (2006): Experteninterviews und Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Wiesbaden. P. 41.
178 177

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experts and makes their participation in this study appropriate. The study will not be analyzing personal traits from the selected experts but will focus on their access to information as well as the responsibilities and their experience working with such information. These traits are what define them as experts for this study.179 Furthermore, the institutions these experts work for all form part of the disaster management community. The selection of experts had also to do with their tasks in each of the following institutions as well as their experience with social media. The United Nations platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response: UN-SPIDER is a program that operates through the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs or UNOOSA. With offices in Vienna, Bonn and Beijing, UN-SPIDER has the mission to "ensure that all countries and international and regional organizations have access and develop the capacity to use all types of space-based information to support the full disaster management cycle."180 That involves providing different means of information and access to GIS data, capacity building and general information about disasters. Operations in Bonn are focused on the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal, a website launched in 2009 that serves as a platform for information and assistance about disaster management and emergency response data including guidelines, contact information and news about natural disasters. Besides assisting with communication and collaboration, the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal aims to disseminate information. Additionally, UN-SPIDER operates a SpaceAid Framework that “facilitates fast and efficient access to all types of information during the response phase of a disaster. Space-based nformation is provided by earth observation satellites, communication satellites and global navigation satellite systems”181 and shared throughout a network of national focal points, regional support offices and other UN organizations. Lorant Czaran is the UN-SPIDER Bonn Program Officer with the task of leading the implementation of the Knowledge Portal and disseminating information regarding SpaceAid framework, among other tasks. Natalie Epler is the associate expert in charge                                                                                                                
See: Meuser, M. & U. Nagel (1991): Expertinneninterviews - Vielfach Erprobt, Wenig Bedacht. Ein Beitrag Zur Qualitativen Methodendiskussion. In: Garz, D. & K. Kraimer (Eds.): QualItative-Empirische Sozialforschung. Opladen. P. 443. 180 UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal (2011) Availeble at http://un-spider.org/. Viewed on 12/2/2011. 181 Ibid.
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of communications for UN-SPIDER, among many other tasks she works as the webeditor for the Knowledge Portal. Peter Stumpf is also an Associate Expert in charge of the entire UN-SPIDER IT infrastructure including implementation and maintenance of the Knowledge Portal. Both Ms. Epler and Mr. Stumpf have the newly added tasks of feeding information to the various social media accounts and monitor their activity on a day-to-day basis as the program has increased its use of social media in 2011. Jacqueline Tsuma is a consultant working with UN-SPIDER as a web-developer for the Knowledge Portal. Most of the expert-interviews for this research work for the UNSPIDER program because of its recent increase in social media use, its focus on dissemination of information and its relevance regarding disaster management and emergency response. Its office in Bonn is focused on disseminating information so it was also convenient to conduct face-to-face interviews with each individual. These interviews have been filmed and digitalized for this study with their permission. (see Apendix) Ushahidi.com Ushahidi.com is an open-source platform that combines information from social media and creates mashups with Google Maps for crowdsourcing information that is useful in times of crisis. Through their software Ushahidi.com collects information and makes it visible on interactive maps. These maps can then help locate areas in need of assistance, aid distribution points, track events and register accounts of events. Eric Hersman is the co-founder of this blog, which won Deutsche Welle’s Best of Blogs (BOBs) award in 2010. Mr. Hersman was part of the jury for electing the 2011 BOBs winners. The face-to-face interview was made possible through an audio recorder during one of the breaks between the deliberations of the jury panel at the Deutsche Welle in Bonn. Patrick Meier is also an expert from Ushahidi.com specializing in crisis mapping. Meier is also the co-founder of Crisismappers.net; which claims to be the “largest and most active international community of experts, practitioners, policymakers, technologists, researchers, journalists, scholars, hackers and skilled volunteers engaged at the intersection between humanitarian crises, technology and crisis mapping”182. Mr. Meier was interviewed through the software application Skype.

                                                                                                               
182

Crisis mappers (2011) Available at http://crisismappers.net. Viewed on 13/2/2011.

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CARE-DL CARE, or the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, is a humanitarian organization “fighting global poverty”183. Within this mission of CARE international, CARE-DL (Deutschland/Luxemburg) concentrates on the fields of emergency relief, which “comprises immediate relief in the event of disaster and the follow-up recovery support”184. Sabine Wilke is a communications officer based in Haiti who started in CARE-DL. She was also actively participating right after the earthquake in Haiti as an aid worker in communications operations. Ms. Wilke’s interview was conducted through Skype, connecting from Port-Au-Prince to Bonn. Equally so was the interview held with Rick Perera, who is a communications officer for CARE International and was also reporting on location the events shortly after the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Mr. Perera was using twitter and other social media as tools of disseminating information to CARE donors and advocates. The American Red Cross The Red Cross is the “premier emergency response organization”185 in the United States. Additionally, the American Red Cross distinguishes itself from the worldwide movement “by also aiding victims of devastating natural disasters”186. Gloria Huang is part of a two-person team leading the operations regarding social media at the American Red Cross headquarters in Washington D.C. The social media team forms part of the communications department within the social and public affairs of the American Red Cross. ZIF-ENTRi Project ENTRi or Europe's New Training Initiative for Civilian Crisis Management is a project set up by the Center for International Peace Operations, or ZIF, based in Berlin. Their aim is to “bring about harmonization and standardization of training to ensure greater compatibility between European and other crisis management missions.”187 Silva Lauffer is heading the project and is also active with the United Nations Disaster                                                                                                                
CARE (2011) Available at http://care.org. Viewed on 11/2/2011. Ibid. 185 Red Cross website. Available at http://www.redcross.org. Viewed on 18/05/2011 186 Ibid. 187 ZIF Project ENTRi. Available at http://www.zif-berlin.org/de/projekte/entri.html. Viewed on 15/04/2011.
184 183

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Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) that “help the United Nations and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.”188 Ms. Lauffer work in UNDAC allow members to “assist at very short notice the respective governments of affected countries, to give a scale of the magnitude of the damages and then basically coordinate the humanitarian response missions in the country in order to be the interlocutors between the first responders, like NGOs and government officials.” (Appx.II. Lauffer ¶ 2)

4.2.2 Interview Guidelines
The interviews used for this research were semi-structured. That means the questions were asked following a standard that does not depend on formulating the questions in the exact order for each interview nor its sequence189. Given the diversity of institutions selected to participate in the study it was challenging to develop a standardized guideline that would question the experts on the knowledge they have and yet dive into the unique specialties each individual can offer on this subject. For example, experts from Ushahidi.com do not have the same in depth knowledge about disaster management as say the experts from CARE who work hands-on and on location in Haiti. Plus, both experts handle different spectrums of disaster management and it was important to cover these niches in the questionnaires and interpret the answers to find any gaps between the communication spectrum of the different actors in the disaster management community. Therefore, the questionnaire was divided into three sections: 1. Social media platforms implemented in natural disaster management. 2. Limitations and effectiveness of social media in natural disaster management. 3. Changes and development of natural disaster management communication. A series of questions followed each theme, although some were left out and others were included depending on the situation, expert, need for details or any impromptu question that would arise during the interview regarding each theme. These improvised moments during an interview require a guideline that supports the research questions to prevent the interviewer from heading in different directions with his or her answers190

                                                                                                               
UNDAC Portal. Available at http://www.unocha.org/what-we-do/coordination-tools/undac/overview. Viewed on 18/05/2011 189 See: Gläser (2006) P. 39. 190 See: ibid. P.107.
188

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The goal of this guideline is to obtain information about the communicational structure of institutions in the disaster management community using social media, what uses and challenges they face, what changes have been recorded and how experts predict that structure will develop in the future. The themes that serve as umbrella to the questionnaire were extracted from the answers taking into consideration the theories explained in chapter 2; including McGrath & Hollingshead’s group collaboration classification, Jan Van Dijk’s tripartite network society and especially keeping Meyrowitz’s medium theory in hindsight. These considerations are in order to construct categories or codes that are evaluated applying the theoretical background about user interaction, network structure and media impact to determine the functionality, challenges, development, etc. of social media in disaster management communication. When an interview was conducted the initial question was directed at the subject’s specific tasks and job description, their role in the disaster management process and an overview of the institution they work for. These standard questions would then lead to the mechanisms the experts use to do their job and whether social media was a relevant part of that mechanism. This discussion would naturally follow into the uses of the social media mechanisms used in their work, the role these technology play within the disaster management community and the challenges that arise from their use. Finally, the interview would reach a peak when discussing the changes in the disaster management community and the influence social media and ICTs might have had in those changes, equally so experts were asked to make predictions about how the disaster management community would develop with new advances and uses of social media, its relevance in better management or the dangers it brings to accuracy of information.

4.2.3 Interview Procedures And Transcription
Half of the interviews were conducted in Bonn. These face-to-face interviews were documented in different ways. One was recorded with a hand-held digital audio recorder and the other four filmed with a video camera. The other five interviews were made possible using Skype and recording the conversation directly to a laptop through a built-in microphone and the GarageBand audio-editor application. Some interviews, like the one with Ms. Lauffer, were met with some connection problems that resulted in distortion at certain sections. However, the distortions were not detrimental to the

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information and the general content of the interview did not suffer any relevant loss of clarity. Therefore, all ten interviews have been used for analysis and interpretation. Length of the interviews varied in time. Most of them were in the range of 30-45 minutes, one was just over 10 minutes due to time availability of the subject and the longest interview lasted 53 minutes. The disparity in lengths was due to the initial discussions about the expert’s specific tasks, program and, in general, their knowledge about the topic. All interviews required minor editions with regard to volume, quality or piecing two separate recordings into one continuous one before the transcription process. Additionally, the evaluation of the answers required the recordings to be transcribed into text. Transcriptions are useful for easily and visibly finding the answers that support the categories for qualitative research. Transcriptions also hold to be the most effective technique for content analysis of semi-structured interviews. These texts were manually transcribed word-for-word with the omission of disfluencies and discourse markers. However, the original context in the recordings has not been subject to any alterations and the transcriptions can also be read in the Appendix, page 108.

4.3 Interview Analysis 4.3.1 Analysis Design
The qualitative content analysis used for this thesis will focus on two things. First, in order to create an analytical framework, a system of steps has been used to establish a classification of categories that evaluate the issues in the context of disaster management communication through social media. Secondly, after evaluating these categories, answers extracted from the information have been used to produce a SWOT analysis that offers an analytical implementation outline for social media in natural disaster communications. Qualitative Content Analysis The first part of the analysis is concentrated on evaluating the current uses of social media in disaster management communication and the issues related to this topic. Common themes or codes extracted from the interview transcriptions are organized into

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categories and sub-categories belonging to a framework that assists in the analysis and synthesis of the coded information191. A basic code tree classifies the categories resulting from the interviewers. Since it has been specified that interviewers were selected based on their knowledge, this coding will be looking at the tasks and experience of each expert to classify them accordingly. The next step in forming a coding tree is to evaluate the substantive material from the interview transcriptions. In this perspective the analysis concentrates on the different answers provided by the interviewees. The information is organized in codes to ensure unique categories are assessed and avoid redundancies in the analytical process of evaluating each issue. Furthermore, the categories and codes assigned to the issues will be supported by quotes directly extracted form the transcribed material and that will exemplify the analysis provided by the researcher. Details about the breakdown of codes and categories can be found in the next sections. SWOT The second part of this analysis involves a SWOT interpretive model, generally used for marketing strategies. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that was developed in the 60’s as a business-planning tool, but also works for project planning192. The objective in this research is to comprise a systematic framework that can be useful to evaluate the implementation of social media in disaster management communication. The SWOT model is the best option to depict the analysis for this research since it is the recommended technique to use for companies seeking to implement social media in their business marketing strategy, which also aims at crowd sourcing and information flows193. The social media SWOT analysis for disaster management looks much like a regular one. It attributes the ‘Strengths’ and ‘Weaknesses’ to internal factors while ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Threats’ are external factors to issues that allow an organization to use or develop social media for their strategic objectives In this research’s analysis the objective is to evaluate the SWOT for using and implementing information through social media by the disaster management community. This is made possible by analyzing the information made possible through the qualitative content analysis. The experts interviewed have collated                                                                                                                
See: Gläser (2006) P. 41-44. Rapid Business Improvement portal. Available at http://rapidbi.com/created/SWOTanalysis. Viewed on 15/03/2011. 193 See: Safko (2009) P. 669-707.
192 191

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a series of answers that fit well into a SWOT analysis model including the strengths of social media in disaster management communication, its weaknesses, the opportunities social media can bring to the development of communication strategies and also the threats that disaster managers should be aware of avoiding. Through the first method of content analysis it is possible to easily map out a SWOT quadrant from the information analyzed by the coding tree.

4.3.2 Coding Tree
In order to analyze the following themes, a system of categories was set to be able to pinpoint information and accurately assess each topic. As already discussed, the attribute codes classified the experts interviewed in regards to their area of expertise. The Substantive codes will generate categories that reflect on subjects extracted from the answers provided by the experts and it specifically exposes the content of the interview sessions. Attribute Codes The ten people interviewed for this research are experts in various fields. Some are in the field of communications and/or information technology and others are in the field of disaster management. In the case of this research, all of the people interviewed had overlapping experience in both fields. However, their concentration in each field was focused on one or two aspects. These aspects can be classified into three categories that draw a line between each the expert and their focus. Expertise has been split into three divisions: Disaster management experts, Communication experts and Information Technology experts. (see Table 1) Disaster Management Experts Lorant Czaran (UN-SPIDER) Silva Lauffer (ZIF-ENTRi) Communications Experts Natalie Epler (UN-SPIDER) Gloria Huang (Red Cross USA) Rick Perera (CARE) Sabine Wilke (CARE) Information Technology Experts Erick Hersman (USHAHIDI) Patrick Meier (USHAHIDI) Peter Stumpf (UN-SPIDER) Jackeline Tsuma (UN-SPIDER)

Tab. 1: Attribute codes for experts interviewed

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Disaster management experts The people classified as disaster management experts expressed through the interviews that they hold several years of experience in the disaster management field. For example, Ms. Lauffer from the ZIF ENTRi program “started in this sector 11 years ago and it all has to do with emergency relief and rehabilitation.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶2.) Ms. Lauffer offers a perspective of working on the ground since she has been active in dealing with the logistics and relief operations in many disaster response and recovery missions, including the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Mr. Czaran, program officer for UN-SPIDER in Bonn, is also a disaster management expert having worked in the United Nations for 15 years in departments of cartography and geographic information destined for peacekeeping operations and humanitarian affairs, among other things. Mr. Czaran has extensive experience on providing and quickly making available information needed for relief operations. Now, through UN-SPIDER, Mr. Czaran makes use of “remote sensing and GIS technology in supporting disaster management and, of course, present technologies to support all kinds of other things.” (Appx. I. Czaran, ¶ 7) Insights from disaster management experts help analyze the institutional changes that have resulted over the years due to the advancements of technology. It is also important to have perspectives from hands-on relief work and logistics management in order to assess the use of social media in terms of actual management. Insights on what these experts believe can be developed to serve the disaster management community better is also crucial for this research. It is noteworthy to stress that expert opinion from this field is necessary to adequately analyze the role of social media in disaster management communication. Communication experts Although all the experts interviewed are part of the disaster management community, there are some experts that have a specific role within that community. Communication officers have several tasks in disaster management. Some of those tasks involve being an intermediary between agencies and journalists, informing stakeholders about the activities performed and staying in contact with the communities and networks that operate or benefit from information about the activities of their NGO, program or institution. Each expert in this division has unique tasks that reflect the organization

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they work for. They all converge in their use of social media, some more than others for obvious reasons. For example, Sabine Wilke, who was working on setting up a communications office in Haiti when she was interviewed for this research, clearly pointed out:
“In terms of communicating our disaster work to an international audience I think social media is crucial. (…) But, we have to remember people do have cell phones here (Haiti) but not everyone has a smart phone, so not everyone has Internet access to their phone. Plus, a big part of the population cannot even read or write. So, we have to be realistic about how we approach these people compared to audiences in other countries. In the case of Haiti, one of our main or major channels are traditional media, not just newspapers, but also radio. As simple as it sounds, because people listen to the radio, and since people are illiterate, as I said, we reach out to radio stations and have public-service announcements; which is something that we been doing a lot after the disaster.” (Appx. VI. Wilke, ¶15-17)

Ms. Wilke’s account in Haiti shows a sharp contrast when it comes to the tasks bestowed upon Gloria Huang. Revisiting Ms. Huang’s work, she helps coordinate a social media strategy within the Red Cross America communications department. Her responsibilities mostly involve communications through social media, like the ones she lists here:
“We monitor and listen to what people are saying every day about the Red Cross; we manage a bunch of social media accounts like Facebook, twitter, YouTube, Flickr, the main ones that you can think of. We respond to people there and use those as avenues where people can contact us if they have any questions or concerns and we try to address as many as we can.” (Appx. IV. Huang,¶ 2)

The contrasts in tasks and responsibilities among the different disaster management communications experts, gives this research a comfortable range for an interpretive analysis that explores all possible options from two ends of a spectrum. This analysis helps accurately map a generalized role of social media in disaster management by taking specific accounts of its use in opposing angles of conditions that encourages or restricts social media access. Information Technology (IT) experts Technology experts also have different approaches and knowledge about technology depending on their specialization. For example, Jacqueline Tsuma is a website developer and Patrick Meier is an expert on mapping crisis and crowd sourcing using

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developing software. What classifies them as a group within this research is their work with developing technological mechanisms used for disaster management purposes. All three groups of experts were asked the same sequence of questions during the interview in order to evaluate different perspectives on similar topics. The insights provided by this group of experts was pivotal for assessing the current use of technology for disaster management and to predict how technology can realistically be developed for this purpose, including social media platforms and software. It is helpful that all IT experts interviewed also form part of the disaster management community and can relate the needs of emergency communications to the limitations and opportunities current technology can offer in that field. Especially, when these experts are “trying to bridge the gap between conflict emergency types community with the technology community.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶2) Substantive Codes The themes developed for this research have been broken down into three main topics that reflect those used as a framework for the questions asked during the interview. To briefly revisit these topics regarding social media in disaster management, they were: Uses and implementation, limitations and effectiveness, and changes. These three topics were then divided into subthemes and then categorized into topics that will be discussed in the following section. The purpose of this breakdown is to discuss the actual comments made by the experts regarding the topic. Then it will be possible to analyze the evaluation given by the different sets of experts in order to accurately map out the role of social media in natural disaster management. The order in which themes are arranged compile an logical framework to understanding the uses, pros, cons and developments of social media in disaster management. The analysis that results from this categorization can later be used to map out a SWOT grid that will further clarify the issues being put forth through this research.

The discussed themes are subdivided into these categories and adhere to the following order:

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I.

Implementation and Function a. b. a. b. Requirements for implementing a social media strategy for management communications Functionality of social media in disaster management communications Challenges to implementing social media in disaster management communication In which phase of disaster management do social media play the biggest role? disaster

II. Limitations and Effectiveness

III.

Changes in disaster management communication Each of the categories will also be divided into the different subjects that best explain

each situation. A full breakdown of the order can be seen in Table 2. Themes
I. Implementation and Function

Categories
a. Requirements

Description
Staff/Volunteers and Time Social media presence Standards Equipment

b. Functionality

Network Push Information Pull Information Bottom-up Communication Information evaluation How to implement social media Digital divide Language barrier Information overflow

II. Limitations and effectiveness

a. Challenges

b. Social media in disaster management phases. III. Changes

Response Preparedness Recovery and Mitigation a. Technology b. New flows of information

Table 2: Substantive code tree for role of social media in natural disaster management

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I.

Implementation and function

Chapter 3 discussed some of the uses of social media in disaster management today. Although this research may revisit some of those aspects, this section tries to map out the specific functions social media serves and the requirements needed for a successful use of social media platforms in disaster management communications. These two subjects are the most complex because the role and function of social media in disaster management is still developing and there are many uncertainties, which will also be discussed. Plus, technology today develops overwhelmingly rapidly. This causes some organizations to cautiously implement a social media strategy while considering the risks behind it. The assessment presented in this section of the research is based on a compilation of expert accounts regarding the requirements and functionality of social media in disaster management communication. a. Requirements for implementing social media operations in disaster

management communication Staff/Volunteers and Time One of the main issues discussed in the research was the lack of staff or volunteers available to revise, maintain and feed a social media strategy, especially in a professional context. As more technology becomes relevant in the use of social media for emergencies, more staff is required to dedicate the time needed to deal with the upkeep. Some institutions expect their communication officers to engage in social media as an added task within their jobs, but that approach takes the time from regular duties behind the communicational needs of the organization. Furthermore, communication officers may lack a real strategy to successfully leverage the benefits from social media.
“When you really want to engage in social media you need a full-time staff to follow up on that. You cannot just twitter, it doesn’t take you just 30 seconds a day. You have to have a strategy, you have to set up your accounts in a professional way.” (Appx. IV. Wilke, ¶ 13)

A good example is the approach the American Red Cross has taken to engage with people through social media, using a full-time staff to coordinate a strategy. Although social media is not a communications focus for the Red Cross, they do

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have a strategy in place to communicate externally with users and internally with over 650 Red Cross chapters in the U.S. Additionally, a staff can strategize how to move forward and advance the uses of social media as the technology develops. For example, a dedicated staff can use data taken from social networks to locate victims, follow up on relief efforts and receive third party information on progress made with recovery or mitigation tasks.
“We try to strategize where we want to go with social media and how we want to use it the way that Red Cross wants to do their communication, carry out our services, and I think the social network data component is an important piece of that to where we’re going in the future; which is the way in which we can use social media as a really viable channel for people to use when they want to seek help or be able to communicate important information, possibly life-saving information about a disaster.” (Appx. VI. Huang, ¶1)

An important aspect, however, is the participation of volunteers and technical communities or V&TCs who are users not directly involved with disaster management operations. But, V&TCs provide data and help develop useful tools for collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data. For communication officers, data pulled from platforms where V&TCs converge are useful in carrying out operations.
“(Social media) gives access to enormous resources, as in human resources. Basically, because of all the volunteer work that is being done. I don’t think no single organization can produce that much data. It makes communication in a way easier but in a way more complicated because you have so many players involved.” (Appx. III. Epler, ¶4)

Indeed, V&TCs generated vast amounts of data during the disaster response in Haiti’s 2010 earthquake. They also advocated for automated methods to outsource parts of the information management workflows. However, the influx of data and methods to process it in the midst of a stressful disaster situation intensified the sense of information overload for staff working on the ground194. So, even with the help of V&TCs generating information, there is still a need for dedicated staff to go through the data and pick out what is most useful. Having the right staff was one of the recurring themes throughout the interviews with experts. The topic was mostly discussed with the disaster management and communications experts who are mostly using the technology developed by IT experts. Thus, concern for qualified staff members is higher among                                                                                                                
194

See: Harvard (2011) P. 19.

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platform users rather than developers. IT experts concern is mostly on validation of information, which needs staff as well. For example Ushahidi relies on V&TCs to update and develop the maps through an array of software they provide. Some of the validation software sifts through information automatically but results always need to be verified by staff.
“If it’s a lot of volume of data, like Japan, you have to use machines, you have no way around it, at least as a first level filter. But, the second level of filter, no matter if you’re doing a big deployment or not, you need people with eyeballs on it to look at the information and validate if it looks like something they need to verify with the person. Then they have to get on the phone just like you would in any other form of media: telephone, check sources, make sure that what you’re saying is true.” (Appx. VII. Hersman, ¶ 10)

When there is a lack of staff to operate social media, then the requirements to a successful strategy fall onto the time availability of existing staff. Deploying a social media strategy takes time, for some of the communication experts it’s a matter of how much staff time is dedicated to implement, “it obviously can be time-consuming and we haven’t always had a dedicated person.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶ 4) This is a particular problem for people working on the ground after a disaster that might have affected communications, energy or other resources. Many relief workers simply do not have the time to send out Tweets or write a blog when they are working trying to save people. But, even the communication experts unanimously expressed that a successful social media strategy needs a dedicate staff because it takes time to process and generate information through these channels.
“There were so many different information channels that I didn’t have time to be out there trying to find people to follow and reading all of these tweets. So, I probably would’ve gotten more followers if I did that. I think in a case like that you would also need dedicated staff members who are working on social media and who can handle that, who can sift through that information and do the posting on behalf of the people who are on the ground, I just had too much to do.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶26)

Despite the required time and staff to carry out a social media strategy it has become evident that the generated data is valuable to accomplish missions and handle aspects relief efforts. IT experts view the data flood as an operation worth swimming through even though it causes some strains in the process.

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“The pros outweigh the cons in that it’s more advantageous to have more information in a critical situation than having less. It takes time to sift through that information and really find out what’s useful but at the same time that is our job and we will spend time doing what needs to be done.” (Appx. X. Tsuma, ¶ 23)

Social media presence One of the reasons maintaining a social media strategy is time-consuming and staffheavy is that for it to be successful one must have a constant presence on the internet. For example, there are a limited number of users one can follow with a Twitter account. That limit increases depending on the number of followers one’s account accumulates. It also involves forming part of a community and being able to network with V&TC, in order to successfully benefit from the information that is generated and increase the visibility and advocacy of the disaster management institution being represented. This is a developing trend, thus, some institutions have no strategy apply all of the capabilities social media could achieve through the exchange of information, nor the conditions to cultivate these benefits. Some experts expressed they realized the potential only after the earthquake in Haiti 2010; a potential that was confirmed with the 2011 earthquake in Japan. Mr. Perera explained he set up his first twitter account minutes before flying to Haiti after the earthquake. He was sent to be a communication officer for CARE during the response phase to manage the media frenzy that builds up after a large scale disaster. But, through the constant use of social media, specifically Twitter in this case, Mr. Perera became aware of the potential social media has in gathering information rather than pushing it.
“When I started using twitter in Haiti, I think initially, like a lot of agencies we were expecting to use it for putting communiqués, press releases and, notes to our supporters so our ads are really a push type of media. But, kind of surprisingly once people started following my tweets they were responding with information like: Hey, there are people in this place who need a tractor in that place or there are people here who don’t have water or need medical attention. And it became an inward source of information. So, that is something that we found out not actually going after it. So users taught us a lesson.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶ 8)

This realization was also experienced by UN-SPIDER after they began using social media more actively during the 2011 Japan earthquake response. Although the social media platforms were set from before, it was the presence of information that changed as interest grew about the disaster.

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“When you put more effort in going into the social media arena then you start also realizing you can get a lot more if you are also active and that’s also part of our mandate, to disseminate information that we receive.” (Appx. IX. Stumpf, ¶20)

This view supports Meyrowitz’s medium theory, which is based on the assumption that situations allow media to fill the differentiation gaps, in this case, between users and disaster management staff. This points to a clear change in the disaster management community that will be discussed later on in this chapter. However, the attention raised by a situation like a disaster should not be regarded as an important factor in this process. Many institutions try to leverage themselves from these events because they draw a lot of attention but the work behind a successful social media strategy still relies on a constant presence because once news about a disaster loses relevance then the information and interest it generated also perishes. In media terms, a disaster situation in social media might a high amount of reach but lacks in frequency because disaster information has a short lifespan, particularly on the web. That is why it is important to keep a frequency in presence to establish an audience or a following for advocacy. For example, Ms. Huang notes that presence is important even when things are calm. “In general I think communicating people during a time when there isn’t that much going on, that’s the time when it’s most effective to be talking about awareness, preparedness, where to go if there’s an emergency, make sure where they are and for them to know who you are I think social media is extremely important for that. And of course after the disaster is over continuing to be there and talking to people making sure that they’re prepared for the next disaster, that’s important too.” (Appx. IV. Huang, ¶6) Standards Social media is being used for many things, primarily socializing. So it is not unusual for workers to engage in tweeting and logging into Facebook without considering the professional attributes to these platforms. IT experts provide training in social media monitoring for its use in professional settings because it is important to know where to look for information and how post information without subjecting the institution to any negative liability. It becomes a problem when the precautions are not in place for preventing a social media strategy to backfire. Media institutions have gatekeepers and journalists have verifying standards before publishing or broadcasting information, but social media allows anything to be made public. When untrained staff use social media to post unfounded or irrelevant information it is generally the institution that has to deal

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with the complaints or embarrassment. Especially, when the institutions at hand are regarded as the main source of information on specific disaster, missions or developments, which tends to be the case in large-scale disaster situations. For programs like UN-SPIDER it is important to have trained staff that is aware of the consequences behind posting poorly judged comments on social media.
“We want to make sure that everything put out there is secure and could not have a negative impact if it spreads quickly. So we should make sure that we are doing and posting the right things to not give anybody reasons to criticize us or attack us. It seems to happen very often, I read people get fired for putting a joke or a bad comment and representing the institution.” (Appx. I. Czaran, ¶ 23)

Even from a technical perspective, social media data is seen as a complex collection of information that needs to be sorted out and verified before disseminating it. Mr. Meier concludes the best way to do this is through traditional journalistic standards.
“I think that it is important to know that journalists have been doing this for decades and decades and decades. That goes to the heart of what makes a good journalist the ability to filter fact from fiction, the ability to follow up on sources, to ask questions to triangulate, to look for alternative points of view, to do some more investigative research, and so on.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶18)

Equipment When discussing disaster management one has to consider the need for robust equipment in the midst of an emergency situation where resources are scarce and infrastructure is damaged. Social media can easily be used through a desktop computer in the headquarters of an institution. But for aid workers on the field it becomes a bit more difficult to use these platforms or sometimes even have access to them. Using the technology needs to be made simple as well. If the equipment does not cooperate when dealing with highly stressful situations, providing or accessing information through the internet will not be as important as addressing the immediate needs of victims. It’s a point made valid by the accounts of Ms. Lauffer who has been deployed in several disasters.
“It’s a matter of practicality. So, anything that’s robust is perfect for us, but fancy tools that may break down or are too complicated to administer are no use to me. I would get rid of it and start speaking to people on the ground that helps more.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶22)

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b. Functionality of social media in disaster management communications Network Being able to network and share information is a big part of disaster management communication. There are multiple ways social media can be used to network with other institutions, governments, communities, victims and general individuals. Through the collection of answers gathered from the interviews, one of the main functions of social media networking in disaster management is being able to communicate rapidly with other agencies and each other. Social media is used in several ways through different platforms to aid in internal and external communication during the different phases in disaster management. For example, Mr. Czaran heads the UN-SPIDER office in Bonn that is in charge of developing their Knowledge Portal website. Their task is to disseminate space-based information and bridge the gap between space technology networks and the communities, NGOs, disaster managers, practitioners and on the field aid workers. A constant social media presence and increasing network activity after a disaster keeps a tight bond in the information flow they require in order to carry out their mandate.
“We connect with networks on both sides and we have to keep an interface through all these networks. So clearly it’s a complex picture that is important to make sure that knowledge information through all these networks is collected, shared, packaged, distributed because very often, from experience, what is happening is that something interesting on one side is not known to the other side and just by making that known you have already contributed a lot to benefit all sides of the disaster management exercise or cycle.” (Appx. I. Czaran, ¶4)

One of the issues regarding disaster management communication is dealing with structural challenges found in systems like UNOCHA’s Cluster Approach, discussed in chapter 2. Through social media information managers from unique clusters can simultaneously alert different agencies when a new situation report has been made available on any given website. Profiles for different agencies are easily found through search engines in different social media platforms. Access to their networks proves useful when searching for specific information or to know about their recent activity. This becomes important when assessing what needs to be done and what has already been done to avoid duplication of tasks.
“There’s definitely been improvements through better communications particularly among the agencies that are responding, because it had problems in the past where

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agencies were talking to each other and we would all just go in and do our own thing and there was a lot of duplication. One agency would be responding one place, another might be responding in the same place as well because we were not communicating.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶28)

Based on the interviews, Twitter is the social media platform that seems to be used the most by practitioners during the response phase. When users and agencies post on twitter multimedia links to information found in other webpages, it quickly gets circulated through different networks. Although not all of the experts interviewed actively use Twitter to push or pull information they agree it is a fast way of accessing information one would otherwise spend time looking for in an emergency situation. Communications officers, in particular, find it advantageous to gather multimedia information they can then distribute to their supporters.
“It just tends to be a little bit quicker than going to the website every so often to check up on information. So they (mayor disaster management organizations like OCHA) would basically put a link on twitter to their latest situation report. And in emergencies NGOs are always waiting for are the so-called sit reps or situation reports (…) what is needed, and what is the response. So these are the things you need to know quickly in the first couple of days and weeks after a disaster. Besides, us as communications people we also need photos and quotes, etc.” (Appx. VI. Wilke, ¶30)

In addition, disaster management agencies with restricted budgets that do not have intranet systems also use social media to communicate internally throughout their own network. Software applications like Skype not only provide chatting and phone capabilities to an agency, but also build up their networks.
“If I get some information out of the news, whether it’s from BBC or Tagesschau, Deutsche Welle, and I want to verify something I would scroll down my Skype list of addresses and I may have a quick look at who is in that location. So, right now I have people sit everywhere, in the Congo, or in Indonesia, or in Brazil, Chad, Sudan, wherever it is I have someone there I can just quickly write to them and get additional information from them and that’s perfect, I use that a lot.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶14)

Push Information Based on the interviews it is clear information is seen differently in each area of expertise. Disaster managers need information to assess situations, communications officers gather and distribute the most valuable information and IT experts see information as data flowing through channels that need to be made available. In all

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regards social media is being used as a channel to push information. This task falls mostly in the hands of the communications experts and pushing information is the main social media function by the experts interviewed. For NGOs that rely on donations to operate, like CARE or Red Cross, Pushing information through social media is a way to raise awareness about a natural disaster to inspire donor contributions to the affected area and for fundraising among non-affected or external audiences.
“I think our main purpose in using social media has always been to communicate with our supporters and constituents so in its simplest form it’s another tool for fundraising, to keep people involved in and aware of the work that we do in such a way that they would be wanting to continue to support CARE’s work, because, that’s how we basically continue to fund the work that we do.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶5)

Pushing information is also used to build a network by providing information targeted at specific clusters in the disaster management community. By posting links to their own websites, agencies reel in active social media users and interested actors to view the disaster management information in need of mass distribution, say an important post-disaster map. A good connection to other networks enables a more active role in social media, which results in data being widely distributed throughout other networks and eventually receiving traditional mass media attention.
“We have noticed this now Japan that we were quoted on many other pages, news pages, articles, and other resource webpages we were always there. And I think it has to do because we were very fast in the beginning to set up our page on the portal, that we had good interaction with other providers of data, that we could then publish on our page, and with our use of twitter most of all. Facebook a little bit.” (Appx. III. Epler ¶)

Using social media to push information can also be used to inform affected audience about the location of distribution points, information about missing family members and other important developments. This is done through mashups where areas of interest are pinpointed on a map like what Ushahidi does. But in the case of audiences affected by a disaster, if systems are down this information is most likely broadcast over traditional media. Making lists of victims and making these lists available through social media is also a way to push information.

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People also use social media to tell their personal network of friends and family if they have survived or need to be rescued after a natural disaster. The research found many experts have accounts of victims who push SOS messages on social media expecting to be rescued soon after. More and more people, and especially the younger generations, assume social media are channels that allow messages to reach outstanding numbers of people and eventually reach rescue workers. However, the disaster management community is still developing these resources for victims. Staffs monitoring social media process SOS messages differently because usually they have no guidelines on how to handle information being pushed by victims.
“What happened in Haiti, is that you might have somebody in the community who is trapped or needs help and they would send an SMS to a friend, say in Miami, and that person may go on to call or contact our twitter page and tweet us saying: there’s somebody in this place. If I were the one monitoring that, I would contact person within the organization that can help. But, I don’t think that we will have capacity in place to use those information channels to their potential. I would say we are really kind of ad hoc about that.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶10)

Respondents from all three expert fields acknowledge an untapped potential in social media functions. As stated, most agencies use social media to push information either to external audiences or to rescue workers on the field. Other than the maps assembled through Ushahidi or the distribution of links to relevant websites with important information, most of the experts did not see a substantial use of pulling information from social media to aid in their work. Pull Information In most accounts, experts expressed the material they pull from social media come from responses to the information they have pushed. Information that is pulled must generally be subject to verification and be accountable for accuracy. Ushahidi depends on the response users and V&TCs give to the maps they assemble in order to crowdsource the information. Ushahidi maps allow field workers to visualize where most responses are coming from, what multimedia material have been uploaded from a certain region and where are people reporting the most need in aid. This information is made available through social media platforms. Although most useful in the response phase of a natural disaster, experts who have worked on the field use it sparingly because of lack of time or resources to access the information during an emergency

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relief operation. Therefore social media aid as platforms where information can be pushed into the field and practitioners can access it through different means available. On the ground use of social media becomes important for disaster managers seeking information where systems are down. Generally, NGOs and international disaster management agencies arrive at a disaster area with the equipment and ICTs necessary to carry out operations and access social media.
“How I use social media in that respect was to get the message out there to ask for IT guys that can help me collate information about, for instance, functioning hospices in Haiti and then put that information on a map so I can use it, print it off and give it to NGOs or staff members that need that information to plan the response properly.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶ 4)

However, in times of crisis when there is so much information being pushed, practitioners are cautious about pulling the information without verifying its accuracy or veracity. Crowd-sourcing can generate a lot of content that is useful for visualizing a tendency on a map. But, user-generated messages are generally unverified and inaccurate accounts of a situation, although the potential for a higher role in response is still acknowledged by the disaster management community.
“The tendency of citizens to exaggerate under extreme stress should not be underestimated, nor should the potential service that crowd-sourcing will serve in future operations as citizens learn how to use social media.”195

Therefore, systems are being developed to extract large amounts of data, process the content of the information and evaluate it according to predetermined criteria. Ushahidi recently launched software called SwiftRiver that allow users to set a scoring system for trusted sources in order to pull information that is considered trustworthy and triangulate it with other information taken from social media platforms.
“So if there are seven different tweets from seven different users talking about the same event plus two text messages, one picture and a BBC News article, chances are this event actually happened and what that particular space or component of the SwiftRiver application does is then provide a probability score moving beyond the question of if it’s true or false goes into being a probability. So basically, what SwiftRiver allows you to ask is what is the probability of this event that’s just apparently happened.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶14)

                                                                                                               
195

Harvard (2011) P. 48.

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Bottom-up and Top-down Communication One of the most important aspects about social media used in disaster management is that it allows information to flow from the affected community to the aid institutions in a bottom-up order. Through social media platforms users can communicate with aid practitioners and institutions working on relief efforts on the ground. Users can contribute to the information flow by acting as channels of communication between communities and aid institutions. In the response phase, victims can inform about the situation when aid workers have not reached affected areas. Similarly, users in the affected area with access to social media also act as mediators of information flowing from the main response agencies to the ground operations in the traditional top-down order.
“Through social media there is bottom-up information that can then be used to augment that other information (top-down.) It is not a replacement of information it just adds to it, so that you have more contacts and you have a better understanding of what’s going on.” (Appx. VII. Hersman, ¶ 8)

This flow of information follows Jan Van Dijk’s Tripartite Network Society model discussed in chapter 2. With a functioning social media, “elite” members of society can distribute information from the inner most networked circles that flow through other media models all the way to the “excluded” members of the network society. The bottom-up/top-down communication through social media acknowledges the users as actors in the communication process, not just as decoders but also as encoders and, most importantly, as channels of information.
“Now we see that people do have agency and that we know that by definition. The first responders are not the search and rescue teams that fly in from Iceland 48 hours later; but, that they are the people on the ground. People do have agency, people do have capacity that are affected in different ways. Some are more vulnerable than others for political, economic or historical reasons. But, not an entire social system is affected in the same way; which means some parts of the social system are still functional and can actually act as a repairing dynamic of the parts that have been mostly damaged. So, I would like to think that this means that we are moving to a point where we see the public as part of the team from a disaster response perspective.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶8)

II.

Limitations and Effectiveness

Questioning the effectiveness of the uses of social media in disaster management was essential throughout this research. This section in the analysis explores the challenges and advantages social media bring to the disaster management community. The general

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aspects in this analysis map out the specific accounts given by experts from different fields in the disaster management community but express a unanimous perspective in terms of pros and cons regarding the use of social media. a. Challenges communication Information evaluation As it has been briefly mentioned in former sections to this research, accuracy validation represents an ongoing challenge in assessing the information taken from social media. Ensuring accuracy of information is on the agenda of all experts interviewed. It is also the reason pulling information from social media tends to be lagging in development, although some improvements to data extraction technology are advancing. No matter how much technology advances, it is the human factor that evaluates the best and this is reflected on the judgment of experts regarding their experience and knowledge about the field they operate. All experts expressed their judgment and knowledge about their field as the main tool to evaluate the validity of information. For example, Ms. Epler relies on her knowledge about space-based information to reject data that doesn’t seem to be accurate or comes from untrustworthy sources.
“Sometimes you can see who is the sender, or they identify themselves somehow; which institution, which country, which position they have something that you get the idea where the information comes from and also from the content that you get of the messages. As I said we have a rather technical topic to deal with. So, if somebody gives a phrase that is very general that we can’t work with it but if we get something specific than we can tell if the person knows what they’re talking about. You just use your judgment.” (Appx. III. Epler, ¶ 37)

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Not being able to understand the information that is being dispersed through social media can also create chaos among general public. It is important to know how to assess accurate information being pulled from the web, but it is also important to know what information should be made available and who should it be made available to. Disaster management experts agree that placing the right information in the wrong hands can lead to problems and cause mass panic in an already stressful situation.

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“The information needs of first responders is very different to the needs of the general public. First responders know how to interpret that information differently, so it could be quite dangerous to post some information just generally over, say Facebook. If you can’t judge the way people would use that information, or even abuse that information you can create a panic if some of that information is made public.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶ 6)

Pulling accurate information is just as important as pushing adequate information on social media platforms. The challenge will always fall on the judgment of the information manager to evaluate the data and make the best decision for any given task. Social media implementation It was interesting to discover through this research that most experts expressed challenges in understanding the overall potential of social media for their tasks. In particular, communications experts have difficulties in finding the best uses for social media in routine activities of disaster management, especially during the times when there is no disaster. The concept of social media is relatively new and the disaster management community is still assessing the best practices for its use. Although there is a big push to incorporate these technologies to everyday operations, as evidenced by the social media strategy implemented by the Red Cross, there are still many questions practitioners have about using social media for their agency’s specific needs. Even NGOs that have a functioning social media strategy find it challenging to assess its full potential for their benefit.
“It’s inherently hard to measure that kind of return on investments in social media so that’s always been a challenge. But we have found that the best thing we can do is provide the best information for people so that when we do occasionally ask somebody to help us out, like spread the word about donating then they are more amenable to passing it on.” (Appx. VI. Huang, ¶ 10)

Digital divide Throughout this research several discussions have been addressed regarding the challenges that arise from using social media when there are simply no resources to support digital platforms. One issue is the fact that not everybody has the technology or knowledge to access or use social media. This is especially so when “certain benefits of technology and social media cannot be gained by certain developing countries or regions that don’t have a sustainable infrastructure.” (Appx. X. Tsuma, ¶ 21)

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“We might be dealing with Nicaragua in workplaces with communities that barely have electricity, let alone Internet or have everybody on social media, so it’s a very different world.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶ 12)

Although models like the Tripartite Network Society show a flow of digital information that eventually reaches the digitally divided masses, there are important aspects to consider when dealing with disaster management. One of those aspects is that disasters destroy infrastructure and hinder telecommunications posing mayor communication challenges at all levels. Even in the most technologically advance countries rebuilding telecommunications systems is under the first priority, as seen in OCHA’s Cluster Approach. Ms. Wilke knows too well from her experience in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that all levels of society are affected after a disaster.
“It is not that Haiti is behind or that there are no Internet savvy people here. My colleagues are on Facebook, they are on Facebook, they know their social media. The thing is how many people have access, especially after you have lost your home and your computer, there’s no way you can access your twitter account.” (Appx. IV. Wilke, ¶19)

Language barriers Through observation of material and accounts collected for this research it can be assumed that most international agencies working with disaster management and relief efforts communicate in English. Yet, two of the main disasters that have used social media in the past years have occurred in non-English speaking countries. Japan, for example, generated an incredible amount of information through social media platforms during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. Most of the information posted on Japanese social media platforms could be useful to international aid organizations or could have been passed down for situation analysis or relief efforts. One would imagine the information flows between Japanese and English or Haitian Creole and English would be a major challenge in communications. However, drawing from the interviews, language barriers were not seen as a significant threat in disseminating information through social media. When asked about language barriers, some experts acknowledged there are difficulties in picking out some user-generated messages from social media, but the most important information can also be easily translated through services like Google translate and other translation software. Other experts expressed challenges like language barriers will easily become less of a problem with future developments in realtime translation technology.

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“What’s even better or more useful than just having translations is event data extraction; which is basically being able to look at text messages in a different language and being able to identify the verbs, the actors the place, time or the need and that doesn’t require 100% correct translation. It’s more of a keywords idea and I do think that the computational linguistics is catching up in a very big way.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶ 12)

Information overflow Interviewees agreed that sifting through large quantities of data becomes a challenge when dealing with disaster response. Information overflow is the source of many challenges discussed and exemplified in many of the expert opinions. The need for staff, time and standards are the result of managing large amounts of data. The challenges in accuracy also derive from having too much useless information flowing through social media channels. In terms of social media and disaster management Ushahidi attempts to overcome these challenges by developing their platform and with the aid of volunteers to make sense of all the information.
“No human can make sense of this so we have algorithms to tell us and process that information and tell us what is duplicate, where did it come from, what’s the location, how relevant is it. We try and get some kind of score out of that and then put that in front of humans who then do another level of filtering before it shows up in Ushahidi.” (Appx. VII. Hersman ¶4)

Information overflow can lead to other challenges such as too much support from external audiences. When there is so much information asking for help after a disaster, the large influx of donations can result in chaos as well. For instance, money given without a clear destination of where it should go can open the doors for corruption to occur. Similarly, donated material that is not needed can become a burden for aid workers on the ground.
“When we look at even donations. We cannot just accept any donation that comes in, because many of those donations might not be what the people require at that moment. So, you have ports and airports clogged up because people are delivering stuff that is not needed and then the medication and food cannot get in just because there’s not enough manpower or even the logistics are not sufficient.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶ 16)

Too much information also reflects in a lack of control over the information being uploaded. Many of the experts interviewed noticed a void in standards when it comes to

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information flows makes sifting through data challenging. While some experts feel a need for standards could regulate the flow of information to manageable data, other experts view a lack of standards as part of what makes social media interactive, accessible and a public space.
“But, I’m not so sure standards are an issue because we would know which reliable sources we would have to go to and one cannot really restrict the public space. Social media is something that is happening and that is there. Social media is not an option nowadays it’s just something that you’re working with automatically. But, then it’s up to you and your professionalism how to verify information.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶12)

b. In which phase of disaster management do social media play the biggest role? Response Interviewees unanimously agree social media play the biggest role in the response phase of disaster management. Indeed, throughout the investigation for this research most of the information, accounts and data were regarding the response phase of disaster management. This is mostly because of two main factors regarding social media: the amount of information it delivers and the speed with which it is delivered. As discussed in chapter 2, response requires rapid information to be distributed among many different actors and clusters of response aid. During the response phase “it isn’t very interesting the quality of the information it’s only important to be informed quickly.” (Appx. IX. Stumpf, ¶ 18) It is also during this phase that user-generated content becomes most useful. It has been discussed in previous sections that victims are now regarded as first responders to disaster relief when they have access and employ social media to report on their situation, upload pictures, videos and first-person accounts from people on the ground. “People on the ground tend to act, sometimes, as human sensors which can provide
for more rapid and widespread information on potential escalation that may be taking place.” (Appx. VIII. Meier, ¶ 6)

The potential for improving social media in response situations is seen throughout the disaster management community, particularly among agencies not using these digital platforms to their capacity.

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“As for disaster response our program on the ground does not necessarily use social media, just general communication technology. That is going to be more and more important for our use, not just satellite phones but things like mapping systems, wiki platforms on the web, smart phones etc. these things. Easy to use technology when everything is broken down.” (Appx. IV. Wilke, ¶ 26)

Preparedness The cost of disasters can always be prevented with a good approach to being prepared for risks. Disaster preparedness is not a topic that is generally discussed in social media contexts. However, the experts interviewed expressed a unanimous support for the importance of developing social media to address the needs of preparedness in disaster management. Some approaches like webinars (seminars on the web) regarding social media use in disaster response or the project X24 Europe, help disseminate ways to aid the flow of information through social media when disaster strikes. The X24 Europe project is a “robust virtual online exercise that demonstrates the effective use of social media, crowd sourcing and collaboration tools”196 in a fictional disaster response situation. “For preparedness it might be interesting to use social media to start some
exercises, to train to use social media tools to see how well they can play a role in disaster management. On some exercises a lot is being used like Facebook to just throw out information, Skype is being used again for directing contacts or real work stuff not just spreading information, but, just getting knowledge of how to go on. (Appx. IX. Stumpf, ¶ 12)

Man-made disasters or conflict situations have a more effective early warning system because the preparedness phase generally has more time to develop than the usual unpredictability of natural disasters. However, the potential to develop early warning systems are present in suggestions that could one day be implemented to the prevention of a greater loss of infrastructure and lives due to large-scale disasters.
“I think that using social media for natural disaster prevention could be implemented if one built various sensors into devices that can capture relevant indicators. If you know that temperature is an indicator and high temperatures points towards a certain natural disaster coming up, perhaps someone being in a remote location and being able to tell both collect and transmit data through social media then it can actually serve towards early warning.” (Appx. X. Tsuma, ¶ 10)

                                                                                                               
X24 Europe portal. Available at https://sites.google.com/a/inrelief.org/24/home. Viewed on 24?04/2011.
196

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Recovery and Mitigation Based on the interviews, research found recovery and mitigation do not necessarily benefit directly from social media. Most experts noted that since social media are channels of communication, then recovery and mitigation should strengthen their information flows through social media. Some experts specifically mentioned platforms like Ushahidi could be useful for developments in the recovery phase to pin-point plans of action for reconstruction.
“Ushahidi may be interesting for recovery to see: Okay what kind of world do I still have? To start from there and use that infrastructure that is still available to the continual work. On that website you can also define, for example, a hospital as the next point to focus so people start putting information.” (Appx. IX. Stumpf, ¶ 18)

III.

Changes and developments

There are obvious changes in how ICTs have influenced change in disaster management over the years supporting Meyrowitz’s medium theory. The most fascinating element from this research is how experts have acknowledged that ways of communicating have started to change in structures and frameworks over the last couple of years because of social media. As the Internet developed, the disaster management community established information flows through e-mails and websites. With the development of social media the disaster management community has welcomed two new members to contribute and access the flow of information: victims accessing social media and external users in the form of V&TCs. Most of the changes that have changed in the disaster management communication structures have to do with the integration of more participants in the communication process and the convergence of ICTs.
“What we’ve seen is that ever since about Haiti, and then onwards until now. So from January 2010 until now we’ve seen that the big organizations, be they government, be they big UN or media type organizations they all now look at social media a lot differently in crisis and disasters. Now they have to pay attention and they realize (…) that shift is happening and ordinary people’s voices are heard and that better policy is taken over what’s actually happening on the ground.” (Appx. VII. Hersman, ¶ 8)

a. Technology We are living in the information age because of advances in ICT, so technology affects how the disaster management community has also changed over the year. With the convergence of hardware and software technologies people today have almost

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everything at their fingertips. Users can edit, produce, package and deliver information using social media tools and applications. Through popular mobile technology victims of a disaster can take pictures and video with their phone and directly upload it to social media sites. Not too long ago data would have to go through many processes to reach a disaster-affected destination. Even with the latest technology at hand during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Mr. Czaran explains the difficulties in providing satellite imagery information to relieve workers in the affected area.
“We had a lot of problems at pushing down information from satellite images to the field officers. We had to crop and shop and resize the information and put on hard drives and push to the field and even though back then we had satellite links and all that. This is much easier now, it was already easier with Haiti and now Japan. (Appx. I. Czaran, ¶ 28)

In less than a decade the flow of information has been made more accessible through social media platforms and the advancements of ICT. Experts sift through usergenerated content because there is valid information found in Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Information that in the past could have taken much more time to gather, today takes much more time to sift through.
“Now technology itself has shrunk and you have so much power in a small space, your servers don’t have to be big anymore and in a similar way I see that organizations are not the same. They don’t have to have a huge building filled with experts and researchers and everything. We have a globe at our disposal; a population span across the globe and the eyes of different people can contribute by sending in the data and analyzing documents. Even though at the end of the day you have to verify the validity of the information the output is also higher so organizations are a bit more open to hearing from end users or readers.” (Appx. X. Tsuma, ¶28)

b. New flows of information As it has been discussed, bottom-up communication is a new development in disaster management. This new flow of information allows many new factors to influence communication in disaster management operations. With more actors in the communication process, more information is generated. Although, some experts feel sifting through information can become chaotic there is also more data available that is potentially useful for analysis. Furthermore, software that process social media information can also create schemes of general tendencies the data represent. Graphs and maps are developed using statistics drawn from social media data analysis that

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allow experts to visualize the information flows of user generated content, either for analysis or for geo-location of crowd-sourcing information. Users can also aggregate multimedia information to maps making them much more interactive. All in all, the participation of new voices in disaster management information flows has made the process much more transparent, which keeps aid workers more accountable as well.
“To a degree it has become more professional, because I think everything you do today is more transparent and people can quickly make a photograph of the products they are seeing. So, it also does provide a value in terms of transparency and if they messed something up then it could become public very quickly.” (Appx. II. Lauffer, ¶ 20)

Although visualizing data makes information much more transparent it also contributes to vast amounts of data to be duplicated for redistribution, which can sometimes clutter the flow of information. However cluttered social media data can become, information does keep flowing through the digital platforms, raising the chances of the right information reaching those who need it most. So even though information flows may become cluttered there is also important information that can be easily accessible if found. Among many other aspects discussed in this research, the adoption of social media strategies by a number of relief and humanitarian organizations is evidence that the change in information flows has also brought change to some aspects of disaster management operation and structure. This change supports medium theory and relates to the structure of a networked society. Although the disaster management community is still developing their communications platforms, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan have demonstrated that social media has a relevant importance in relief operations.
“Something that’s happened that I’ve been aware of since the Haiti emergency and it wasn’t happening before that is that social media, like Ushahidi or any of these mapping technology, is being seen really as a tool for the responders, not just the fundraisers or the media people, that’s very phenomenal and that is something that we have yet come to grips with.” (Appx. V. Perera, ¶ 26)

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4.4 Social Media SWOT For Disaster Management Communication
This section of the research follows the traditional model of SWOT analysis to register the information uncovered through the coding tree. The development of this approach also considers other sections throughout this research that relate to the internal and external factors regarding the social media SWOT analysis for disaster management communication. The question at hand is what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of using social media for disaster management communication.

Internal  
Strengths  

External  
Opportunities  

Weaknesses  

Threats  

Tab. 3: Internal External SWOT division

The internal factors in this research looks at measures or approaches that are present within the disaster management community in general with no specific mention of any of the institutions analyzed throughout this research. Equally so, the external factors that will be listed as opportunities or threats will explore a general outlook at social media without any specific mention of platforms noted through this research. (see Table 3) The goal is to compose a simplified visualization that can be used as a framework for agencies or institutions in the disaster management community as an aid to planning their social media strategy. The following section shows the SWOT analysis resulting form the previous content analysis. (see Table 4)

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I.                   Strengths  
a.  Information   Sharing   b.  Advocacy  and   awareness   c.  Visualization   and  transparency   d.  Internal   communication  

II.     Weaknesses  
a.  Staff  and  Time  

III.   Opportunities  
a.  Preparedness  

IV.                     Threats  
a.  Access  

b.  Systems  and   technology   c.  VeriZication  and   validation     d.  Output   responsibility  

b.  Response  

b.  False   information  

c.  Interaction  

c.  Standards  

d.  Networks  

d.  Duplication  

Tab. 4: SWOT Analysis

I. Strengths The strong points about using social media in disaster management have mostly to do with approaches to taking advantage of the communication channels and information flow that social media offer. In this regard social media can strengthen the communication operations in disaster management. a. Information sharing Social media allow information to be disseminated with the speed needed in emergency situations. Taking advantage of the information channels that quickly distribute or link information to the main source of data is an effective approach that strengthens communication between different clusters of the disaster management community. For example, once a report or development has been made available on a leading website, agencies can post links to the information source through social media to quickly disseminate important data. b. Advocacy and awareness As it has been discussed in the previous section social media are ideal tools for pushing information about a particular cause. The benefits of having information distributed through social networks have to do with cheap marketing and awareness raising strategies that inform users about a particular topic. The interaction that could

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ensue from approaching social media is measured in the monetary revenue of donations and support for the cause, particular projects or general work of an institution. Pushing relevant information and updates about developments in any kind of operation keeps supporters interested and active as long as the information input is kept active as well. For a strong advantage its important to maintain a persistent social media presence. c. Visualization and transparency One of the most evident advantages of using social media are features that allow users to develop, distribute and interact with visual elements through the networks. Mapping and satellite technology is readily accessible to users through social media platforms where on the ground staff and victims can post their location and describe their situation using text, photographs or video on a map. These advances in technology can be leveraged to strengthen operations with a clearer view of the situation. Equally so, the disaster management community can also use visualizations to keep operations transparent to the public by showing what has been done, where has a relief operation been carried out and so on. d. Internal communication Although it hasn’t been discussed throughout this research, applying a social media to a communication strategy is not expensive in terms of using the platforms. Most social media platforms are free to join and free to use and many institutions take advantage of these features to set up their own internal communications systems. Communicating internally through Skype, setting up a private Facebook page for staff only to plan and carry out events, using Google calendars to schedule meetings, etc. are all ways in which social media are being used to strengthen internal communications. II. Weaknesses The weaknesses regarding social media use in disaster management presented in this research were gathered from the lack of social media strategies in place for processing digital information. These issues stem mostly from not having measures in place to tackle the information flows generated from social media communication.

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a. Staff and time The issues regarding staff and time were discussed in the previous section. It is placed as a weakness because of the amount of dedication involved in carrying out a social media strategy. Staff must be adept to handling new technology and digital applications. They also carry the responsibility of what is posted on the web and how the institution they represent is viewed, so they must be professional. Staffs also need time to scour the web for information or remarks regarding their institution. In disaster situations they must be able to collate the most valuable information and know what to do with it afterwards as well. These qualities are sometimes difficult to fill and could need a team to support all angles of social media communication depending on the strategy at hand. b. Systems and technology It is also necessary to have the equipment needed to carry out a social media strategy, especially when dealing with disaster management. On the ground staff need robust technology that can support the digital platforms needed for social media communication. The systems in place should ideally be simple and prompt to use in emergency situations. The technology provided should not be overly complicated to operate so that teams can concentrate on the relief efforts during the response phase of disaster management. These are issues that can affect a social media strategy if not attended. It requires investment in technology and also in training teams how to use the equipment and digital platforms at hand. c. Verification and validation Thorough sifting through large quantities of data can prove to be a delicate task. With more data flowing through social media channels, verifying the source of the information and validating the accuracy behind the data is crucial for a successful social media strategy. There are software and web services that sieve large quantities of data to filter out duplicates or pre-selected sources deemed as untrustworthy. However, validation of information requires human judgment as it has been discussed in the previous section. Judgment is subjective and could leave room for error at times.

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d. Output responsibility It has been mentioned that staff working on a social media strategy have several responsibilities bestowed to them. They must verify and validate the accuracy in information received, scour different platform for information and make prudent judgment on what information to post or redistribute through social media channels. The output that is generated represents the institution and not the person who has made that information available. Therefore, there needs to be a great deal of attention to what is being disseminated and how it is being done, through which platforms and for what reason. All these questions have various answers depending on the social media strategy needed for a certain aspect in disaster management. If there is a lot of attention regarding a large-scale disaster then output is very important because many people will be searching for information and what an institution makes available may have positive or negative results depending on the factors analyzed throughout this research. III. Opportunities The external factors that could help develop social media’s role in disaster management are listed in this section. These are elements that act as external but also depend on how the disaster management community approaches these issues. For example, many opportunities on how to improve communication during the response and preparedness phase are mentioned in the coding tree discussion. But, it is up to the disaster management community to raise awareness and action by acquiring a strategy of approach. This should be taken into consideration when analyzing the opportunities listed below. a. Preparedness Respondents noted many ways in which disaster preparedness can be improved through social media. It requires for users and disaster management stakeholders to raise awareness through social media about the importance of preparedness and to list the benefits of early warning systems and risk assessments. A social media strategy that could serve a greater public with early warning about disaster risks would benefit a larger number of people than currently because it would help prevent deaths rather than try to save the lives of remaining survivors of a natural disaster. In this regard

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preparedness in social media present relevant opportunities for disaster management early warning strategies. b. Response One of the uses given to social media by victims is sending SOS messages with the hope that rescue workers will respond. Experts commented on this feature with hopes it could develop. People in the victim’s network generally pick up SOS messages before they can alert any relief effort. However, with development of social media strategies and better monitoring this feature could become and important advancement in the use of social media for disaster relief efforts. c. Interaction The move towards bottom-up information discussed in the coding tree analysis show incredible advancements in the flow of information for disaster management. Through more development of these information flows, the disaster management community can benefit from a greater user interaction on social media platforms. Establishing interactive relationships with supporters and experts is also a way to solve the verification and validation needs of information. By closing the gap between situations and hierarchy, users can be actors in their own rescue or relief efforts through better communication with the disaster management community. d. Networks Pushing information through social media channels can take a lot of effort, especially if one does not have an established network that can push the information through its members. Strengthening one’s networks also eases distribution of information destined to reach many people. Social media allow data to flow and disperse through the networks of users that keep duplicating and re-sending the information for greater dissemination, therefore spanning a wider reach. The opportunities of reaching a greater number of supporters depend on the strength of the networks through which the information flows. IV. Threats

Implementing a social media strategy for disaster management is met with unique threats that need to be addressed. These external obstacles to a successful use of digital

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platforms are particular to the needs of the disaster management community because they address the need for accurate information in precarious situations. Listed below are the main threats gathered from this research that disaster managers need to take into consideration before applying a social media strategy. a. Access Large-scale disasters can leave behind a trail of destruction. Infrastructure necessary for digital communication may be damaged after a disaster and electricity, phone lines and general communication could be sparingly available as teams work to restore services. But, the threat of resources goes beyond the destruction left behind by disasters. Previous discussions on this chapter about digital divide and the public’s access to information are also threats that make social media irrelevant in times of crisis. If there is no way to receive the information and no way to send it then it is not worth setting up a social media strategy for on the ground operations. b. False information One of the things that worried most of the experts interviewed was the speed in which false information is disseminated through social media. The speed of the Internet is a double-edged sword; it is ideal to communicate important information but becomes detrimental when passing on rumors. Rumors travel fast because most of the time they are provocative or claim to be of utmost importance. Some experts gave examples of how rumors spread through social media about nuclear contamination caused mass panic in Japan following the explosions at Fukushima power plant after the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. False information and rumors can fool many through social media because of the amount of support and redistribution it garners through digital networks. c. Standards Standards can also be a doubled-edged sword like the previous threat. Many experts noted that a lack of standards fosters greater confusion and chaos on social media platforms and that more rules and oversight might be the solution for a more controlled flow of information. But, others argued that a lack of standards is what makes social media so attractive to users who contribute to the bottom-up information flow that maintains the social dynamic of digital platforms. A balance of standards is appreciated

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through the development of platforms that allow users to aggregate information using other social media platforms. There are also standards in the way information is packaged, for example, the 140 maximum character messages on Twitter are a regulating standard. The suggestions for oversight and standards are in many ways to avoid the next and final threat. d. Duplication Several experts expressed concern over the amount of material duplicated on the Internet. Duplication of similar material that is equally distributed can be difficult to evaluate. Most importantly, experts fear that once a map is completed and ready to use, attention towards other needs can play a bigger role rather than creating a second map for the same purpose. During a crisis situation many maps may pop up in searches and validity and verification becomes unpractical when the speed of the information influences over the qualification of its attributes. Duplicated information, thus, poses a threat to prioritizing information by validating and verifying its accuracy and relevance to disaster management operations.

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5

Concluding remarks
Recapitulating the general perspectives throughout this research it is evident the role

of social media in natural disaster management communication is complex and in development. Although disaster management agencies are cautious about using social media as resource for information, they do realize the potential these platforms have in reaching disaster victims and connecting with donors. Developing a strategy presents a solution to the main concerns preventing disaster management agencies to implementing social media as part of their communications activity: 1- A strategy would provide standards of operation to a nonstandard online activity and thus define clear functions in the midst of information overflow. 2- Developing a clear plan in good time ensures staffs are confident about how to optimize communication activities when an unprecedented disaster strikes, improving early warning systems and relief efforts. 3- A clear strategy would involve more presence and interaction on social media platforms. This would ensure a trustworthy database of sources and a solid following of supporters that can provide accurate information and help raise funds when most needed. Despite the structural and destructive disparity between recent large-scale disasters we have evidenced social media’s global impact in the information age has manifested itself mostly in the response operations. This confirms that social media play an important role in society when communication becomes essential and their power can be seen in the effect they have. Whether it’s organizing a fundraiser through Facebook or demanding through Twitter clearance for a plane full of supplies to land, the power of social media lies in people’s engagement with each other through these platforms rather than the number of people present in them. Through the findings in this research it seems imminent that the communication activities of disaster management institutions will carry on a process to adapt and adopt social media as platforms or mediums of interactive information exchange. This thesis looks into the architecture of social media communication in order to assess how the disaster management community is subject to these mediums. The developments

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confirmed in this research suggest that medium theory supports the changes that the disaster management community is experiencing in their communication activities. These changes are the result of a heightened social media activity and bottom-up flow of information that has contributed or aided disaster response in recent natural disaster. This research also confirms the increasing interest in the potential of social media to develop early warning systems and assess complete structures in society when disaster does strike. This interest reveals the network society has a notable reach despite the tripartite structures that separate access to technology, but unite in regards to information when there is a disaster. Some of the reasons social media are becoming a relevant channel for emergency response are that changes in technology and the flows of information have opened new opportunities for the disaster management community to reach a wider number of people through social media, and conversely, be reached by a larger number of disaster victims seeking aid as well. It can also be stated that advocacy and awareness efforts can be improved by interacting with social media users in digital platforms. The most relevant potential use of social media may become evident by strengthening efforts to leverage the collective knowledge of UGC that aid relief operations and allow information to flow quicker through different networks or clusters within a response mission. However, this research also illustrates that disaster management agencies should remain prudent when developing a social media strategy for their operations. Information overflow in times of crisis can affect the accuracy and validity of information, rumors are quickly spread through digital platforms and duplicated documents can make it difficult for relief workers to locate the most accurate information for specific missions. Disaster managers should also ensure staff can dedicate time for a social media strategy and to consider how infrastructural damage might affect communication after a disaster. The use of these applications can aid in receiving extraordinary information from users directly affected by a disaster. It can also help different clusters of disaster response communicate more effectively and swiftly when it is most needed. However, when large-scale disasters dominate all kind of media attention, social media channels

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can overflow with information and contribute to spreading false rumors that add to the confusion and chaos in a disaster-affected area. For this reason it is important to build a trustworthy database of sources and to do that disaster management agencies need to spend time developing their social media presence. Ultimately, the changes gradually being adopted by the disaster management community can be attributed to advancing technology, but the impacts social media have on disasters depend entirely on the individuals who use them. A research study that would expand this thesis could perform a quantitative and qualitative analysis of information posted on social media platforms in the onset of a disaster. Such research could reveal the percentage of valid or useful information generated from social media and can aid disaster management operations in the assessment of information pulled from digital platforms.

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6

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51. O’Rielly, Tim (2005): What is Web 2.0:Design Patern and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Available at http://oreilly.com/lpt/a/6228. Viewed on 4/15/2011. 52. Oliver, Clifford E. (2011): Catastrophic Disaster Planning and Response. CRC Press, Boca Raton. 53. Peenikal, Sunilkumar (2009): Mashups and the Enterprise, White Paper. MphasiS, 88 Wood Street London EC2V 7RS. 54. Pohl, J. (1998): Qualitative Verfahren. In: Akademie für Raumordnung und Landesplanung (Ed.): Methoden und Instrumente Räumlicher Planung. Handbuch, Hannover. P. 95–112. 55. Rao, Ramesh R., Eisenberg, Jon & Schmidt, Ted (2007): Improving Disaster Management: The role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. The National Academics Press, Washington D.C. 56. Rapid Business Improvement portal. Available at http://rapidbi.com/created/SWOTanalysis. Viewed on 15/03/2011. 57. Red Cross website. Available at http://www.redcross.org. Viewed on 18/05/2011. 58. Red Cross America (2010) The Path Forward: A follow up to The Case for Integrating Crisis Response with Social Media and call to action for the disaster response community. Red Cross Witepaper. 59. Safko, Lon; & Brake, David (2009) The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools and Strategies for Business Success. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey.   60. Shiels,  Maggie  (2011)  Twitter  co-­‐founder  Jack  Dorsey  rejoins  company.   BBC.  Available  at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-­‐12889048.  Viewed   on  01/05/2011. 61. Shirky, Clay (2011) The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere and Political Change. In: Foreign Affairs 90 (1). Council on Foreign Relations, New York. P. 28-41.   62. Sternberg,  Steve  (2011):  Japan  crisis  showcases  social  media's  muscle.  USA   Today.  Available  at  http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2011-­‐04-­‐11-­‐ japan-­‐social-­‐media_N.htm?csp=usat.me.  Viewed  on  19/05/2011. 63. The Economist (2011): Trolling for your soul. Available at http://www.economist.com/node/18483765/print. Viewed on 13/04/2011. 64. Thurlow, Crispin; Lengel, Laura & Tomic, Alice (2008): Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet. Sage, London.

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Appendix
I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. IX. X. XI. XII. Interview: Lorant Czaran……………………………..………………………..2 Interview: Silva Lauffer……………………………..………………………...11 Interview: Natalie Epler……………………………..………………………...19 Interview: Gloria Huang……………………………..……………………….25 Interview: Rick Perera……………………………..…………………………29 Interview: Sabine Wilke……………………………..………………………..37 Interview: Eric Hersman……………………………..………………………46 Interview: Peter Stumpf……………………………..……………………….56 Interview: Jacqueline Tsuma……………………………..………………….64 Consent Form……………………………..…………………………………..70 Acknowledgments……………………………..………………………………71

VIII. Interview: Patrick Meier……………………………..………………………49

XIII. Affidavit / Eidesstattliche Erklärung……………………………..………….72

Appendix 1    

 

Appendix 2    

I.

Interview: Lorant Czaran
UN- Spider IT 10-03-2011 Face to Face / Video Recorded

Organization Job Title Date of the Interview Method

1. O: Tell us a little bit about what you do and the UN SPIDER program? 2. Lorant Czaran: The UN-SPIDER is a relatively new United Nations program based on the UN Gen. assembly resolution that decided in 2006 that the UN could do more in connecting the space-based information and technologies communities with disaster management community. That is in a way the mandate this resolution gave us. So, we have been trying for the last 2 ½ years to implement that resolution and follow that mandate to create this bridge between technologies and the disaster management communities. There’s a lot more to it but that’s maybe the summary of it. What we are doing based on the resolution this trial to be a gateway of information related to our mandate trying to connect these two communities together. Doing capacity building, doing outreach to promote the use of space-based for disaster management and facilitating the users access to space-based information and data. So, these are the main elements of the program and here in Bonn we are focusing on the distribution and the information management aspect, which means this is where knowledge management is managed from, this is where our knowledge portal is built and operated from, this is where everything that is related to that gateway in the mandate. So, that is the job of the UN SPIDER office in Bonn, to ensure that the knowledge management is done properly. This is where social media comes in because we have recently learned the more you promote yourself more present you are on the social media networks, the more attention you get from specialized users and those who are following you and that is also part of knowledge management. What we are looking in now is to make better use of social media in our work in terms of spreading news, information, distributing everything we do here for users. So, it’s a start in terms of social media to strengthen our presence on Facebook, and Twitter and it has been going quite well so we intend to do a lot more of that in the future and now we have assigned persons for that here in the office. So, let’s see where it takes us we are learning as we go. 3. O: What is the importance of networks and being connected here in you and SPIDER? 4. Lorant Czaran: I think for us Internet is the medium we are using to distribute information through our web portal in essence. So, that is the main means for us  

Appendix 3     to spreading information and that is what connects us to users in the field and decision-makers in board rooms or UN headquarters around the world, and so on and so forth. So, without Internet we would not be able to do anything in this domain. It is also what enables us to get quick access to space-based information and data. You know, we are talking about huge amounts of data that satellites collect and making those available for analysis to the end users requires good Internet conductivity because the days when we were collecting that information on CDs and taking days before it reaches the end user or a disaster stricken area those days are over and now you’re trying to do everything as quickly as possible over the Internet and satellite and so on. We are trying to connect to communities and even within those communities there are multiple networks and multiple structures and different bodies that make up those two communities in a way that our network within themselves in between themselves we are trying to make the bridge happened between a number of networks on one side in the space technology side and other networks like state government, NGOs or using or selling or promoting such data and also with a large network of users like disaster managers, practitioners, UN staff in the field, NGOs that are active in merges your response. So again, we connect these networks on both sides and we have to keep an interface through all these networks. So clearly it’s a complex picture that is important to make sure that knowledge information through all these networks is collected, share, packaged, distributed because very often, from experience, what is happening is that something interesting on one side is not known to the other side and just by making that known you have already contributed a lot to benefit all sides of the disaster management exercise or cycle. 5. O: now tell us a little bit about what you do and your experience with disaster management? 6. Lorant Czaran: I’ve been working with the UN for 15 years, the beginning it was more environment programs we have been looking at environment risking away like degradation and all that. Something that relates to disasters in the way as well, well…I would not say that was disaster management related directly. But that did help me for six years to develop an understanding of what could lead to disasters Indians. In New York at UN headquarters I worked in the cartographic sector that was part of a peacekeeping department and there we worked mostly with geographic information mostly to address peacekeeping mission needs, but also areas where we had peacekeeping operations if they were hit by large disasters and then we had to suddenly become disaster support to provide access to geographic information and satellite imagery for responding to those disasters. I was not directly involved in disaster management activities as a GIS cartographic officer but very often we found ourselves supporting response to disasters or providing services to these events. After that I joined OCHA, which is the office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs and there it all became disaster management, I was the map center manager for Relief Web we were looking mostly at geographic information on maps and mapping areas hit by disaster for 2 ½ years that was my main job mapping disaster areas making sure that all mapping and geographic information was quickly available over any disaster area and support the UN response. Then I started at UNOOSA and UN SPIDER here leading his office here in Bonn keeping me

 

Appendix 4     that Luke but focusing more on space-based information and technologies for disaster management but again being in this domain where these last five years have been dedicated to disaster management experience although a lot of work before was also related in some way. What we are doing here is making use of remote sensing and GIS technology in supporting disaster management and of course present technologies to support all kinds of other things. 7. O: you seen an increase in disasters natural disasters, or is there just more information about them available? 8. Lorant Czaran: I think there is, maybe that’s my impression or my opinion because I’ve been more involved and more attentive to all these events but you read a lot in the media of course, and in the news, and you look at statistics and reports. Just counting number of floaters or the number of earthquakes happening every year and you see that it is more. In way they’re also more destructive. And then, people associated with climate change when it comes to floods and extreme weather events. But, overall I would say in my experience we are seeing an increase in natural disasters and also technological or manmade ones because of the more activities that we do something may go wrong. But even just in the natural disaster area there is an increase in my opinion and I think it’s linked to many reasons but it reflects and many losses of infrastructure, financial, and of course, human life, War displacements and more suffering. In that sense I would say it’s a serious issue that we are facing more and more higher impact of disasters in society. I was reading today the news about the fact that the Japan earthquake alone might cost $235 billion in terms of losses according to some insurance companies that is scary. Of course there’s more information but there’s also more disasters as well. 9. O: so it is useful to have information available? 10. Lorant Czaran: definitely, it’s information, good distribution, filtering and appropriate information is even more important with more issues to do with at the same time and more imperiled it’s all becoming crucial. 11. O: in your line of work which social media is most often used? 12. Lorant Czaran: I’m not the expert in that field, but we probably started to use Facebook actively in the last few months and twitter we discovered later. That is more for the tech people, In that those that use twitter or very narrow and very technical minded community of people. So, that is a very important audience but not the ranging audience that we want to address. But, in a way we try to promote ourselves equally both on Facebook and twitter. Maybe, we customize the way we do it on Facebook because we have room for more text room, photographs and stuff like that. So, it might be that we spent a little bit more time in running our Facebook presence but twitter proved very useful recently in Japan’s earthquake disaster because I think Twitter gave us more visibility than Facebook did. And while the number of followers is very visible on twitter, the numbers on Facebook do not explode with visitors or people being at our posts when a disaster strikes compared to when there is calm.. On YouTube we have some videos, promotional videos about our program which had a number

 

Appendix 5     of visits after they were uploaded a couple of weeks after, we had 3000 visitors looking at her videos. So we look at all these tools and options when we are spreading information about ourselves. And if you call it social media then yes, that’s what we’re using. In the intention is to push the information as much as possible to Interested actors in these networks and anybody that follows us because they found those or discovered us. Especially after a disaster like the one in Japan happens we notice that people discover us, people who were active in those networks and have a big presence in those networks like Twitter. 13. O: How do you think social media can help the disaster management community? 14. Lorant Czaran: From our point of view is dissemination of information, but that’s one aspect of course, I think it’s axis to information you might have users on the ground in the affected area or people in a different part of the world trying to find out what’s going on in that affected area. They asked users may be happy to have such an easy access to information, which is informal and instant. For them that’s an advantage of these networks and media, social media. It depends because everybody has a different perspective. But, lately we have seen another phenomenon of the volunteered geographic information, which is very important for us to. That’s when such a network of people get together and try to assist in the response by providing their time and expertise to collect map data, map information on the Internet or using some satellite imagery in the background that somebody makes available to them. So, they contribute their time to do the job faster for those who need data sets of geographic information or anything else. It’s a different context for everybody but it has advantages everywhere it might help you develop information faster, disseminate it better and to a larger community, it might help you access that information better than before or better than some news organizations are doing on the web. So, it’s quite exciting in any case. 15. O: In your opinion which stage of disaster management does social media play a bigger role? 16. Lorant Czaran: Ideally it should play a role in all aspects, or phases of that cycle. But, realistically speaking today it’s playing the most important role in response phase. At least that’s what we see. It might be that we are not seeing that much activity in preparedness or early warning or any other phase. But, we definitely see that in response because it explodes. People want information, they distributed fast and everybody is looking at social networking media channel to receive response information, That’s why think it’s a high percentage or explosion when it comes to response. We have been discussing recently at geographic information conference I participated in California that, we who need help like United Nations organizations, would like to see volunteers and these online communities step in and help more even in the preparedness phase because it would help us be better prepared when something like this happens again. When you know where to focus and where to target and what to do, but we need a lot of hands and a lot of time to prepare data sets, information in advance of something happening. But, then again they’re not all eager to jump into this task, they are all very eager to volunteer and show how much sleep you

 

Appendix 6     for the common good when something already happened. It’s also very important but it would be more strategically beneficial to be able to do more of the preparedness stage or early warning stage. But a big portion of this information is being used for emergencies or for response. 17. O: what is the role of UN SPIDER in the role of response and early warning? 18. Lorant Czaran: We have set up thematic partnerships for the early warning stage. I think what our role is, following our mandate is to cover all phases of the disaster management cycle regarding space-based technology information. We are probably not resourced to deal with all phases equally and we are facing the same problems everybody else is doing which is this explosive of information after something happens, that emergency response phase. But we have these partnerships that we have been establishing since last year at a regional level, trying to talk to countries and finding out what they need in terms of space-based technology and if they have clear needs where can we help with those needs and that’s also addressing preparedness or early warning. So, that’s one component of where the program is getting involved. We also have a space aid mechanism, which is our framework in terms of addressing emergency response issues. What we do in those cases is mostly tried to contact all satellite imagery or satellite data providers informing them of what’s happened and providing them with coordinates along with requests to start asking their satellites to collect more data over the affected areas in order to allow others to see or purchase, basically make all this data available in good time quickly. We also try to make sure the existing assets in space are redirected refocused to address the disaster event when it happens. Then, of course were trying through the portal to distribute all kinds of information available for anybody to see and decide for themselves how they would use it. Also connecting providers with needs on the other end, either people on the field or experts from the UN agencies who come to us and asked can you get me an image of this field or find the right context here or there, then we try to address these issues. That’s the ongoing activity and sometimes there’s information that’s coming in the end you have to filter it especially data hundreds and hundreds of images some of them are duplicates some of them useless because of clouds covering. We have to go through all this and publish what’s most relevant to the user. And this is all talking about emergency response, which is our biggest time investment. But, many of this also applies to the preparedness early warning phrases. We tried all fronts but we also end up investing more time in response. 19. O: Does social media to make your work more challenging or doesn’t simplify it? Also, what challenges do you see in the use of social media? 20. Lorant Czaran: well to me it’s not more challenging but I’m just the manager, so the question is: is it more difficult for my colleagues? Maybe it is more of a challenge because they have to think about more things or topics. They have to cover threats and directions to follow on an everyday basis as they work and especially when it comes to response which is a stressful situation. To me it doesn’t seem like it complicates it is almost makes it easier because we have more channels to promote and distribute our work whatever we put together. So, that to me is a way of simplifying our life and reducing the concerns that we

 

Appendix 7     might have about: does our information reach the right people? Does it reach them easily? Most of them are on these networks and through some simple keywords they can find us that you refer to us. That’s my opinion I don’t think it complicates it. 21. O: but, can you assess any challenges? 22. Lorant Czaran: I’ve been reading about situations when somebody posts something that makes them get fired, or they get into trouble. So, I think one of the challenges is to make sure that we use it appropriately for a UN office, make sure we are not labeling were criticizing nothing or putting anything that’s wrong that could backfire. We want to make sure that everything that you put out there is secure and could not have a negative impact if it spreads quickly. So we should make sure that we are doing and posting the right things to not give anybody reasons to criticize us or attack us. It seems to happen very often I read people get fired for putting a joke or a bad comments and representing the institution. 23. O: In terms of consuming the information acquired from social media, do you see any challenges in evaluating the accuracy or trustworthiness of that information? 24. Lorant Czaran: For us it’s more important to disseminate. We are not really looking at it as a source of information, although sometimes on a tweet we discover interesting facts or links that we can just look at or evaluate, consider and put it in our follow-ups and archives. But, would not really concerned on what spreads on those networks what comes out, were not necessarily looking at that as alternative source of information to be looking at people’s opinions and the way somebody sees it. It’s an important resource in terms of finding out what’s going on sometimes on the ground, depending on where you’re at. But, I would not trust everything 100%, would not take it as the reality whatever transpires through this network is not necessarily, it’s always a reflection of whoever is putting it in and their opinion, it’s not necessarily what’s really going on. We are not looking for information or content on social media. Sometimes we do, but not that often that part is taken by other media for us it’s more about disseminating To users rather than mining for information. 25. O: how do you think social media can develop itself to be more useful for disaster management? 26. Lorant Czaran: I can take the example of his geographic information community or volunteered geographic information counsel, it’s also in the way social network experiments if you want. But again, I want to say we were discussing this a few weeks ago. Now, it’s more of a chaotic approach, everybody jumps to the something, has opinions and is not moderated sometimes because they say: all know we should not do that because we are crowd sourcing and we are not supposed to coordinate too much and have any hierarchical structure. So, we just run for and do it but, the more you get into these things in the more people sign up it might be a little bit complex to figure it all out it might get chaotic, there might be a lot of duplication, there might be a lot of conflict and information

 

Appendix 8     floating around and so on. So, you might need some structure you might need some organized approach it might need some authority somewhere to lead or push in one or another direction. But, this crowdsourcing and it should at one point accepts the UN or anybody else as a moderator, somebody to set some rules, some standards. However, people say this is exactly what we want to avoid, in crowd sourcing and social networks and so on it’s all •about being out there and just doing what you feel is right and not having to worry about rules. But when I read things about people getting fired from, they made on the social network, or how social networks is all about feeling or expressing what you want, and is the next day you make a comment about the Japan disaster and you get fired that means we might want to have some rules and make sure that we are not getting fired because of what we said, because it looks like the impact is much higher than what we expect of it being in formal and funny and relaxed. To cut it short, I think we need some rules substructure or some more game rules. If we continue to do it in this chaotic manner and everybody does whatever they want at one point may get to out of proportion or it will become a difficult thing to follow and relied upon. Is still a new phenomenon but when we look at five 600 million Facebook users it’s an amazing penetration so you have to take it seriously but I think there is still need for more regulation or structure something to make it a bit more clear. 27. O: how has ICT changed disaster management over the years? 28. Lorant Czaran: Looking at some of these mega disasters 7or 8 years ago, and one example is the big earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia in Sri Lanka and all that. At that time we were already involved and we were trying our best but we had a lot of problems at pushing down information from satellite images to the field officers. We had to crop and shop and resize the information and put on hard drives and should to the field and even though back then we had satellite links and all that. This is much easier now, it was already easier with Haiti and now Japan.. You could see that in these 7 to 8 years big developments because ICT is there and it’s more prominent because Internet bandwidth and satellite bandwidth influence because there are better technologies and compressing data and pushing it across pipes connection because there’s more storage and everything costs a lot less than before. So, technology does play a role in providing access to information and data, you could see it from one year to another, so of course you can see it from one disaster to another, it just gets better. It also means a lot more information and a lot more that you have to filter through, in Haiti they had 1500 maps produced interview days and that that the poor guys in the field on the ground didn’t even use 100 because they just couldn’t cope with looking at everything anyway. So, you also have that problem because it’s so easy to produce information you start dumping information data to everybody and it becomes counter productive at one point. Suddenly the ICT is a great thing but it has to be done in a controlled way and without duplication and in close consultation between the different parties that are trying to serve information and data about this disaster but in essence I can figure from personal experience between 2004 and now I’m looking at the mega disasters I have personally been involved with from the tsunami in Asia to the cyclone in the IMR in 2008 two of course Haiti and now to Japan and there were of course major events in between but maybe with not so much loss of life. It’s

 

Appendix 9     amazing and exciting but the problems you have to also start being more selective incentives in order. Everybody’s developing viewers, everybody’s developing this and that about the end-user might be faced with current choices to make that’s sometimes better to make that choice from the originating and feed the people on the field what is most useful and most important for them to do the job and that’s where I think we need some more discipline and organization. The technology is great but you have to know how to use it. 29. O: Can you invalidate disaster management before advancements of ICT and social media? 30. Lorant Czaran: you can save still developing. Social media networks started being popular just three years ago I remember when we started talking about all these MySpace and all these things. I was really questioning at this time what is this good for, another way of chatting we already have Skype. I was from the generation that was playing with I you see me and then Skype came along and I thought you guys reinventing the wheel smart so, it’s always this question that you ask yourself been there done that. Now how social media helped change things? Definitely, it leads to an easier spread of information and gives a voice to people who didn’t have a voice before. It was always an exchange of data information between experts, governmental agents, NGOs, UN. So, it was a more limited set of actors sitting on all this information. So, social media and social networks have made things more easy. Anybody can throw out an opinion, anybody can read those opinions, anybody can access whatever is going on and whatever’s happening. It doesn’t mean it’s can make a difference in responding or resolving problems created by a disaster necessarily because public is public in a way. But, if that resolve their thirst for information or have any good to them then Why not? As a practitioner I have not seen any big gain from social networks and social media as tools that I have too my disposal to do my job in the sense of responding or supporting something on the ground. But in the same time, I know that it helps me spread the information and that’s also part of my job so in a way there is a difference we gain something in terms of dissemination I just don’t see a big influence on how we deal with the other jobs in our response or early warning or any other domain can’t make use of these tools just as a huge advantage in how we do our job. I remains to be seen or measured. 31. O: What tools do you use in the past to disseminate information? 32. Lorant Czaran: Basically relying on our mailing lists we would collect e-mail addresses of interest people create lists. And regularly we would post news updates or or points out links or applications that are mailing list users can download. So, mailing lists, websites course traditionally which we have today still but now we’re moving into this web 2.0, web 3.0 we might see a Web 4.0 Europe. So websites today are not what they used to be just basic HTML pages 6 years ago or more. But, these are all it’s all there and it makes a difference. 33. O: How to use traditional media, TV, radio etc.?

 

Appendix 10     34. Lorant Czaran: Personally speaking not that much because there are difficulties when you are in the UN you are not freely allowed to talk to the media or be interviewed and put stuff out in the news. It goes through many layers and it becomes complicated so the only time it would happen is if we would be approached. If something happened that was big then we would be approached by a TV station or magazine in the news distribution organization to ask us about what we are doing or give us an interview. When Haiti happened last year we had ARD here filming about our response to the Haiti earthquake, we got contacted by Tagesschau the other day about what we were doing for Japan, but that didn’t happen maybe their priorities shifted. But, newspapers want to come in an interview us. There are all these traditional media being used also so we have these examples as well I don’t think we had more before. I don’t think that social media reduces the interest of traditional media in showcasing us and I don’t think we do enough in promoting ourselves through traditional media outlets maybe it’s easier to do it with social media but more informal. But, unless we were broached we would not think about going to the, very rarely we put out a press release as opposed to other organizations. So, that’s maybe a problem we have being too technical and not pay too much attention to the distribution aspects of what we are doing. 35. O: is there anything you think I missed about the changes, any factor in social media that you wish to point out anything at all? 36. Lorant Czaran: well, I think when it comes to changes when it comes to development I can just emphasize that things are changing, it’s quite exciting to see what’s happening and there’s no doubt about that. I’m looking forward to see what comes up and how. The more information we can make sure that it flows the better it is for everybody whatever tools or whatever technology takes. But, it’s very hard to be very concrete about this now and then. It’s always interesting to see traditional media and they keep promoting social media, and the forms of social networks and keep hearing TV news how social media is exploding when these situations happen and how unprecedented distance. When Haiti happened We were hearing a lot about it, now they say that it was nothing compared to what we’re seeing now in Japan. If we keep going like this who knows what will happen when the next mega-disaster happens, hopefully not sooner. It’s interesting but I think everybody recognizes there’s a big impact it can only get more interesting. I don’t think I have anything more concrete to add.

 

Appendix 11    

II.

Interview: Silva Lauffer
Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) Manager (ENTRi) & UNDAC Member (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team Member) 29-03-2011 Skype

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: First I would like to ask you a little bit about who you are what you do and your involvement with the disaster management community? 2. Silva Lauffer: What you may know is that I started in this sector 11 years ago and it all has to do with emergency relief and rehabilitation. The first project was about helping the local Timorese with rebuilding a city after the emergency that even the Australians and the UN got involved with. We were going to help the locals rebuild schools, distributing food items and things like that. I basically started in 2000 and moved on from country to country since then. I’ve been to about 15 countries setting up offices, recruiting teams, looking into different projects like water and sanitation programs, helpinglocally displaced people set up a new livelihood, looking into small income generating programs. Most of this work I did with NGOs then I started working with the United Nations looking into issues like drugs and crime, money laundering etc. Then I got more involved again with emergency responses such as after earthquakes, tsunamis, civil wars in countries like Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. I did most of the same work I did before, setting up offices after the Pakistan earthquake in five different parts of Pakistan, in the Kashmir region and NWFP.This work was including logistics, getting the right people, liaison with government officials, diplomatic corps and sometimes armed forces. The latest disaster I’ve worked in was Haiti after the earthquake and since then I have moved to Berlin where I am working at the Center for International Peace Operations. I am running an EU funded project which is preparing,selecting, and training people actually going to work at the UN, EU, OSCE, and other in crisis management missions in places such as Georgia, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. From Berlin we are coordinatinga consortium of 13 organizations of EU member states. We are trying to harmonize the approach of training these member states’ civilians so that if you find colleagues of any of these countries and missions, say, in Georgia, then you will be able to speak the same language, understand the same concepts and mandates that your particular organization has, and the background of what you are involved in. I am also part of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team and this is a pool of about 200 people worldwide who are readily available to assist when a disaster happens. So if something happens like in Japan or in Libya, we are called in to assist at very short notice by the respective governments to scale the magnitude of the damages and then basically to coordinate the humanitarian response missions in  

Appendix 12     the country, to be the interlocutors between the first responders like NGOs and government officials. So we would set up shop at airports, or even be located in other response centers from the government and then advise governments on how they should deal with the influx of all these offers from assistance from abroad. So the UNDAC team would leave at very short notice after a disaster has happened in the first 12 hours of the catastrophe and be in that place for up to three weeks That’s the average scenario. These are the two things I am involved in at the moment. 3. O: that is fascinating. So, in your line of work do you use social media, and if so which ones you use the most? 4. Silva Lauffer: It depends on the type of crises that we’re looking at. If we examine Haiti’s earthquake and what happened there,social media was interesting and useful. IT depends really on what stage of the disaster you are looking at and how to employ these different social media. For instance, ( distortion) when I helped set up the offices in Haiti, what was important was to get information that is accurate and fast. One of the first issues would be maps, so you would need satellite information to get the right map produced and sometimes even if you have a satellite picture, you need somebody to do the interpretation for you The average person is not really able to read those maps or pictures. So how I used social media in that context was to get the message out to ask for IT guys that could help me collate information about, for instance, functioning hospitals in Haiti, and then put that information on a map. So I can use it, print it off, and give it to NGOs or staff members who need that information to plan the response properly. Later on you may have all sorts of different maps coming in, and you need to then see what sources they are coming from, if they are reliable and how you deal with the type of information that you’re getting. Obviously, you must be familiar with Ushahidi, Sahana, and all those different networks that exist to collate information. We will get to the dangers later but I think crowd sourcing can be very helpful if you need to get a message out and see what comes back and sift through that information. It also depends on where you are based, what resources you have available. Haiti was incredible because even though telephone networks were not working in many places, loads of people on the ground had Skype. So Skype was still working, so whatever channels you have to work you use them and that’s different from place to place. It’s very difficult to generalize. 5. O: Are there any social media platforms that are required for you to do your job? 6. Silva Lauffer: there are no requirements to have any sort of social media but what some organizations are doing is that they have different ways of dealing with communication in disaster management. What we come across quite often is the issue of protection of data. We have to be very responsible in our management of information. For example in Japan, the UNDAC members were asked to assist in response to the earthquake and then our network would log on to an internal system that we have available online. . Sometimes the information comes from ministers, from diplomats, from firemen. This is the right medium to post that information which you do not want to be publicly available. The information needs of first responders are very different to the needs of the

 

Appendix 13     general public. First responders know how to interpret information differently, so it could be quite dangerous to post some information just generally over, say, Facebook. If you can’t judge the way people would use that information, or even abuse that information, you can create a panic if some of that information is made public. 7. O: In terms of using social media as a source of information for you to find out what’s going on the ground, is that useful? And how would you evaluate the accuracy and trustworthiness of that information that you received through social media? 8. Silva Lauffer: Well, generally there are two criteria to choose from: one is the source reliability and the other is the information validity. What often happens at the very onset of a disaster is that we try to get hold of as much information as we can. At the beginning, every bit of information is important and then we woulduseour experience to make a very quick assessment or judgment on what the situation on the ground could be, but as soon as you continue in your search of proper information it would come down to how reliable the source is. If it is open source information that I’m getting, I know it is not reliable. If it is a source that is usually reliable, I would know this since I have had experience with this source from the past and I know where the information is coming from. It could also be that a person or source is knowledgeable but has no direct access to information. Or I’m sure that the person or the source comes directly from the main center of information like an emergency response center or from people I trust and know, who are on the ground. Source reliability needs to be rated and that’s what we would generally do,. In terms of information validity, it is the same thing you would look at. We would ask: Do we really have independent sources? Do independent sources forward the same information? Is it very likely? Is it not likely? Is it probable? Don’t we really know? Or are there any further details? Wee can then put this together like a puzzle. (Distortion) 9. O: what kind of standards would you evaluate as useful for a more efficient use of social media etc. management communications? 10. Silva Lauffer: What standards? 11. O: Well, there are no established standards because there’s a lot of information that is posted on the Internet. There might be 10 different maps and you would not know which one to pick from and which one is the best. 12. Silva Lauffer: I see. With the experience I have from looking at disasters I get a a feeling for the sources that I should be looking at. It’s obviously very difficult for the average person to understandwhat they should believe and what not. Sometimes there may be problems with translations because people who may have posted information come from, say, China or some Arabic speaking countries. One may get confused with some of the translations.. But, I’m not so sure standards are the issue because we would know which reliable sources we would have to go to and one cannot really restrict the public space. Social media is something that is happening and that is there. Social media is not an option nowadays it’s just something that you’re working with automatically. Then it’s

 

Appendix 14     up to you and your professionalism how to verify information and what you take as face value You are bound to check the information you’re finding. 13. O: How does social media simplify your work, or does it make it more challenging? 14. Silva Lauffer: When I look at my behavior I notice that I’m using certain social media for certain purposes. For instance, you just mentioned Facebook, Skype, Twitter. I use different means and channels for disseminating different types of information very quickly. So I know that by writing just one line, and often I don’t have much time, in different social networks, maybe 500 people can read me immediately and that can be very useful for me. I also choose whom I am connected to. So, if I know the Head of the UN security, or someone from a major international NGO who I know personally, and this person has posted something, the likelihood is very high that I would believe that information. Now, if it’s somebody I don’t know, the likelihood is very low. So, I’m using these networks as a way to amplify the speed for a response of what I need. At the same time, I’m very cautious in believing what I see from sources like Twitter where there are a lot of people I don’t know,. For me, such open networks are useful for speed with which I can get information out and can save lives. You can very quickly alert the public if you wanted to, which is good to know even if you don’t need it. I believe another advantage is that social media gives a voice to those people who are not so connected with the official channels. If you are poor farmer somewhere, it’s likely that you can make yourself heard if you’re posting something which also does not cost you anything, but you may not go to the local authorities because you may be afraid or you don’t know what answers you will get. So, it may be a medium for more people to use and that can be quite useful. But this also depends on your stake in the emergency and your tasks. You would put people in charge of information management who would make proper judgments. I believe my own behavior has changed. We have these unspoken behaviours, for instance in Skype. Here my contactsoften put the location of where they are based in the title and so, for instance, if I get some information out of the news, whether it’s from BBC or Tagesschau orDeutsche Welle, and I want to verify something, I would scroll down my Skype list of addresses and I may have a quick look at who is in that particular location. Right now I have people sit almost everywhere, in the Congo or in Indonesia, in Brazil, Chad, Sudan, wherever it is I have someone there I can just quickly write to them and get additional information from them. That’s perfect, I use it a lot. 15. O: In your opinion, in which stage of disaster management the social media play a bigger role? 16. Silva Lauffer: Undoubtedly in the response phase. It’s just when the most amount of information is being shared. Just for the fact that preparedness is not such a sexy topic and the mills are processing everything but a bit slower. It’s a shame that preparedness does not get the same attention because that would reduce so much the cost and the problems of disasters. But, it’s difficult to judge because I’m not looking into internet traffic. It would be interesting to see all the people working on preparedness and ask how they are connected. , Are there people who are computer geeks looking into mapping, but actually working for

 

Appendix 15     preparedness issues, or do they help with recovery? What is obvious is that media attention is highest in the response phase. So that’s what I believe has the highest impact. I also think it can be very dangerous for people. What I saw in the past years since I’ve been involved in this is the amount of people involved in preparedness, response, mitigation. Particularly during the response phase you see how many people responded to the Haiti earthquake. We had over 1000 organizations on the ground and you have organizations like Scientology, some Chattanooga country club passing by and it’s just a mess.For us it made things so much more difficult because we are professionals. We calculated the impact that every single project and every action makes. When we look at donations, we cannot just accept any donation that comes in because many of those donations might not be what the people require at that very moment. You have ports and airports clogged up because people are delivering stuff that is not needed. And then the, for instance, medication and food cannot get in because there’s not enough manpower or the plans for logistics needs are not sufficient. So we prioritize.We look at the most vulnerable, not those who cry the loudest. Those are difficult issues for people to know if they are not involved in this disaster management community, especially if it’s not their usual ‘business’. So it can be very dangerous ifmany people just respond without thinking. 17. O: It’s interesting that you describe a lot of chaos with response in Haiti and all the people that were trying to help. Do you see that same kind of chaos occur in the Internet through social media? 18. Silva Lauffer: Well yes, but as I said, for me it’s easy to believe a comment or just ignore it, if I feel its a comment I should not look into. But, I believe this judgment is very difficult for many people to make. 19. O: Have you seen disaster management change throughout the years because of new ICT advancements? 20. Silva Lauffer: Yes, I think it has become far more ‘sexy’ for many. Nowadays you have all these people who want to be involved in disaster management. They want to work at the other end of the world, they heard stories from so many people and they see their friends on Facebook staying in countries that sound very cool. So they say, ‘I want to be working in Sudan as well’. Some of those stories may sound fantastic, and maybe it’s just media in general not social media that I definitely think, contributes to it. For example, there was a time in London where I was running the international program of a British NGO and I would have so many CVs on the table, between 50 and 100 CDs in the course of one week. They would be from people who wanted to volunteer with us. 10 years ago it wasn’t like that. I think everything you do today is more transparent and people can quickly make a photograph of the products they are seeing. It provides transparency if something is messed up then it could become public very quickly. At the same time, having said that, we have responders whose sole purpose was to put their national flag up and leave the site of the disaster within a day. So all they wanted was to be on the news. They just want to be seen as responding. We don’t want to give them voices and make them popular if they are not benefiting the situation.

 

Appendix 16     21. O: Are these also the people that are the loudest in the Internet information and make a lot more tweets ? 22. Silva Lauffer: that’s an interesting question, because I’ve been asked Why are you not posting more? The crisis mappers were contacting me on the ground to provide this information and I would answer that I don’t have to time for that. Obviously they say it is time-saving to use those tools and everything that’s available but, more often than not we use very old-fashioned methods. We use Excel sheets and we don’t use very fancy software, it’s becoming a bit easier nowadays because IT guys have noticed that tools have to be very simple to use. What is not simple or easy to download if you don’t have much Internet traffic available to you is of no use to us. We would go to the standards things such as my mobile phone, if works it’s nice but if you can’t press the buttons anymore because of the heat, or if the climate is not good for it, then I’m going to use an old-fashioned phone to make a phone call. So, it’s changing , it’s definitely changing and it’s also a matter of practicality. Anything that is robust is perfect for us, but fancy tools that may break down or complicated to administer is of no use to me. 23. O: ?But how useful are these social media software when you’re on the ground in helping people, do you have time to use them? 24. Silva Lauffer: Well, it’s changing and it is something very exciting, definitely. If used properly it could help you. We heard the story of somebody trapped in Port-au-Prince who had an iPhone and got hold of someone via Facebook. Those people informed the first responders and they could actually be saved from under the building. You hear these stories, but I would say that most of the time that is luck because none of the first responders would be looking at their Facebook to see if a person is trapped has put a message up. So it would definitely come through different channels, third-party information. What is key to me is my network. When I am on the ground and need help with something urgently, I would often have a contact who sits in a European capital city and has time on his hands. They would sometimes drop everything they are doing if I said I needed this information now, help me find it. That works a lot of times, if I would not have time to look for information, I would ask for help to find that information. 25. O: How do you contact your network? 26. Silva Laufer: It depends on what is possible but as I said, I love Skype. If I can get hold of my network through Skype and I am in contact with all my colleagues who are on Skype. 27. O: how would you contact them before Skype how would you contact them before social media? 28. Silva Lauffer: Oh, it was very difficult. 11 years ago I would have to walk on top of a mountain to even use my mobile phone, because it would not work anywhere else. You would not be in touch so much so even your own headquarters would not know what you were doing until you can find a place

 

Appendix 17     with an Internet connection and sometimes it was a WFP connection. So, they would set up Internet connections, and we are just talking about e-mail, for the NGOs working on location to use with other UN colleagues. You would not have any of this unless some communications provider would provide that free of charge, or you may have to pay for it. So, that information would travel much slower or you would just stick to traditional methods and use the satellite phones, or something like that. 29. O: Looking into the future how do you think social media can advance to successfully aid disaster management? 30. Silva Lauffer: I think there is definitely huge potential there and it’s going to adapt. It’s just all about technology really and the most simple it is for the end user,the more it will be used. But, again we must ensure that data is secure because I’m never going to post anything on Facebook that I don’t want the world to read. I’m not going to do that. In Japan, for instance, we had some discussions with friends. They were not the colleagues stuck in Japan. We have some discussions about these Geigerzaehler, these machines that read radioactive activity.They were sold out and there were some issues about that there needed to be information just to keep the population calm. You don’t want a panic to start break out so you need to be very careful in how you manage information. I think the future must also take that into consideration, provide means of how you can safely share information although we have those tools at hand. We will just see it as becoming easier and easier to create revolutions, by just using our keyboard and writing some stuff down and inviting people that can read and understand the information. Sending SMS to organize people like we saw in Egypt just now, to go to a certain square and protest and soon you have a crowd. So, you can control crowds over the Internet it’s becoming more and more easy. The question of information management will become more serious and ensuring genuine messages are read or those that you want people to understand. Often you don’t have that control but you have to find different sources of information so people have several sources of information and then they can make a judgment on what they want to believe in. 31. O: Does your organization have a Twitter or Facebook account? 32. Silva Lauffer: that’s a controversy one department wants to start a Facebook page now, but the other staff members are not so sure. It’s a debate. We haven’t finalized the discussion. My old employers have Facebook pages and they use it for different means. Some of them use it internally for their staff members to communicate about issues in case they don’t have an intranet, they use that to discuss.Others are using it for marketing purposes. I don’t think Facebook is the channel, we have to look at different generations of people. The daughter of my friend is using Facebook much more freely, she’s not so concerned or worried, she’s young may be a bit naïve as well because of the type of information she is sharing. It may be that we are too worried. We need to see what comes but I’m certain identity theft is going to be a huge issue in the future. More people are going to pretend to be people they are not. We will also have an issue with cyber crime and problems we can’t even imagine right now.

 

Appendix 18     33. O: are those some of the arguments of your organization for not creating a Facebook or Twitter account? 34. Silva Lauffer: No, that’s my personal view. I have not been to any discussions about those issues in my organization. 35. O: you have anymore questions or comments that you think I missed out that you would like to point out?

   

 

Appendix 19    

III.

Interview: Natalie Epler
UN- Spider Editor/Web Editor 24-03-2011 Face to Face / Video Recorded

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: In your work; which is the most popular social media that’s being used more and most often? 2. Natalie Epler: Well, we use facebook and twitter; especially now in the response to the Japan earthquake that we just saw. Twitter was really the one that generated a lot of interaction in a way. That was picked up by a lot of people where we also received a lot of information and if it’s only seeing who retweeted our post, we also received some concrete requests over twitter and also seeing which circles the information floor takes. The use of a content management system is also important for our work. That we use a system that is open for us colleagues to generate content and we have a contact form on the portal that we use. We also have discussion forums that are not really being used. We are trying to push that forward but are not at that point yet. In Haiti we saw the potential and everything that was going on, of course, all the mapping by volunteers and so on. We also advertised this information on our webpage. But the difference for us now in Japan is our own use of twitter in particular. That we didn’t do when Haiti happened. This was the first time that we actively used twitter and I think it shows we have three times as many visitors to our page and I think it has a lot to do with using twitter and of course with promoting our program since Haiti happened, more people know us we have a wider network. 3. O: How does social media aid disaster management community? 4. Natalie Epler: I think it opens a lot of possibilities because it gives access to a enormous resources as in human resources basically. All the volunteer work that is being done I don’t think no single organization can bring that up. It makes communication in a way easier but in a way more complicated because you have so many players involved and it’s hard to keep an overview and pick the good stuff out. Even among the good stuff see what you can use. But I think it opens a lot of resources. 5. O: what type of resources? 6. Natalie Epler: I’m thinking of all these programs like open Street map or communities that do and produce something, that help evaluate in some way.

 

Appendix 20     Information resources when it comes to linking a youtube video to a map, or linking any other kind of media like flickr or photos. 7. O: Was there any information that you found on social media is made available on your website? 8. Natalie Epler: I think we did Peter Stumpf knows more about that because I was not here when the disaster was going on, because I was out sick. 9. O: What other communication tools do you use to mitigate or manage response specifically here and UN-SPIDER? 10. Natalie Epler: What we use to communicate with our community are mailing lists, like space aid but that is mostly for the response phase. We also have a network for regional support offices. We have our general mailing list with around 15 thousand subscriber but that is really one-way information. Our strongest tool is our portal. 11. O: are there any social media platforms that you require to do your job? 12. Natalie Epler: Our job is not necessarily to feed the social media community. On the other hand, we are just starting to really use them and we are seeing potential in increasing knowledge and awareness about us among a really broad circle of people. People are coming to us not just seeing our tweets but really from the tweeting going to our home page, contacting us directly things like that are happening. So they are not required in the sense of us being tied to them to fulfill our mandate but they can help a lot. Even Skype can be used as a social media device. For example crisis commons uses Skype and has a chat room with several hundreds people around the world working on the wiki crisis commons page and communicating via Skype. 13. O: Which tool is most useful? 14. Natalie Epler: Our mandate is to ensure access to space based information so we are more interested in getting to the providers of that information and then getting that information to the people that work with them. The volunteers are part of that but our focus is on getting the info from the satellite data. 15. O: in which way you think social media is used in disaster management? 16. Natalie Epler: easy access to information because it’s very public it’s very open and now you don’t have to be a specialist to find any kind of information, there is a very broad range of information. I think that through this it’s very important that the public becomes much more aware of what’s going on. For the UN or for us at UN SPIDER it’s a twofold thing because, especially in Haiti, there was so much information and even within the official community, the international bodies like the UN which is already several different sites, and then others that are not UN and also working on the topic, even there it’s already difficult to align the efforts. Then you have this incredible amount of nongovernmental and volunteer groups and companies like Google, they’re all chipping in their part and they are all useful and helpful horse because they bring in, I need Google

 

Appendix 21     brings in money, And material resources, and others as well. Volunteers bring their time and expertise but at the same time bring all this together and trying to make sense of the information that is generated becomes more and more difficult. One issue that people are trying now to tackle the standardization. Because one organization creates a math and has a damage assessment scale of some sort on the map and then another organization has and has a different map and then there’s a third one and so on. They use different colored codings, different numbers, different symbols and we are trying to help people to get an overview and it becomes confusing. 17. O: In which stage of disaster management you think social media plays a bigger role? 18. Natalie Epler: well I think when you see most is response because that’s when the damage is obvious and when a lot of people are trying to help. It’s easier to generate information on something that is visibly there, we can receive the damage and we can work on it. I think it does play a role in preparedness for example, early warning systems, you know you can send messages like: there is a tsunami coming. I don’t know much about that I don’t know how systems send out that information to cell phones but I can imagine it is used like that. Social media for mitigation not sure, unknown quality often is used or if it should be. But, it might be more difficult because the urgency is not there. All in all I think that most of the information that is generated into social media comes from volunteers efforts in the motivation for volunteer to work on something else when there is an issue that is visible and that is better. But, that’s more speculation. 19. O: How are social media being used here as an active role or passive role, do you generate information orgy chick information from social media? 20. Natalie Epler: Both I would say, yeah. We have observed that it increases simultaneously. The more you do one, if you do more generating more information, then you will receive more information. The more you do one, the more the other one increases. If you send out a lot you’ll start receiving more than vice versa. 21. O: how to filter all information? 22. Natalie Epler: well different ways. On twitter keep an eye on our account, we keep an eye on who tweets us and you can kind of see who their circle of followers is, you can see it all you have to kind of trust and the sons of people. 23. O: Has social media made your job more challenging or have simplified it and why? 24. Natalie Epler: tough question. I tend to say it’s more challenging because of what I just said we have more to watch more to follow. I don’t think it’s become more simple but, maybe not more efficient but more effective, something like that.

 

Appendix 22     25. O: Do you validate it as something useful? 26. Natalie Epler: yeah, I think it increases our visibility and recognition that we get. We have noticed this now Japan that we were quoted on many other pages news pages, articles, and other resource webpages we were always there. And I think it has to do because we were very fast in the beginning to set up our page on the portal, that we had good interaction with other providers of data, that we could then publish on our page, and with our use of twitter most of all. Facebook a little bit. 27. O: why is it important for you to have that visibility? 28. Natalie Epler: in the first place our users are the national authority, and you can say that we focus on the we address them that’s two or three people country were three or two institutions. But, of course, it helps to increase under our visibility that more people and more institutions know that we exist to know how we do it. I think also that our network becomes more visible through all of this. I mean, our network still exists despite social media, but communication is less visible, of course, if you just send e-mails between a number of institutions and the number of people. 29. O: language barrier in the operations and management of social media? 30. Natalie Epler: I think as far as we have experienced it’s not, because people use English mostly and that is working. Although, now with Japan what you saw lost his for example, some of these pages have them published in Japanese first and then translated into Chinese or English or Korean. So of course the information on the Japanese pages were useless to us and that is also user generated content. But I think as far as I can judge it most of this information that became available in English, or was already available in English which is translated. A lot of the community working through social media and all of the pages are international communities basic in the United States or European countries so a lot is happening in English anyway. I don’t think it’s a restriction. Some pages are in their local language, like now in Japan, if you really needed then you find a way to translated, Google translate kind of works for getting an idea of what these articles are about but in the end it’s important that the people in the country get the information and for them of course it’s fine if it’s in Japanese. I don’t see that as a major problem. 31. O: can you name some of the challenges that you seem with social media being used for disaster management communication? 32. Natalie Epler: we get back to this overflow of information I think that’s the biggest problem. Other than that technical issues servers malfunction, data amounts. 33. O: do you have any software that filters or evaluates any information that you’re getting through social media? 34. Natalie Epler: nothing formalized nothing that’s really set up. But then again we haven’t been doing this for a very long time it might still come up.

 

Appendix 23     35. O: did you see any of the information coming in from social media is useless at some point? 36. Natalie Epler: well we have to stick to what our mandate is underwater task is and that is in the end something rather technical so of course we can’t process every tip of information not all of it is relevant for our work or for fulfilling our task. 37. O: How do you evaluate the accuracy and the trustworthiness of information generated from social media? 38. Natalie Epler: well we kind of use our judgment. Sometimes you can see who is the sender, or they identify themselves somehow; which institution, which country, which position they have something that you get the idea where the information comes from and also from the content that you get of the messages. As I said we have a rather technical topic to deal with so if somebody gives a phrase that is very general that we can’t work with it but if we get something specific than we can tell if the person knows what they’re talking about. You just use your judgment. 39. O: You have said that you were just starting out with social media, you were just starting to implement it in the operations of the UN SPIDER. How do you see social media changing your work and your operations in the future? 40. Natalie Epler: I think the biggest challenge is finding a way to incorporate the valuable information that we can get from these channels into our daily work or our tasks, our routines and how it can fit into the cooperation and information exchange that we already have whether it’s other UN agencies or others. I think we have to find a way of using it really efficiently and they can give you the answer we have to see that the future. Maybe Peter Stumpf can tell you more because he’s been really using twitter, maybe he can tell more about what kind of message is sent. 41. O: Is there any possibility of the UN SPIDER portal becoming a platform for social media? 42. Natalie Epler: the idea is for the UN SPIDER portal to become a communication platform and we have the tools to do that we have discussion forums but I is difficult. Indiana is that the idea to have areas in the portal where people can exchange, or interact and have dialogue somehow and for example, the idea for the visual globe was to also encouraged people to upload information, and that would come from the outside world not from us. I don’t know how long it will take and how far we will get on that field. And the idea of our communication platform was more for experts really it’s not plan to have it open for the public but rather a platform for expert exchange of ideas of the disaster management community and satellite providers and the UN. 43. O: Would you like to add anything to this interview?

 

Appendix 24     44. Natalie Epler: I think that an important aspect that I want to keep in mind is the question of how to optimize what is being done in that field and how to avoid duplication that’s the magic word, somehow know what the right arm is doing to the left arm. And I think that’s very difficult in this world of social media. Like people working on maps for example or on the all-time of information without a standard without an official one being done already. I think it might always remain a challenge. 45. O: have you seen any improvement of disaster management over the years? 46. Natalie Epler: I only worked with UN SPIDER for one and a half years now so I wouldn’t know I cannot assess disaster management before then. 47. O: do you think that people are using more social media because there is an increase in disasters? 48. Natalie Epler: no I think it’s an increase in technology development because it becomes more easy to use faster more accessible technology for more people and I think that’s why changes.

 

Appendix 25    

IV.

Interview: Gloria Huang
Red Cross Social Engagement Specialist 14-04-2011 Skype

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: First I would like to know what you do and know what the read across America does in terms of social media? 2. Gloria Huang: so I am part of a two-person social media team here at the Red Cross national headquarters we are within the communications department which is that we reside within the whole social and public affairs communications here they do work with much of the other departments such as marketing and development. But primarily we focusing most of the issues and topics that come up across the communications department. So we do a lot of things here with social media. We monitor and listen to what people are saying every day about the Red Cross, we manage a bunch of social media accounts like Facebook, twitter, YouTube, Flickr the main one is that you can think of. And we respond to people there and use those as avenues where people can contact us if they have any questions or concerns and we try to address as many as we can. We try to read every mention of the Red Cross everyday and stemming from that we try to keep other people who work for the Red Cross updated about what people are saying about us online. We put up posts about what people are saying online just for anybody who wants to see it and we communicate regularly with our chapters of which we have I think it’s over 650 and we help them set up their own social media presences. Because we want to encourage them to have a local social media presence so that they can better serve their local communities in a way that we really can’t do from the national level. Other than that we try to strategize where we want to go with social media and how you want to use it the way that Red Cross wants to do their communication, carry out our services, and I think the social network data component is an important piece of that to where we’re going in the future; which is the way in which we can use social media as a really viable channel for people to use when they want to seek help or be able to communicate important information, possibly life-saving information about a disaster. So I think that’s a really brief, in a nutshell overview. 3. O: How can the disaster management community improve their use of social media? 4. Gloria Huang: there are many disaster management agencies from government all the way to privatized agencies were using social media right now in a variety  

Appendix 26     of ways. There are a few bright stars why think are doing particularly well. We’ve talked a lot about Bryant Humphrey from the LA fire department, he’s a great example of how to create emergency response organizations that are using social media to really effectively carry out their mission which is to help people during the first-line responders after a disaster. They communicate information through twitter, and carry it out a couple of pilot programs where they asked people to contribute to reporting emergencies in the area. So they are an example of people who are on the cutting-edge. And then there are a lot were sort of in the. Of getting into it right now, I think most people understand the need for paying attention to social media, at least for disaster response. But, many are not using it as effectively right now, as an actual service tool. 5. O: you mentioned disaster response using social media can contribute to other phases of disaster management? 6. Gloria Huang: yeah and I think that disaster management information is really critical even outside the area of disaster response, for any other consumeroriented business. It’s important for them to be in all phases by building relationships and talking to people for prices or even for building a relationship you have to be there have to ditching over people. So for disaster response disaster management in general I think communicating people during a time when there isn’t that much going on that’s the time when it’s most effective to be talking about awareness, preparedness, where to go if there’s an emergency. Make sure where they are and for them to know who you are I think social media are extremely important for that. And of course after the disasters over continuing to be there and talking to people making sure that they’re prepared for the next disaster, that’s important. 7. O: When the Red Cross America communication department say: okay we need to start using social media, this is something we need to create a department for and have people come in. Was that after a specific events or just happened? 8. Gloria Huang: my boss was hired in 2006 after hurricane Katrina. It was a time where there was a lot of sensitivity and a lot of negativity about the Red Cross and towards the response during Hurricane Katrina; which was such a major disaster and it affected us. So people in the Red Cross became aware that there was a lot of people talking about the Red Cross online, so that when they decided to bring my boss on board. And although there were people that were criticizing the Red Cross there were a lot of people that were posting really great things about the Red Cross. And that the community that we can interact with, to help them learn more about the Red Cross so that they can become advocates in a way. There has been a lot of progress I think. Now we have a two-person team which doesn’t sound like a big expansion but I feel a lot of people here especially at the national headquarters really understand social media and how it has become a part of how they carry out their job even though it’s not a communications focus. 9. O: Can you assess some of the challenges that you’ve experienced with social media and ICT tool for the Red Cross?

 

Appendix 27     10. Gloria Huang: It’s always sort of a challenge to figure out how to translate what we do on social media how we talk to people and interact with them on a daily basis to donations. That something that we always have as a forefront in our minds because we are nonprofit that we need to stay afloat, to be able to raise the funds that we need to keep our operations going. So it’s inherently hard to measure that kind of return on investments in social media so that’s always been a challenge. But we have found that the best thing we can do is provide the best information for people so that when we do occasionally ask somebody to help us out, like spread the word about donating then they are more amenable to passing it on. So I think that’s the biggest challenge. 11. O: is language is a barrier? Well I guess that if you are the American Red Cross then it would not be such a barrier. 12. Gloria Huang: it’s not a very big big barrier, but sometimes because it’s so public and its online we do have people that try and reach others in different languages. Then we have to pass those messages onto the Red Cross society where they can receive those messages. But it’s really not so much of a barrier. 13. O: How do you sift through all the data that comes through social media? And how to validate what information is most relevant? 14. Gloria Huang: We can use a few tools to help us aggregate all the information everyday. We use radio six now to monitor blog mentions, forum mentions, things like that. I go through every day and I sort through them and, read them and figure out which ones of those are the ones that we need to respond to. We also continuously keep watch on Facebook and twitter, and we pass along messages that need to be responded to. So it’s an ongoing process it’s not very automated right now and we’re working on ways to make it more more streamlined and easier. 15. O: And how do you evaluate the accuracy or trustworthiness of the information that you receive? 16. Gloria Huang: Well, in general, we always try to engage someone initially upfront. We try to give them what they need or responses transparently. If their behavior suggests that they will be changing their mind or are not really open to discussion then we know that we at least put our best efforts to confront that person and try to reach out. But generally, I think it’s pretty easy to tell when somebody is being truthful or not. Because they’re actually looking for conversation or they just want information on events, or are they just trying to get a reaction out of people. And similar for disaster related information, we respond to the person I’m trying to interact with them to see what their attitude is, whether or not they’re actually in the need of our help or if they need to be directed to somebody else. 17. O: You seen the disaster management community change over the years because of technology were social media? Have you seen a difference in how they operate?

 

Appendix 28     18. Gloria Huang: I think so. Social media just means that it makes or brings everything a little closer together. It brings the general public much closer to the events and the response. Even though they are far removed physically from it. In broadens the stage being watched by a lot more people. Anyone can see what is going on, they can criticize, but at the same time they can also help. So I think a lot of disaster management agencies are seeing that that’s why a lot of them are trying to get into social media. Being present also means that they are able to engage with a larger public during the disaster and are able to provide the right information to people. A lot of the information reporting that I’ve seen online and even newspaper see that like newspaper websites that are turning into multimedia focus, and very digital. They have a variety of social media on webpages now, reporters are on twitter, they get information from twitter, they may not even verify if it is a fact if they get it from a credible source on twitter. So I think that’s a really important part of it too. It’s all changing the way people are getting their information, the way they’re communicating with the clients, their stakeholders. It’s going to continue to change, I think, because all the disaster management agencies I’ve seen for staying on top of it. 19. O: What do you think social media and disaster management agencies have to do in order to improve the relationship? 20. Gloria Huang: I think the crisis data is really critical because it’s something that we’ve been doing here. Many people don’t have systems in place to process information that comes in from social channels and translated into real service delivery, right now. I think that’s the most immediate improvement that needs to be addressed in the next few years. Other than that, it’s just about making information as instant as can be from social media, from something like twitter that allows people that are on the ground begin to twitter and inform after a disaster. Also to figure out ways that can develop systems that verify the information and put it to use.

 

Appendix 29    

V.

Interview: Rick Perera
Care USA Communication Officer 07-04-2011 Skype

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: Can you explain to me a little bit of what you do and what tasks you have? 2. Rick Perera: Sure, my name is Rick Perera, I’ve been with care since 2002. For most of that time as a press or media officer, where I serve as a spokesperson for CARE, be a liaison between journalists and the organization and get them information about what care does. Try to get public awareness through the news media about the work that we do and the situations and needs of the people we work with in 70 countries around the world. For the last couple of years I’ve been working in the resource development communications area, which is also about writing to communicate but it’s also about donors and large corporations and individuals rather than with the news media. But, I have been deployed to a number of disaster emergency sites in different parts where CARE is responding and we try to have a communications or media person on the ground because there tends to be a lot of interest from news media during disasters. 3. O: in you work what is the most popular social media that you are using? 4. Rick Perera: well, we started using basic blogging in our website and that’s probably where we have put more effort than anywhere else. But, we launched into Facebook as well probably, three or four years ago and that’s been, we’ve had some success with that, but it’s been a question of how much staff time we dedicate to it. It obviously can be time-consuming and we haven’t always had a dedicated person, we sometimes have contractors on a short-term basis to maintain our posts on there. Then we have done some tweeting of and probably when I was in Haiti that was when we got most active with that. In that case I was the on the ground person just tweeting from my own ID on the theory that people are more interested in following an individual than an institution. Those are basically the three social media that we have used. 5. O: How do you think social media aid the disaster management community communication? 6. Rick Perera: I think our main purpose in using social media has always been to communicate with our supporters and constituents so in its simplest form it’s another tool for fundraising, to keep people involved in and aware of the work that we do in such a way that they would be wanting to continue to support care’s work, because, that’s how we basically continue to fund the work that we  

Appendix 30     do. A second purpose for it, and this is very important, is advocacy, which is to engage people in the goals and issues that we want to support the level of policy makers. We have people involved in what we call the care action network a kind of a grassroots network to get people to support catered priorities and the priorities of the poor and the people in the developing world. That’s not necessarily on just a disaster basis because care work is on the order of 75% long-term development as opposed to immediate disaster so we may differ from other agencies in that regard. So, basically the majority of the work that we use social media for an area like advocacy would be to get people to lobby members of Congress on issues of maternal health, more concerned on a global basis to reduce the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth and that’s a very simple matter to continue communicating with people who we want to get involved and after voice. Hypothetically you could use those same tools on emergency basis, let’s say if we don’t feel that governments are multilateral agencies devoting enough energy and time regarding a particular disaster we could motivate our constituents to get involved on that level. But, to be honest we haven’t done a lot of that to use social media as a major advocacy item for mitigation. On the emergency level most often we use it for informing donors or the news media about what is happening on the ground. 7. O: do you also use social media to receive information? Do you follow other people to see what’s going on the ground to mitigate? 8. Rick Perera: yes, that was actually kind of surprised to be honest, it shouldn’t have been. When I started using twitter in Haiti, I think initially, like a lot of agencies we were expecting to use it for putting communiqués, press releases and, notes to our supporters so our ads are really a push type of media. But, kind of surprisingly once people started following my tweets they were responding with information like: Hey, there are people in this place who need a tractor in that place or there are people here who don’t have water or need medical attention. And it became an inward source of information. So, that is something that we found out not actually going after it. So users taught us a lesson. 9. O: Did CARE try to push more information about response from Haiti or did you use social media to also have an income of information for your operations? 10. Rick Perera: again, we haven’t been actively promoting this tool I think we’re more prepared to respond when people reach out to us. I took place in a conference of social media and emergencies and one of the things people were discussing was how often disaster affected people nowadays are trying to use social media to reach out for help, especially younger people for whom it’s always more natural to post something on Facebook than to pick up phone. So, this was the discussion from a lot of disaster management agency a lot of local emergency agencies from the US. Fire house, for example, would have a Facebook page more for information and they never thought it as a means of two-way communication but all of a sudden there will be somebody who’s trapped in the house or has a fire or whatever will post on Facebook and expect somebody to respond immediately. The way they are seeing it that they need to have more public education that this really isn’t the most effective way in this point in history of social media when we are not really prepared for that. So, I

 

Appendix 31     think that the way we’ve been responding to this is that those of us whose job it is to monitor and use these media, although we’re primarily about reaching out to the news media or two donors, when we start getting information in from disaster affected people or from the their supporters. What happened in Haiti, is that you might have somebody in the community who is trapped or needs help and they would send an SMS to a friend, say in Miami, and that person may go on to call or contact our twitter page and tweet us saying: there’s somebody in this place. If I were the one monitoring that I would contact person within the organization that can help. But, I don’t think that we will have capacity in place to use those information channels to their potential. I would say were really kind of ad hoc about that. 11. O: In your opinion which stage of disaster management the social media play a bigger role? 12. Rick Perera: probably response at this point, just because as they say we had been responding to requests we get from the community as opposed to very proactively going out there. So, on an emergency basis people use social media to contact us, I see over the longer term all of these media are useful for our advocacy efforts. I could see potential to things like preparedness I really don’t think we have explored this yet but they can be very useful tools for communicating with people and saying: hey, here’s all you need to be prepared for an emergency, here’s ways to organize amongst yourselves. I think, probably most of the communities that we working on things like mitigation and preparedness are not as technologically advanced so we’re not looking at like Cairo where everybody’s using Facebook to create social change. We might be dealing with Nicaragua workplaces with communities that barely have electricity let alone Internet or have everybody on social media, so it’s a very different world. I would say that to the extent that you could talk about text messaging as a form of social media, there is a lot of potential in the world won’t work because access to mobile phones has become so widespread that even in poor communities. I think, that an area that we are experimenting in is trying to be more responsive communities by choosing text messaging as a way for them to reach us. For example, when we respond to an emergency with food assistance, water, housing assistance we would have to make a free text number of available to the community just so they can get back to us let us know if we’re doing our job properly, treating them as our customers, in a way. This can also be potentially a two-way medium where we could use text messaging, not necessarily to reach every single person, but to create a core group of community leaders who can then spread information among their constituents and we can use the messaging as a tool at the top of the Pyramid. These are still relatively new ideas that are not widespread that we can see the potential that. 13. O: You deal with a lot of journalists communicating with him and trying to disseminate information throughout news media. How importance is that to the groundwork that care is doing to have that information distributed? And how big a role the social media play in that process? 14. Rick Perera: well I think it’s extremely important and a top priority early in an emergency. Because you see the news cycles are so rapid that you see in the

 

Appendix 32     case of a moderate sized disaster you will have 24 hours news interest, For a larger disaster that will go longer. But, otherwise they are going to lose interest very quickly. We have to be right out there to reach these journalists as quickly as possible, make available sources of information to them, make it as easy as possible for them to cover our work. Things like: here’s somebody you can interview on the ground, be in touch with you right away via Skype for example. As far as using social media in particular, that’s one in a number of tools. I think that we are still more likely to be in touch with groups of journalists by e-mail or by phone. There are journalists who were following our blogs or on twitter but I think when we are trying to proactively reach them those are somewhat less important at this point in the early emergency phases. 15. O: Have you seen that social media make your work more easy or doesn’t make it more challenging? 16. Rick Perera: I think is a little of both. It’s easier in terms of the channels for information flow is better for us. It’s harder just because it’s time-consuming and staff heavy and resources are not always better because a lot of our funding is restricted the donors want the money to go to a particular thing they will say hey I want you to build wells in Kenya and put my name on it. They’re not saying here some money use it to pay somebody to tweet. So, where we get the funds we get the staff time to do these things it has been difficult. I think bit by bit we have educated our workers on the ground about the importance of being available in communicating with the public. So far, a lot of effort has gone to just explaining to staff who might be in the middle of an emergency when you don’t think giving interviews to highest priority because you’re absolutely frantic but it is a high priority because if you don’t do it now but it was attention very quickly. So, the role of the media officer is to intervene and try and make it easy as possible for these people but also for effectively catalyze information sources to meet you and social media fits right in there with everything else. We have done web chats with staff on the ground and we try to facilitate those make it as easy for them as possible so that all they have to do is sit down at the computer and the media officer what he has done all the preparation work to be right there to help them, we might be right there beside the telling the this is how you do this this is how you answer that, these are the statistics that you need while were back and forth listening to people. These are some of the things that make staff nervous a because they’re not accustomed to this and it feels high-pressure because there are journalists and Paul were asking tough questions and the reflex of our staff is often to say: I don’t do this kind of real-time chat I would rather have questions e-mail to me and respond to them by the time. So there are a lot of diplomatic negotiations that go on back and forth from the journalists in particular but also increasingly the public wanting these instant real-time responses. They don’t want to wait 24 hours to hear back from the questions, from our side what we want is to be able to give properly thought out answers. So, that’s a constant challenge of social media developed it’s just reading the speed at which were expected to respond information and I’m sure that’s true for everyone. 17. O: you sift through the information to evaluate the validity and trustworthiness of information from social media?

 

Appendix 33     18. Rick Perera: I think that at this point because, as I just pointed out, we’re not actively going out there and seeking information on social media for the most part it’s were receiving things directly from the public were going after us. We don’t have to do much sifting because if somebody reaches out care it’s usually because they have a particular interest in care specifically. Sometimes they don’t know what we do and they might think care works in the United States which we don’t. We might get somebody to reach out to us and say: hey were you doing in the case of a fire in California and all we have to do is respond and say: hey were sorry this is not something we work on you might try to contact the American Red Cross for example so that doesn’t take a lot a lot of work on our part. I think this is something that over time will see them wanting to spend more time on and one thing that’s important is to educate staff about what to do when they get contacted directly to the staff members Facebook page and people start putting post saying: hey what are you doing about this or that. And it’s not necessarily appropriate for the staff members to respond on a personal basis, it needs to go to the institution. So, we’ve put a lot of effort into educating staff when dealing with the traditional news media, if you get it, journalists you have to refer intermediate unit don’t go doing interviews on your own until they’ve spoken to us and I think the same principle applies to social media. We can’t have people speaking on behalf of the organization on a personal basis and this becomes more and more challenging because I see just myself giving things on my personal Facebook page that are asking about my role with care and I have to channel to properly. It’s very tempting to write back immediately and say: hey, care does this care does that. But, then all you’re doing is reinforcing the idea: all you have to do is go to Rick to answer all your questions about care. We don’t want to encourage that. 19. O: In fact one of the main challenges that has kept care from completely implementing social media and what other challenges do you see affecting the decision to be more active in social media? 20. Rick Perera: well I think that one challenges that we haven’t necessarily drawn this line ourselves between personal and institutional use of social media. We very much encourage our supporters and staff members to use their own social media to spread the word about care and put widgets on their pages that we supplying something that. So as a result a lot of our stock number are doing that on a personal level too. There are a number of staff that were particularly when unit or their actively involved with social media, their own personal pages are full of stuff about care all the time and it would be very easy for a member of the public to confuse that and say: hey rick works there, and Rick always has his care stuff on his homepage so this was the official source of information for care. I think we have to be careful about that. But, at the same time we don’t want to lose the opportunity to use these ways of communicating. Many organizations out there are including in the private sector social media, and the gold mine for them is this kind of personal or viral communication where ordinary people are sending their friends stuff, because, people are going to respond more to a person that they know that from an institution. So, it’s much easier to have somebody follow Rick Perera on Twitter than to have them follow

 

Appendix 34     care. So, this is an ongoing line we need to walk and I don’t think we’ve really found the answer to that. 21. O: I want to talk about the use you made of twitter during the Haiti earthquake? How was that experience and did to find it to be successful in disseminating news? 22. Rick Perera: well I have to start by saying that I was brand-new to twitter by the time. I literally created my twitter ID on the way to the airport, I knew very little about it. It quite simply was about posting as often and quickly as possible and our web team made it very clear on our more traditional website that you could follow Rick Perera’s tweets to know what care was doing. Bit by bit he develops its own viral following, because I think a lot of people that were interested in humanitarian issues tend to network with friends and communities who are interested in the same thing and just rent that way. I don’t really think I did anything active to it to make that happen. I think it would be a challenge in another emergency that isn’t getting that kind of public attention or media awareness to use this tool was effectively. I don’t think we figured out a way to actively go out there and a following. And because I was not following a lot of other tweets, which I understand is the way you get followers you have to follow people yourself, and frankly for me it was a question of time and energy that was so stressful. There were so many different information channels that I didn’t have time to be out there trying to find people to follow and reading all of these tweets. So, I probably would’ve gotten more followers if I did that. I think in a case like that you would also need dedicated staff members who are working on social media and who can handle that, who can sift through that information and do the posting on behalf of the people who are on the ground I just had too much to do. 23. O: In your opinion what do you think is the most important aspect about dealing with information after a disaster? 24. Rick Perera: it’s always been about exchanging information and we tend to think it’s about exchanging information among the agencies and governments that are involved in disaster response and a shortcoming of the humanitarian community in general has been in good way getting information from the public. We always work to make sure that we are partners with the affected community. So that we don’t go into the community and tell them what they need but that we are listening to them. I think we are still using relatively old-fashioned ways of doing that. Things like focus group discussions, community meetings identifying leaders in the community in the traditional way, Who might be members of the city counsel, a village chief and that’s the local administrative system. We haven’t really been super innovative about using new forms of communications to gather that that information. So people can tell us what they need tell us what they want. It tends to be about things like assessment teams who will get on a car and go out to the villages and talk to people and that can take time. So we also find that an emergency, and the first few days even a week or more were still just assessing, assessing, assessing. A lot of times the public, or supporters or the media don’t understand why we take so long or so much time. They ask: why aren’t you doing something? Why aren’t you out there

 

Appendix 35     helping people when they been sitting here for days without any help? The answer is: we can’t just throw stuff out there, it needs to be targeted to where it’s needed, and that’s all about information flow. Until now we try to look at information flow at these professionals, these disaster response experts to go out in the field and assess to listen people and find out what’s needed. Maybe we can listen on earlier on, so that it is known to the public as soon as something like a disaster happens to send a text message to this place or that place and let them know. If we do more of that there is currently a very important task of sifting information as you pointed out. What’s valid how do we prioritize, there can be a tendency for people to exaggerate or misstate. I think in Haiti visiting phenomenon that you find, if you asked people: are you getting help? Inevitably go saying no, no, no one is helping us. And when you go and look at the real information sources you might find that they are getting help, this community has done this help and that help the people have decided in mind that if you tell the eight agencies that you aren’t getting any help you will get more. So if you open up these channels and say: okay we are going to listen to tweets, When you pay attention to text messages or whatever. You have to be careful about the accuracy of this information and whether you’re encouraging people to exaggerate by opening the channels so that the continuous challenge. 25. O: have you seen a big change after Haiti were from before in terms of how communications spread and distributed? 26. Rick Perera: well absolutely without question. I think my first years with care there were no social media, they didn’t exist, we used e-mail. We had mailing list we sent e-mail blasts. We would communicate with journalists and very traditional ways and we saw that traditional news media was our main way of communicating with the public. Sure we have a website that we were updating it but the importance of new media has just skyrocketed to the point in a lot of cases the majority of our donations for a particular emergency are coming in from the web. It’s just changed phenomenally, I think something that’s happened that I’ve been aware of since the Haiti emergency and it wasn’t happening before that is that social media, like Ushahidi or any of these mapping technology, is being seen really as a tool for the responders, not just the fundraisers or the media people, that’s a very phenomenal and that is something that we have yet come to grips with. 27. O: is a right to say that disaster management information has improved over the years thanks to new media, ICT’s or even social media? 28. Rick Perera: I say there’s definitely been improvements through better communications particularly among the agencies that are responding, because it had problems in the past where agencies were talking to each other and we would all just go in and do our own thing and there was a lot of duplication. One agency would be responding one place another might be responding in the same place as well because we were not communicating.. How particular communications tools have come into that I think is the second matter. Initially it was more the web which might’ve been an important tool because there have been things like the UN cluster system where there’s a housing cluster or water and sanitation cluster were all of the agencies are talking to each other and there

 

Appendix 36     are probably webpages where they are posting: we are working here, here’s what we’re doing and simply just communicate the needs to what other agencies are needing. I don’t think we are really using social media for that purpose per se, maybe on an individual basis there may be responders were people in the community who are chatting with each other in one way or another. But, I think the weather has been the most important tool as well as things to face-to-face meeting on the ground in the places where we are working. I think it’s interesting to see in coming years how new tools will come to play a role in this. 29. O: now Rick since you work in communications I really have to ask you, do you think that today there is an increasing disasters in the world or is there just more information being put out about the few disasters that might be going on? 30. Rick Perera: I think it’s both, I think there is a huge increase in awareness. It’s amazing when you look back at how many disasters have happened that have taken a huge toll in lives and have gotten very little attention. There have been earthquakes and floods and China over the past 20 years that have taken millions of lives that people on the west have known basically nothing about, and large parts basically because of government information policy. There are also things you know, you are very aware of this conflict in Congo again millions of deaths that got very little coverage largely because of the inaccessibility to news media, the lack of interest the lack of commercial payback for Marshall news media to cover place like this. Certainly this awareness has increased but I also think there are things like climate change that are driving disasters. Just population growth means more people are living in tighter spaces so more people are to be affected when there’s a weather pattern which might have knock ocelot dusted their work so many people in that place. In the case of Haiti you have environmental degradation and deforestation which means people are much more vulnerable. Think it’s very telling that the earthquake in Chile that happened a few months later had a similar magnitude, of course there are a lot of differences in a lot of ways, but simply a fact of the quality of construction and regulation and the quality of governance that means a lot more people died in Haiti than into that. If you talk about information flow you could look at that in terms of informing members of the public hears what you need to do to build your house in an earthquake resisting way. More information might mean that not just that we are more aware of disasters that that we are more prepared for disasters in an ideal world. 31. O: Well that is it, thank you. Do you have anything else to add maybe something else that was concluded from the conference you mentioned earlier? 32. Rick Perera: I think what I got from that conference is that there is a generational change in the way people use social media. For younger generation of people these are primary needs of contact. Those of us who are responding to disasters need to be better prepared to monitor these information flows not just as a way to push information and say: okay we are going A to reach out and get people for donations. But to understand that we might be getting urgent messages using these media to reach out in some ways that we might be able to respond immediately and if we don’t vote the staff time and the money to that bears the consequences.

 

Appendix 37    

VI.

Interview: Sabine Wilke
CARE Haiti Communications Manager 05-04-2011 Skype

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. Oscar Schlenker: will to will what you did when you arrived in Haiti what kind of jobs did you do and what was your impression of Haiti when you got there? And what is CARE doing in Haiti? 2. Sabine Wilke: it’s a two-fold thing with me in Haiti I came first in February just after the earthquake for about two weeks I think. What we do in CARE once there is an emergency is that we send in our media officer right away to cover everything and to work with journalists to get photos and stories and basically do the reporting on the ground. But, as you can imagine you cannot do that for a long time in an emergency because it’s pretty strenuous, as people get tired, it’s just a hard job. So we have to fly somebody in write after the earthquake so we had Rick Pereira and I follow afterwards. I think he was sent in two or three weeks later and I came right after for a couple weeks, and then I left and somebody came in. I came back to Haiti eight months later in November for a six-month period to boost our communications here to prepare for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and also to do capacity building for our national indications officer who we hired after the earthquake. But CARE did not have the communications officer here in Haiti for the earthquake, so we hired somebody locally after the earthquake. She’s very skilled she’s a former journalist, and she’s going to be here in the long run so it’s a form of capacity building for communications also to have somebody come in after the earthquake after the disaster to keep him or her there in place so basically we are now working on some long-term programming for communication such as the CARE Haiti website, some materials brochures. We’re just trying to get things organized for the process of communication and public outreach. 3. O: Are you guys also working with what happened in Japan saw that you posted something on your blog do you also provide information to Japan or of Japan? 4. Sabine Wilke: Right now, my function is communications officer in Haiti, so no; we only focus on Haiti. CARE is a federation so we have country offices in the countries we work and the people who work in these countries do the work on the ground and only focus on the country they are in. Then there are the CARE members for example CARE U.S., CARE Canada and CARE Germany, where I am also going to go back in May. So the CARE members do all the worldwide work, like fundraising and communications wherever they are needed, wherever there’s an emergency. So if I would’ve been stationed in Germany at the time of Japan I would have worked much more with communications regarding Japan. I  

Appendix 38     mean, we do get some information here about Japan that I am not in a function of doing public communications for Japan, because as I said that’s our members were doing that and it is all organized through our international Secretariat in Geneva so if every country office communications person would also be involved with that it would complicate matters. But it is interesting for us because of the earthquake in Japan was relevant for Haiti because it’s the same kind of natural disaster so we did talk about it, of course. 5. O: I guess what I wanted to ask before was, what is a process of getting information from Haiti different from Japan, if you know, or did they set up the same kind of information platform that was set up in Haiti like you explained before? 6. Sabine Wilke: Usually the way it works is that you send someone in to get information from the country office. Haiti and Japan were different because CARE Japan is a member country so we didn’t have regular programming there we only had a small office of nine people who mainly did some tracing and maybe implementation of projects. You know that country is in Asia so the team is really small, they weren’t equipped to deal with the emergency. So in that case you had somebody from CARE international come in and help their capacity. But, in terms of communication it’s always the country where the disaster has happened that communicates directly with the international Secretariat; which kind of then disseminates all the information to the different numbers according to their needs. 7. O: In terms of communications within CARE, how you get the information through and back and forth, what mechanisms do you use and what kind of new media do you use? 8. Sabine Wilke: I can tell you what technologies we use and then you can decide whether it’s new media. Our main tool is the phone and e-mail in emergencies but we do a lot of information is exchanged via Skype or sending short messages sending text messages or SMS. There are two things to this, there is the CARE internal communication and then there is how CARE communicates the whole disaster response to the outside world. And in terms of internal communications it’s just your typical technologies of communications that you would typically use. When it comes to communicating the general public what we’re trying to do with emergencies this be the fastest, of course, because the quicker you get your messages out there the better your chances are to raise money, to get public interest, to get journalists call you. So what happens is you try to get quote some photos and information from the disaster as soon as possible and assign a spokesperson. You send out a press release to media as soon as possible with some of his quotes from on the ground, eyewitness reports, and then you start your online itineraries which mainly involves using Facebook, twitter, our websites, YouTube, I say those are the main channels of communications on the Internet, for the CARE members. We are now talking about the CARE members such as U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, etc. who are doing the communications to the external public, to the world basically about the emergency.

 

Appendix 39     9. O: How in important is it for you to get the information distributed and disseminated to the world as you said? 10. Sabine Wilke: Oh it’s crucial! In emergencies basically every minute counts. You have to be really fast, you also have to be precise you have to know what is happening on the ground, because you know, I guess, our added value is we are mostly already on the ground. So, journalist would come to us and ask: do you have any information of what’s going on? Because it takes everyone some time to get to the place where disaster has occurred. So if you’re in NGO and you already have your regular programming on the ground during a much better position to communicate and to report what is going on. So, yeah, and disasters you have to be quick and you have to make sure that you get all the information, because it’s always chaotic so you have to get all the information and it’s a bit complicated to have standardized procedures in any emergency because in the case of Haiti for example, I remember all the telephone lines were broken down, so CARE members would communicate by text message or by satellite phones because there was no communication in the first couple of hours and then maybe the first couple of days or so, until we were able to install a satellite system on the roof here in Haiti and get some kind of procedures going to enhance communications. 11. O: is there any social network that is crucial to do your job in CARE? 12. Sabine Wilke: For me as someone was working on the ground my main audience is international media will come and go in Haiti that were also focusing our work on Haitian audience and Haitian public. So were trying to be as open as possible about what we are doing where were doing it so we are working together with Haitian journalists. So, for the Haitian audience so far social media do not play a vital role. They could be, because I also know that Haitians are fond of Facebook, and Twitter. But, CARE Haiti has not had the capacity to set anything up like that. From my experience, when you really want to engage in social media you need a full-time staff to follow up on that. You cannot just twitter, it doesn’t take you just 30 seconds a day you have to have a strategy you have to set up your accounts, in a professional way. So as a country office in CARE Haiti office we haven’t done that so far. We are working on our website, and I guess that is something that could take the next step in a couple months to see if we can have a Facebook account or profile, or start twittering. The thing about this is that, communications like international communications fall into the responsibility of the members because they’re the ones that do fund raising and they are the ones who need communication to their audiences. So CARE international has a Facebook profile, and CARE Germany has their twitter account, they all have blogs so we feed them with information. For example my blog would be translated into English for the CARE Australia website, or send little quote and CARE Norway would twitter them. But for me as a CARE Haiti staff member communications manager I am not directly using social media as such. 13. O: In your opinion of how social media be used in disaster management? And can you explain maybe how I could improve disaster management?

 

Appendix 40     14. Sabine Wilke: With communications you trying to reach a general audience. In terms of communicating our disaster work to an international audience I think social media is crucial and I know that CARE is not as advanced as other organizations in terms of the role social media organization or network but we’ve been looking into that after the earthquake. Meeting and someone else we use twitter we wrote a blog entry, delivered information to our neighbor offices to put on their websites. So I think, especially the personal experiences, they were really very much appreciated. I know that Rick had a lot of feedback on his twitter account, he would just basically go to food distribution and twitter from there and be like: okay we just handed out rice to 1200 families and it’s going to feed him for the next two weeks. And then he would get a lot of responses and good interactive feedback. It is horrible but it also should not be overestimated, because everyone’s twittering every one is commenting on disasters and if you are a legitimate source if you are claiming to have verified information then you have to consider that there are a lot of things being put out there by individuals that don’t know what’s really happening on the ground. So, I guess we always have to be careful about that as well. Because things heat up quickly on the web, rumors can be spread, false information. So these things have to be taken into consideration before you start any type of active social media outreach. 15. O: where do you think social media plays a bigger role in the stages of disaster management? 16. Sabine Wilke: Definitely not in preparedness I would say. I would say in response and recovery. But let me just add one more point to what we said before about our Haitian audience. We have to remember people do have cell phones here but not everyone has a smart phone, so not everyone has Internet access to the phone. Plus, a big part of the population cannot even read or write. So, we have to be realistic about how we approach these people compared to audiences in other countries. In the case of Haiti, one of our main or major channels are traditional media, not just newspapers and also radio, as simple as it is because people listen to the radio, and since people are illiterate, as I said, we reach out to radio stations and have public-service announcements; which is something that we been doing a lot after the disasters. And that’s not social media extra classical radio media. And nobody listens to the radio in Europe anymore but here the do. So, when we get after the earthquake is have these little announcements with information, for example, why does CARE distribute tarps instead of tents? Because they were easier to purchase and they don’t take as much space as tested. The people would ask questions like why don’t we get a nice towns, why do we only get tarps? Or, where is the next distribution Point located? Or who can I talk to in case of sexual abuse? So all this information is that people needed we would gather them and broadcast on over the radio and another thing we’re doing right now is to have a complaint mechanism because people don’t know many of our beneficiaries. They know our CARE personnel on the ground and he would talk to them and they would take their complaints a written but if they were not there or they happen to be away picking up some of the CARE stuff that comes then we have a phone line that is operating eight hours a day and it’s one of my colleagues here that is monitoring those phone calls so people can call with her complaints and suggestions about our work on

 

Appendix 41     the ground. Again it’s not social media but it’s our means of communicating with our beneficiaries. There is also an organization that’s called CDAC that is for disaster affected communities and it was set up after the tsunami in Southeast Asian because NGOs would say we are doing a lot of communications that were not necessarily reaching the people that need our help and life-saving information. So CDAC played a big role in Haiti as well when the cholera broke out by collecting information streamlining messages make sure that every NGO have standing messages in terms of how many buckets do you need for water, where is the next CTC, who’s doing what, how to wash her hands, and this is all supervised by the Ministry of health. So, the government has the last word on these public messages. But, then CDAC would coordinate the NGOs outreach to the community’s to make sure that we don’t contradict each other. 17. O: through which means did you communicate each other? 18. Sabine Wilke: we have weekly reunions with some and they would send around notes of the meetings and that’s a major means of communication would be email. . As that is Internet-based and people don’t have a computer in their tents and they don’t have smart phones so they don’t have access to any type social media and this is why radio is so much more effective. The one thing that comes closest to social media, I would say is mass dissemination of SMS. CARE has not done it yet but I know the Red Cross is doing it sometimes sending out, you know, 20,000 SMS with a certain set message: please let the ambulance go through. They also carry cholera patients in December when we had some contacts to your in order to get the message out quickly they would send SMS. But, other social media such as Twitter or Skype is not really relevant when we try to reach our beneficiaries. Maybe certain parts would respond because there are young people, as everywhere around the world, young people who have their own e-mail addresses and use social media. It is not that Haiti is behind or that there are no Internet savvy people here. My colleagues are on Facebook they are on Facebook, they know their social media. The thing is how many people have access, especially after you have lost your home and your computer, there’s no way you can access your twitter account. 19. O: could you have time to use social media to communicate with your colleagues when you were there after the disaster? 20. Sabine Wilke: It’s for a reason that we have these big networks where the country offices would just send out the initial messages and then it will be used by our members to use through social media. It does not make sense to have people in the office spending all their time using social media, twittering and putting stuff on YouTube with a bad Internet connection, lack of electricity, always challenges we face when you have 12 members in 12 highly developed countries with great Internet taxes which could just channel these messages through their own social media channels. So, that’s the way it works here in CARE and it’s also unrealistic to think that our staff have the knowledge or the time to those kinds of things. I think one thing you can do is, and this is what Rick Perrera did, he had his own BlackBerry with him, and he was using twitter so I wonder if he had before or he set up for Haiti. I don’t know. So you just twitter, but is also our communications person so he might know more about his

 

Appendix 42     involvement with all those issues they were part of his job. But he would not twitter every 2 seconds he would maybe send out two or three messages a day and I guess that most of his other communication was done by talking to journalists or whoever would be on the phone at that time. For interviews he did work phone interviews or Skype, and sending lots of e-mails. 21. O: so I guess it is redundant to ask a social media make your work easier or more challenging. If it is in Haiti I suppose it’s challenging because of all the obstacles you have in terms of infrastructure. 22. Sabine Wilke: I have two different perspectives, because as I said, I was responsible for all social media channels in CARE Germany, and for our websites. What I see here now, his people are interested getting a more personal impression of our work and it’s our main challenge. We are a big organization we do a lot of stuff that it sometimes difficult to explain to an external audience in our donor countries what it is that we’re actually doing. Because a lot of these concerns are about eight knocking through, money not being spent, and we see that at the one-year mark the disaster. And for our donor audience and are supportive audience social media is a great tool which we should definitely develop and use more to show the faces behind the work. I’m not blogging because it’s fun, it’s fun for me but I’m also doing it because they think it’s a good way to convey some messages and tell people what our daily lives are like. And also to clean up some myths in some clichés about our aid work. As much as we do not like to be on the spotlight because every NGO worker would tell you it’s not about me and how I’m saving the world, I’m here supporting the community help themselves, so most of us don’t like to tend to be a spotlight, but I do see the importance of it I do see that people need to see a picture of a person that looks like some or speak their own language on the ground and then tell them about their daily life and their experiences. It’s the same for classic media, we get calls from media asking do you have a German-speaking person on the ground, which we had because Rick spoke German and I was here. The same for any other CARE member they ask you have people who speak Dutch or French or whatever. Because people from classical media always want his personal element and adding social media is a good means to get this point across. 23. O: where we don’t produce media for social media or traditional media, now do you receive information from social media by reading tweets or reading Facebook? 24. Sabine Wilke: In the first days after the disaster definitely I remember we, a remember wait, was it the Spanish Red Cross? It was some kind of Red Cross, maybe it was Chile. There is always some times that you get information from somebody else, you see that these people are tweeting and they’re pretty much up to date so you follow for couple of weeks after the disaster, but he wouldn’t have one consistent number one source that’s always, actually we all follow AlertNet, ReliefWeb and OCHA and these channels. But, most of this information you get it by checking their websites as well. Facebook there is always an outpouring of support, but it’s time-consuming to check when you’re in a disaster situation in order to get the one information that might help you

 

Appendix 43     because there are 1 million users, and a lot of people from Haiti. It might have been interesting to see what people from Haiti were writing there’s just no time for it and there is no added value for me and my function at that point of time. Of course I would read it at night, my personal accounts because it’s interesting to see that I would also check the personal account from my colleagues on the more direct basis. So, I’m in a privileged position, I do not necessarily need to go use social media to what’s happening on the ground when there is the office and I can just call up, or send an e-mail to my colleagues. 25. O: Looking into the future how do you think CARE would develop their social media to adapt to emergency response? 26. Sabine Wilke: we definitely need to scale up that is for sure. I guess what kind of tends to be forgotten sometimes is that for social media to be effective it needs human resources. We’ve had this discussion for a long time within our organization. Because you cannot just start a twitter account and not updated regularly, you need a dedicated person to do that and I think our communication has been having more and more Internet-based in the future so we would have to use of that capacity and have more people involved with that. We definitely need to be, more interactive and have more means of feedback. But I feel that most of the time people that are in the Internet they read and would not necessarily comment on a blog or re-tweet your messages. Social media for most people is something that you use after work to connect with your friends, so it’s difficult to see where an NGO fits in that picture. Most of the things you communicate through an NGO is pretty serious. I was also pretty critical when we started our Facebook page and character of any because you would have a photo gallery of like the earthquake, and maybe I am exaggerating here but it’s just to give you an idea, people could do their thumbs-up or like which I find it distasteful and it’s a bit on the edge. I know what goes behind that and I know people don’t intend it that way but I do think we have to watch out. Every social media activity that we do definitely needs to be done in a careful and thoughtful way to not offend anybody. We are not trying to be control freaks not trying to hide anything it’s just that I think, to the world is so complex of social media tends to simplify things we need to make sure that our messages and our values and our missions fits in that simplified picture of the world that’s conveyed sometimes social media. So we have to do things at our own capacity, as for disaster response our program on the ground does not necessarily use social media, just general communication technology. That is going to be more and more important for our use, not just satellite phones but things like mapping systems, wiki platforms on the web, smart phones etc. these things. Easy to use technology when everything is broken down. 27. O: Did you use Ushahidi at all? 28. Sabine Wilke: No students but we were following it. I know it was on the ground here in Haiti but I don’t think CARE used it. 29. O: When you were following the social media from other agencies that you mentioned, what kind of information that you find useful that they were given?

 

Appendix 44     30. Sabine Wilke: It just tends to be a little bit quicker than going to the website every so often to check up on information. So they would basically put a link on twitter to their latest situation report. And in emergencies when NGOs are always waiting for are the so-called sit reps or situation reports. OCHA does sit reps but also CARE does sit reps and basically tells you what the situation is, what is needed, and what is the response. So these are the things you need to know in the first couple of days and weeks besides us as communications people we also need photos and quotes etc. but I guess, that is what I drew from these channels. There were also a couple of aftershocks a few days after the earthquake so it was good to get that information quickly and then we could just call up in Haiti and see if CARE would be quickly to call the Secretariat to say we have an aftershock that everyone’s fine. But every couple of minutes I’d see it again on alert maps or on Reuters or whatever. 31. O: So how would these major NGOs redirect you to their situation reports? was it a link to their webpage? 32. Sabine Wilke: OCHA Redirects to their website and I don’t think they’re even public on the website I know that CARE’s sit reps are not made public because there is also internal information such as contact numbers details, strategic things that are just not interesting or or should not be brought to the public at that point. So internally we would just take out that information but OCHA coasts that information on the web. However, we also get those reports through CARE Geneva. They gather all the information from all the different players and then just send it out to us CARE members. 33. O: How long have you been working in this disaster management communication and with CARE doing this work? 34. Sabine Wilke: I have been in CARE a little bit more over two years, I started in 2009, I used to work for the German development organization GTZ. But it was for long-term development so I can scare is my first disaster management organization and Haiti was our first big disaster before that we were in Sri Lanka Haiti was her first big disaster. CARE is also a development agency were also trying to do long-term development programs, but we tend to be drawn back into emergencies over time because there are so many emergencies going on right now. And I think the general audience also gets tired of hearing about natural disasters with every other disaster they get bored of that information. Haiti is not forgotten but after the one-year mark basically what NGO said is that our oneyear mark is our last chance to get any type of message any type of advocacy out there because after that nobody’s going to care for the 1 ½ year-mark or for the two-year mark people are very frustrated and there can be okay the money has not been spent, things are not moving. So you always have to speak of interest after an emergency where everyone wants to know what’s going on the interest goes down really quickly. We’ve seen with Pakistan than one-year mark is coming up in August but, it might also be crowded out by other things, by other disasters.

 

Appendix 45     35. O: for the time you have been in CARE, have you seen any change in the way that communication is distributed is produced is taken in and have you seen that in part because of social media? 36. Sabine Wilke: I think that all CARE members there is a constant effort to improve our Internet-based communications systems so we would always come up with different channels and ideas to improve our Internet-based practitioners or improve our blogs or starting a YouTube channel etc. I think these things have definitely been taken into consideration things are moving. We can also take the example of other NGOs were some doing better with social media others are not doing so good with social media so I guess were on the track their. But, I don’t think it’s going to be less I think it’s going to become more important. But then again we also see if you run a commercial on TV for example you do a survey about how many people don’t careetc. basically after TV commercial lease ratings shoot up enormously which shows you that traditional media channels such as TV or radio or even newspaper are still important so we have to focus on both. Because social media only reaches a certain audience and I know that even my private circle uses it sometimes but we grow tired of it as well if you have 1 million friends Facebook friends want to look at CARE’s up to date status when you have 2 million friends that you don’t know about for the last five years they may have more interesting things to say than: here’s a new press release on Japan or see this picture gallery on Haiti. So I think we need to find of our niche in this very very crowded environment.

 

Appendix 46    

VII.

Interview: Eric Hersman
Ushahidi Co-Founder 11-04-2011 Face to Face / Video Recorded

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: can you tell me what Ushahidi does, and little bit about what you do? 2. Eric Hersman: My name is Eric Hersmann, of I’m one of the co-founders of Ushahidi. Ushahidi is a platform of software platform used for crowd sourcing of information and visualizing it. So what we do most of the time is aggregate different type of information like SMS, e-mail or web-based; or they could be twitter, there are different ways to get those channels or news feeds or whatever it is. We try to get those feeds together and we try to visualize all of them as close to real time as we can on map. 3. O: How much does social media play a role? 4. Eric Hersman: Our platform is social media in a way. Ushahidi itself has been deployed as a social media so that is what it is. The use of the twitters and the Facebooks of the world are integrated as well. So twitter is automatically integrated; all you have to do if you have a hash tag that you were following you can put those in. However, what we are doing because of disaster or crisis types of events you have a massive influx of data and the problem is that it’s hard to make sense of it. So SwiftRiver is our project around that and one of the tools that we built out of the SwiftRiver platform is called sweeper. That brings a lot of data at one time and it applies value to it. So, in the case of Japan, recently, where we had to kind of tap into different things: twitter or Google News or different types of feeds or just massive amounts of information. Then we had to do some translation of that information in real time using Google translate or Google’s language detection API’s. We had to get white listed because we had to hit the tab every hour. So we were seeing 20,000 data points coming in from social media and news media combined every hour. No human can make sense of this so we have algorithms to tell us and process that information and tell us what is duplicate, where did it come from, what’s the location, how relevant is it. We try and get some kind of score out of that and then put that in front of humans who then do another level of filtering before it shows up in Ushahidi. So there is this game that we have to play where we’re trying to make sense of a lot of information in a very short amount of time so that it is still relevant to those that are going to be using it, that’s the other side of the equation. So you have been able to collect this information, you map it, now look at it and draw the lines between information that you have received and make sense of map, set timelines, whatever. Then putting it out to the people who need it and in a way  

Appendix 47     so that they can take it as a ticket. So they can take care of a certain issue or it’s just a general information news stream. It is very important because at the end of the day the system is only as good as the response from it. Of course, this is speaking about the Ushahidi in terms of crisis disasters. But, of course, it has other uses as well but in this kind of situation you really need the incentive for the people to use it and send information into it so that they can help. 5. O: Have you heard from disaster management organizations and how they are using Ushahidi? 6. Eric Hersman: yes we have that you should probably get that information from Patrick Meier because he’s the one that is organizing that. 7. O: when you think in terms of change and disaster management or changes that have developed through social media? 8. Eric Hersman: Crisis and disasters is the reason why Ushahidi ever came to be in Kenya 2008. Because the pattern we saw before then and we still see it today is that it’s mostly top-down information. It’s either big media government or it’s large UN type organizations telling you what’s going on. The idea behind Ushahidi is the way information flows in the world. So that through social media there is bottom-up information that can then be used to augment that other information. It is not a replacement of information it just adds to it, so that you have more contacts and you have a better understanding of what’s going on. What we’ve seen is that ever since about Haiti, and then onwards until now. So from January 2010 until now we’ve seen that the big organizations, be they government, be they big UN or media type organizations they all now look at social media a lot differently in crisis and disasters. Now they have to pay attention and they realize why so in many ways a lot of what we set out to do three years ago is now coming into fruition. That shift is happening and ordinary people’s voices are heard and the better policy is taken over what’s actually happening on the ground. 9. O: How do you evaluate the accuracy that you getting from the people on the ground? 10. Eric Hersman: it depends on who is administrating the system because anybody can deploy it because it’s an open software program. Generally it’s installed through teams; sometimes volunteers, sometimes it’s paid staff who sit there and go through the information as it comes in. If it’s a lot of volume of data, like Japan, you have to use machines, you have no way around it at least at s first level filter. But, the second level of filter, no matter if you’re doing a big deployment or not, you need people with eyeballs on it to look at the information and validate it if it looks like something they need to verify with the person. Then they have to get on the phone just like you would in any other form of media: telephone, check sources, make sure that what you’re saying is true. Libya is a good example because their crisis map is done by adding 400 or 500 volunteers and UN staff and are dealing with a very heavy subject matter. They have to do a lot of verification on so it takes a different form than Japan or New Zealand or Australia did.

 

Appendix 48     11. O: Is language is a big barrier or is that not an issue with technology? 12. Eric Hersman: it depends on the language we did set up a system called Tafsiri that is an easy translation platform where anybody can come in and translate the static content of Ushahidi deployments to their own language. I think it’s available in 12 or 13 languages right now. For example, Japan did their own translation using that Tafcity tool and it took just two or three days so it can be done relatively quickly but it does need a dedicated team of volunteers to get it up. Same thing happened in Haiti, same thing happened in Bangladesh and different other places around the world. 13. O: what kind of challenges juicy for social media being used in disaster management? 14. Eric Hersman: We’re kind of on the front edge of it right now. We are still trying to figure out what we know and what we don’t know. What I will say is that one of the biggest challenges is… well there are a couple of challenges: one of them is dealing with volume, the other is verification and the last one is figuring out where it fits into the overall basket of information tools; because this is just one tool. Some people try to find a silver bullet and it’s not bad either. It’s just one tool among many that you can use to make sense of information. So that last part is very important because in a crisis somebody is already trained to use certain tools. So, how do they take this other type of information? You have to make it very simple to work into their workflow and crisis responders need a way to gather that information in a way that is meaningful and that they can do something about it right away. 15. O: what do you see in the future? 16. Eric Hersman: Ushahidi is a disruptive organization in our personalities in the organization’s culture. So we try and look out there and see where the most inefficiencies are in the system and we try and disrupt those and come up with efficient technology answers to do them. One of the biggest inefficiencies that we saw was around how to handle the spike in information when there is a crisis, then SwiftRiver came out of that. Then the other inefficiency we saw was that even with Uhahidi most people could not deploy it on their own, so we developed crowdmap. So for people that can at least get on and have a computer access and set this up and even if their community doesn’t have or doesn’t know how to use technology; it doesn’t matter. So lowering the barriers of entry people who want to use the technology but don’t have the technical climate to set up a server. 17. O: Where does Ushahidi play a bigger role in disaster management? 18. Eric Hersman: It depends on who is acting people working with the tool can use it at any phase in disaster management.

 

Appendix 49    

VIII.

Interview: Patrick Meier
Ushahidi Director of Crisis Mapping 14-04-2011 Skype

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: The first thing that I would like to know is a little bit about what you do. I know that you worked with the UN in disaster management so can talk a little bit about that and what you’re doing now with Ushahidi and crisismappers. 2. Patrick Meier: My background was in the early warning conflict prevention, space several years back and working as a consultant about space with the UN and other organizations. Then I started looking into what the folks in the disaster management field were doing and one thing that struck me is that they were earlier adopters of technology then we were in the conflict prevention emergency phase. That got me very intrigued and in a way you can say that I’ve spent the past three years trying to bridge the gap between conflict emergency types community with the technology community. That is what I’m continuing to do now with Ushahidi. Now working for technology group, a nonprofit technology company, but it is one that has a very strong focus on software development and it’s interesting to be just on the other side of that experiencing what that’s like. 3. O: How do you see that social media or networks are developing in the disaster management community? 4. Patrick Meier: I think the disaster management community is catching up but that doesn’t mean that they’re all on top of things or that they are ahead of the curve. But, what’s been really interesting for me over the past six months or so is the interest to start addressing some of the opportunities that social media provide within the context of disaster response and so on. And, trying to proactively address the challenges with a problem-solving and not a defeatist attitude. Saying: “okay this is really something that’s useful” doesn’t mean that it is easy now. How we go about leveraging their value within social media for disaster response given the obvious opportunities and then the challenges that sometimes get in the way. 5. O: it’s interesting that you mentioned social media for disaster response. Do you think social media could have an opportunity in early warning mitigation or recovery phases of disaster management? 6. Patrick Meier: At the end of the day were talking about information and when were talking about early warning, early detection, early response and the only  

Appendix 50     way that you’re going to early detection is that if you’re monitoring information. I think that we all know that social media is a medium of information, from, obviously, different sources, like user generated content, but, ultimately user generated means people on the ground, sometimes, and people on the ground tend to act, sometimes, as human sensors which can provide for more rapid and widespread information on potential escalation that may be taking place. 7. O: Have you seen disaster management change over the years from when you started working until what you’re seeing now? 8. Patrick Meier: I like to think, and this is my own biased opinion; I’d like to think that we are entertaining or taking a different approach. I think this started in 2006 with the third international conference on early warning that took place in Bonn I believe and where the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the time, had commissioned a report called the global survey of early warning systems. This is an outcome of what happened in 2004 with the tsunami and so on. This was for me the first time, the first signs of a discourse beginning to change because we started in that report seeing people-centered early warning and then we saw literature in 2006 and 2007, periodical literature from the disaster centers, that was starting to look for a far more bottom-up approach to disaster early warning crisis and response. I think what social media has done is to give back even more credibility now, given that information is increasingly coming from people on the ground and user generated content. I think, or I would like to to think that we are starting to change a discourse with respect to the victims. Now we see that people do have agency and that we know that by definition. The first responders are not the search and rescue teams that fly in from Iceland 48 hours later; but, that they are the people on the ground. People do have agency, people do have capacity that are affected in different ways. Some are more vulnerable than others for political, economic or historical reasons. But, not an entire social system is affected in the same way; which means some parts of the social system are still functional and can actually act as a repairing dynamic of the parts that have been mostly damaged. So, I would like to think that this means that we are moving to a point where we see the public as part of the team from a disaster response perspective. 9. O: Do you think that even though there is more information out there more work is required from the part of the agencies? 10. Patrick Meier: gives me that the trick, and I may very well be wrong here, so there was a fascinating study that the guys of the Red Cross did. Which was commissioned last summer during their emergency data Summit in DC last year and a half dozen surveys and show something like 70% of people who post a need an urgent need during a crisis on a social media platform expected a response within an hour so people are starting to expected something on your Facebook wall or if they put something on twitter maybe even if they blog about something I don’t know that the response communities are completely on top of things and are monitoring social media looking for signs of needs and alerts and as SOS and so which is obviously not necessarily the case at least not across the board and I think that was partly a wake-up call as well for people and I think there’ll be actually initiative that is holy cow how are we going to deal with all

 

Appendix 51     of this? And the fact of the matter at the end of the day what this is the show is starting from 2006 if not earlier that hierarchical centralized top-down organizations are simply not be as adaptive in terms of near real-time changes in the environment and that is simply not at least from the perspective of organizational theory, something that makes sense. So what’s going to happen I think is going to be more decentralization or increasingly interface other communities that are less centralized that or people centered and that can react more quickly and by this I mean community emergency response teams unsure the idea has been around other countries for many many years since something that’s been taken more seriously than in the US but I think what I’m saying is that now as we have seen the difference in emergencies and crisis in the US local communities, neighbors, individuals on the ground after capacity and the catch is a question of identifying these people streamlining them streamlining the process professionalizing and to a certain extent connecting these people because the first responders are always the people who are ready on the ground. 11. O: Is language barrier a challenge to communicating through social media? 12. Patrick Meier: Yes I think that’s very much the case. But I think we’re also seeing better tools for real-time translations. What’s even better or more useful than just having translations is event data extraction; which is basically being able to look at text messages in a different language and being able to identify the verbs, the actors the place, time or the need and that doesn’t require 100% correct translation. It’s more of a keywords idea and I do think that the computational linguistics is catching up in a very big way. I don’t think it’s going to take some time as it is usual and it’s not so much about technology not being there but more about cultural changes within an organization to embrace something new. Some of the research that’s been going on in Stanford, when of my colleagues is really involved in the cutting edge stuff and that stuff is already possible. He’s already published some of those on computer journals showing that you can use a combination of natural language processing and artificial intelligence to really very accurately tag messages in different languages and dialects, at a rate that comparably is not higher than the respective accuracy of manual translations. So that’s one answer, the other part is what happened in Haiti with leveraging crowd sourced translations in times of need which we saw it happen, because 50,000 text messages got translated with an average turnaround of around 10 min. for text message so I think it is a challenge but it’s not an insurmountable challenge I think that some of the tools and some of the solutions are there they just haven’t been evenly distributed yet. 13. O: The other thing I was wondering, cause now we are discussing the challenges and one of them is that social media produces vast amounts of information, how are agencies sifting through all this information or this data to evaluate what information is most relevant? 14. Patrick Meier: So some NGO information management offices are asking for training in different countries abroad. Training on how to do social media monitoring and doing extracting meaningful, relevant content from that and ensure different groups goes about doing this in different ways. In terms of what we do is that we have a verification team, we have a social media monitoring

 

Appendix 52     team, and we have established workflows and protocols and so on; and we can get more specific on that but we can mention also SwiftRiver. SwiftRiver is a way to triangulate information so in terms of filtering that allows you to do with tools to identify whatever feeds or data streams are of interest to you or relevant. So this could be BBC news or blogs and twitter feeds YouTube videos and Flickr and so on and then basically the user identify the feeds from which she or he wants to correct information and then as the information starts coming, you have the opportunity of scoring if you like every piece of information that comes in. And a lot of the information that usually comes in as a sentence or a few sentences where the keywords have been extracted, the actors, the time, the place action and with each piece of information the user is able to score that particular piece of information as as either being relevant or irrelevant and accurate or inaccurate. The more you score this incoming units of information from these different sources the more the system learns about your presence and further filters. This stream provides you so if you treat a piece of information as irrelevant the next time something similar comes up with similar keywords the system will basically say no I am not going to push that up onto your profile because this is something that has already been marked as irrelevant or inaccurate. So the filtering part is also where you have the human interaction and basically teaching the system about what you’re specifically looking for and at the same time with the system also allows you to do this to cluster reports that describe the identical or similar event. The best way to think about that is from the Google News webpage where you have all articles listed and from for every article you have 220 or 400 other articles about this particular event from dozens of different other sources across the path of a day or two that allows you to cluster, and what we do with that SwiftRiver is along those same lines but we put it on steroids. Because we don’t limit ourselves only to mainstream media were pulling in social media content and you have the opportunity to pulling text messages from the ground as well is e-mail and YouTube video pictures and stuff and so that second phase of swift rivers to cluster all this evidence together so that you can start triangulating systems. So if there are seven different tweets from seven different users talking about the same event plus two text messages, one picture and a BBC News article, chances are this event actually happened and what that particular space or component of the SwiftRiver application does is then provide a probability score moving beyond the question of if it’s true or false goes into being a probability. So basically, what SwiftRiver allows you to ask is what is the probability of this event that’s just apparently happened as it’s being reported by a few different sources across the different media. Has actually taken place? So that’s practically in a nutshell what SwiftRiver does and it’s hoping to become and we are well on our way we still have some way to go still a work in progress but that’s the idea. 15. O: how you evaluate the accuracy and trustworthiness of the information that you receive through social media? 16. Patrick Meier: there are a couple of different metrics. One of the things you can do as your listing the sources that he wants with River to acknowledge or to filter you can also check each of these as trusted and if you know a particular twitter user for the most part reports are accurate information and so on just like any other coverage with identifying for example 150 twitters users inside Libya

 

Appendix 53     the vast majority of the time were spot on with information. You can then say or add that person’s twitter feed to your list of market as trusted what that will us do is add a weight to that person’s reporting when the triangulation happens. So they will get extra points in their rating and probability score if that comes from them. But in a way it’s a lot simpler than one would envisage. It goes back to the idea that if you have two witnesses, two witnesses are better than one. So if you have two text messages that’s better than just having one text message from one source. If you start having more witnesses across different media, that further increases the probability that that the individuals reporting are actually from independent witnesses to the event and, of course, once SwiftRiver adds the pictures and videos providing another source of evidence then that really increases the score. So really it’s nothing too fancy now, it’s just basic linear scoring for now. We will have to see later between portraying some kind of statistic or any other kinds of models and some artificial intelligence to do this in a perhaps more sophisticated way but I don’t think we are there yet. It’s pretty much exploratory lab type experiments. 17. O: yeah but how can you’ll generally evaluate accuracy and trustworthiness of information and are there any other challenges that we see from getting information out of social media? 18. Patrick Meier: there are definitely many challenges. What happens is that people leave a trace with digital technology people leave a trace. It basically allows you to do detective work look at a person’s tweets for the past 10 days or what have you and look for inconsistencies, and contradictions and so on. You can find one or more Twitter users reporting on the same event and you start, in a way you starts developing a relationship with them on twitter and just getting to know them and so on. And is pretty much the same argument that people were having in the early days of the blogosphere, people were freaking out, people were saying it is impossible, to the beach were of information, it cannot be trustworthy at all,, it’s just nonsense and so on. Now we know that clearly many many bloggers have risen to a level of reputation that’s comparable with other mainstream news sources, some have built a dependable brand you like. That a lot of what decent bloggers have going for them. Sometimes the only thing is if it’s about the reputation, they stay in business if the reputation stays high and their Internet integrity is high. In some way there are people that care about that in the Twitter sphere will absolutely follow. I think there is a direct analogy with that. I think that even if we look at this social media space as something totally new it doesn’t mean that we are absolutely hopelessly in a situation where we can’t do anything about it with a number of businesses and organizations do. There are ways and I think that it is important to know that journalists have been doing this for decades and decades and decades. That goes to the heart of what makes a good journalist the ability to filter fact from fiction, the ability to follow up on sources, to ask questions to triangulate, to look for alternative points of view, to do some more investigative research, and so on. The same goes for the human rights practitioners one of the reasons and one of the ways that human rights practitioners analysis holds credibility in the ICC or any other court is if there methods for information collection and validation are of the highest standards. Now, there’s a lot of knowledge and a lot of skills that have been developed in both journalism and the human rights field, that are still

 

Appendix 54     valid for the social media space. Granted the main difference in terms of variables is the time aspect perhaps and the fact that there are more voices. But, that doesn’t mean it’s that all that knowledge gets chucked out the window. One of the things that Egyptian users used with Ushahidi for the map we created for Egypt in November and December around the parliamentary elections we worked with the seasoned journalist from Reuters, who had 20 or so years of experience. She’s the one who said all right, here are the guidelines on how and when we would label information is verified. And they were able to verify more than 90% of the content, they received more than 3000 individual reports. They were able to triangulate and validate all of it based on good journalism. 19. O: just needs to be more standards on the Internet? 20. Patrick Meier: of today yes but I’m always a little skeptical about standards. It’s not that I don’t think they’re a good idea that I don’t think the can gather traction. The UN and other communities have been trying to impose or or encourage or welcome war standardization in terms of communication and so on. I just think that’s hard to do this kind of stuff top-down. I’m not an expert in this area, in terms of standardization and how to get traction and so. I just seen a number of attempts. The not to come across as to bias, there are definitely issues with the social media world in terms of being joined from content from this particular space cause at the end of the day somebody is hell-bent on manipulating, disseminating, sabotaging and information management platform or what have you, they will. If they have the time and they have the resources; then sure enough they will hack it they will do what they need to do to throw off, through the system off, throw the crisis map off. This idea of trying to triangulate information through manual strategies or drawing on more automated sophisticated methods are all fine and well but by no means it’s a silver bullet. If you’re doing kind of like be open crowd sourcing approach there is a trade-off between the volume and the potential reliability of the information. Now the thing is in case of crisis information is perishable, so there really is a trade-off. Two days later a tweet will not be valuable regardless of whether it was accurate or not. I don’t think we have all the answers on this. 21. O: In your opinion what is social media and is Ushahidi a social media? 22. Patrick Meier: Social media for me is user generated content across multiple platforms within an ecosystem. For me it’s the idea of the read-write-Web idea. It’s not controlled by the few it’s people having more voices, social media is media democratized. What Ushahidi is a collection and a filtered, mapped layer of information drawn from the social media space; which in turn makes it another node within the information ecosystem. Quite possibly if it gets taken by another platform and mashed together with something else and so on. But ultimately I believe the Ushahidi platform is an information processing and an information and visualization tool whether that information comes from the social media space or comes from mainstream media, or comes from official reporters on the ground, or humanitarian staff when world food program is another thing. It’s the channel rather than the media that can be debated.

 

Appendix 55     23. O: how do you think humanitarian aid community can use social media that are for improving their operations after a disaster strikes? 24. Patrick Meier: when they need to do to leverage social media is taking calculated risks, try something new try something on a small scale and see how it works. A lot of what is happening now is learning by doing there are no textbooks in this stuff because it’s quite new and it’s moving so quickly, there are new dynamics new technologies, new ways to share information things are just building up an accelerating. It’s not going to help to spend three years doing a Masters degree on what to do the only way is to jump in the water in a calculated and responsible way and trying things out and experiment. 25. O: is there anything else you would like to add? 26. Patrick Meier: I think I’ve covered my back in terms of saying information can be manipulated but also used for good canals that covers that angle and I think that’s basically it.

 

Appendix 56    

IX.

Interview: Peter Stumpf
UN-Spider IT 24-03-2011 Face to Face / Video Recorded

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: first I would like to know what you do and little background about your job here at UN SPIDER? 2. Peter Stumpf: I’m Peter Stumpf, I am German, I am an associate expert assigned by the German government here since 2 ½ years hopefully a couple more years to come and I am working in the field of IT. Coming from the hardware side, doing maintenance, infrastructure set up for network issues I’m helping with software, support, but the main thing is developing the UN SPIDER knowledge portal. That includes plenty of functionality, it was my decision to go for a content management system to develop that further implement new functionality, implement the design so doing all the software development parts. Besides that, I’m always the one who gets asked about feasibility and further projects further divisions of what the portal can do. And of course am available for any questions from colleagues when it comes to anything IT. 3. O: What social media are the most used in disaster management? So what mechanisms or what platform for the most used today? 4. Peter Stumpf: I think today the most uses the Twitter service. Twitter is very fast you don’t need to know a lot about the mechanism you just posterior information so that a broad mass can see it or can read its then spread it throughout the network. There are other tools just coming out more and more, which are also used by global players for example Google or using more and more the Ushahidi thing. Which are platforms that are still very easy to use but you need more than just an iPhone, you need at least a computer to display the information instead of just using the mobile phone and just sending a text message to a twitter service where the SMS message is then transported to the network. So you twitter is the more likely tool to use. 5. O: How is it being used? 6. Peter Stumpf: Some use it automatically, for example, USG-DAC or G-DAC when there is a disaster, for example, an earthquake. Those tools are fed automatically by the respective tools that have honor their side. So though the first message just appears in this spread around the net and people pick it up and forward it to their followers. So that’s very fast following. Looking into the Japan earthquake, it was made live very soon. I could see the last people  

Appendix 57     twittering big earthquake in Japan. So it’s really tedious the hall the big things going on develop. It’s like somebody shouting in the box among many other people spreading the message. 7. O: leave it will become a requirement for disaster management agencies or institutions to use and deploy social media efforts? 8. Peter Stumpf: I think it’s a recommendation to also use it. 9. O: also besides what? 10. Peter Stumpf: the problem with a tool like Twitter is for example, is that it’s not really directed to a specific target group that everybody can read it is fine. But to work on a disaster and really manage it also takes direct contact. So I can’t answer your question with the concrete yes, absolutely. Because you just need personal contact so you can really work on subjects and not just talk in 140 character sentences. That’s for example with twitter. Other social media platforms like Skype for example make it more possible because you are able to directly communicate with each other. But in the end the most important thing is that you have the direct contact to your core group. To some parts of your network, not necessarily to all the network button to the relevant contacts. For example, I don’t need flood experts when there is an earthquake. 11. O: regarding the communication aspect of pushing information into the web do you think social media is an important tool for disaster management? 12. Peter Stumpf: I think twitter is more used now because the information coming from traditional media is that twitter is exploding with so many people pushing information. But for our part I don’t see, for example, twitter the answer to really work. It’s more for pushing out information to a broader community and blessed to really help people working on the field and working on the ground. This part is still being done by e-mail, direct contact. We were also talking to IAEA the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna because they were sitting next to each other and enter that was the direct personal contact weaving using social media to get to them we use the gold old telephone. The other part using twitter as a social media tool and also Facebook is more about spreading what is your SPIDER doing. When there is a big disaster and the media attention is pretty high, then people start following us and we were doing, what we are tweeting and our information because we have a nice list of all the satellites and no one else had. But in the end it was some kind of advertising what we were doing and we really don’t see that directly helping somebody that’s been affected by the disaster. 13. O: Tell us a little bit about the experience with using social media during the Japan disaster? Because I understand that UN SPIDER really began to use social media during this time and it saw a big increase in the number of followers and people paying attention to UN SPIDER. So can you tell us a little bit about that? 14. Peter Stumpf: currently we have 420 followers on twitter, and Facebook we have 310 something like that. On Facebook the increase is not that rapid as it is

 

Appendix 58     on twitter, on twitter we got it would say 150 or 170 additional people who started following us, maybe more it was about 200 220 people who were following us after the Japan earthquake. But it’s also about using it not just sharing our own information but just about becoming active, re-tweeting, picking up information and redistributing it to our network. People started clicking on us clicking on our website and start to spread our news further into other networks. 15. O: how many people visited your website, knowledge quarterly during that time? 16. Peter Stumpf: I think within the first, let me think… The earthquake was on a Friday and on Monday morning we had 11,000 hits on one page on the www.un–SPIDER.org/japanpacific. So 11,000, and after, well every day there were some 4000 extra lives so it really was impressive to see how people came to the page and how quickly it rose. But again only to a specific point until the point where all the world already saw satellite imagery, because afterwards the market was full. No one was really that excited about seeing maps of the affected areas. And then also at that time it started to become quieter on the twitter site regarding searches for “satellite Japan.” 17. O: In which phase of disaster management do you think social media plays a bigger role? 18. Peter Stumpf: Well, in response because at that time information about the disaster spreads really fast through social media, through any other media coverage. So for that part it isn’t very interesting the quality of the information it’s only important to be informed quickly. For preparedness it might be interesting to use social media to start some exercises, to train to use social media tools to see how well they can play a role in disaster management. On some exercises a lot is being used like Facebook to just throw out information, Skype is being used again for directing contacts or real work stuff not just spreading information but just getting of knowledge of how to go on. Ushahidi may be interesting for recovery to see. Okay what kind of world do I still have? To start from there and use that infrastructure that is still available to the continual work. On that website you can also define, for example, a hospital as the next point to focus on so people start putting information for mitigation I don’t see how it directly influences. 19. O: In terms of your use of social media is a passive or active role? Do you put any more information or do you extract more information from social media what is your relationship with it, what is your goal? 20. Peter Stumpf: Well we just want to have more followers more people that read our information. In the beginning it’s all about reading, searching for information, searching for relevant people who were informing you about specific topics. But, when you put more effort in going into the social media arena then you start also realizing you can get a lot more if you are also active and that’s also part of our mandate, to disseminate information that we receive. When disseminate we also act as a broadcasting company as we put it out there.”

 

Appendix 59     21. O: so do you think social media has become a useful tool to do that? 22. Peter Stumpf: absolutely. 23. O: Does it make your work more challenging or doesn’t simplify? 24. Peter Stumpf: More challenging because I lost my focus in the past two weeks during the earthquake in Japan I was very interested myself in following social media community and started to also work in putting information in social media which is not part of my job description. But for the program in total it is a very good approach because you start small and using those social media tools, we have all heard of those one-hit wonders on YouTube for example and one day they are leaving a vast community of 10 million people that are watching. It’s just a big chance to your social media, it’s much more the chance to find relevant people like that then investing more time into some academic approach because academics are also reading twitter and other social media tools are out there and when you read such a long article where your organization has just mentioned on the small sentence it takes a lot more time to read that instead of just browsing twitter and looking with finding who has been talking about you. It’s so it is very helpful. 25. O: What kinds of things that you notice during the time that you were heavily using social media after the earthquake? What strikes as impressive or noteworthy? 26. Peter Stumpf: I started very early looking for specifically searching for the term “satellite in Japan” but there were only a few other people who also were looking for that after the earthquake and then I realized it’s picking up but no one really has it yet. That is when I noticed, Haiti, that is how we can help and how we can be involved here at UN-SPIDER. We can use our network, and that was also exactly the case when the Chinese came to us and said: hey we have prepared something already after two days. And for me it was most interesting to see the first satellite imagery of tsunami affected Japan and then also to disseminate it. This was very impressive how people than picked up that information and suddenly more people wanted to see more. So it grew, and then Google came up with other imagery and suddenly everybody wanted to see. Two days later, no one wanted to see. At that very beginning it’s most important that UN SPIDER acts like an information provider. Maybe only to say: hey we know all of those this and that guy or company who is actually working on imagery that still need two days to actually get it. 27. O: A lot of people say the disaster in Haiti was a turning point in terms of social media for disaster management. Was it because of what you saw in Haiti in regards to social media activity that you decided to use social media for this disaster in Japan or more using social media back then as well? 28. Peter Stumpf: at that time UN SPIDER was not that active in social media. We did have Facebook and Twitter, and we put information sometimes on our Facebook page and twitter. There was already big discussions running through

 

Appendix 60     the twitter network, but it was much more difficult to really get qualified information. Since Haiti is a poor country, and not many people have access to the Internet or axis to the smartphones, specifically smartphones, which are capable of taking pictures spreading the pictures for reading and sending out tweets. So for UN SPIDER it was still a different approach we really rather use our existing networks to provide information then actively using social media, besides our normal way of internal communication through Skype, but we were not that involve too much into that. So I would say comparing those two disasters between Haiti and Japan we made a major leaked towards getting to be more known by the broader community. And I’m sure that if we had used at least twitter in Haiti we would be much more advanced than we are now in regards to attention brought to our sites at the time of a disaster. So I see the potential in spreading the news, but as I said earlier a still don’t see those mass media social media tools asked the way really working it’s really more like broadcasting news. 29. O: You see any benefits and disaster management from disseminating news that you’re doing? The social media have any benefit on the ground for use? 30. Peter Stumpf: I think there is in the past day as I was looking for the term UN SPIDER the news and discussions and blogs, Gen. items in images and it was interesting to see where it was hidden in academic approaches. Different universities in Japan and other countries, and they all listed us very high up there as a resource for satellite imagery compilation. Google was promoting their stuff that we were the only ones who actually collected everything in one list. Many of those mapping, crisis mappers for example, they referenced us too. He liked our approach very much because they our actually the guys were doing products out of the imagery, or generating stuff which in the end helps people on the ground to work with the maps. So I really do think it was a good thing that we informed many people who then informed others and we have some compilations. 31. O: How do you sift through the information that you get from social media? You use any kind of mechanism to separate what’s reliable from what’s not useful at all? 32. Peter Stumpf: regarding twitter, rather more than Facebook where there’s a lot of uninteresting stuff. So most of the time I use twitter and look for the stuff which interest of the most, which is satellite imagery. I was looking for images of Japan and after a while when all the big news were broadcasting their stuff they started to send out their twitter alerts like New York Times or CNN but it was important to get away from the big broadcasters and look at how the people are being informed locally. I also use a lot of Google real-time currently it only searches through twitter but sometimes you also find some valuable information that where it’s very easy and very convenient to look. Sometimes it’s even better than using the twitter page because the twitter page has some caching an Google does have the capacity and the information. 33. O: About trustworthiness how do you evaluate that?

 

Appendix 61     34. Peter Stumpf: I built up quite a nice composition of people that UN SPIDER account is following an logging into the UN SPIDER twitter account just as your first level information from relevant organizations agencies, from people worth working in the field quite be directly working at Digital Globe, at satellite imagery providers. So you really need to be careful and just spreading out the news. We have very nice example, there was a map of possible radiation right after the first people started twittering: hey there might be a meltdown in Fukushima, and then there was a nice little map drawn out of how it would spread around the West Coast of the US. This map got a lot of attention and it was fantastic to see. It was well done and was nicely done, but it was a fake. When I found that map I looked for the creators, because it looked a bit suspicious and I was asking the guy who sent it to me where he had obtained that from. So, it’s important to have a qualified source before sending out that information to your network and often that is not done even by bigger agencies, news agencies. So you run through all the information and book what could be interesting and just out of the context you qualified because in the end you’re talking as the United Nations, and we can just post anything out. You’re not acting as yourself, who comments about your goldfish died because of the earthquake, your talking at the United Nations and I’m telling you that this map is real. So it’s really dangerous it would be really bad to make a mistake. 35. O: Speaking about, do you think that even though there is a lot of information being put out there in social media an obstacle for your work? 36. Peter Stumpf: not really because the social media aspect is not in my job description I to do it for fun. 37. O: That if it does become a requirement to use social media you think exemplifies work or is a more challenging to disseminate accurate information? 38. Peter Stumpf: it makes it different. If you’re working in the dissemination of information you already have your usual sources of information. Social media provides more sources of information that you have to monitor each day to see what’s new and just added to your list and compile it and send it out again. I don’t think it makes it more difficult or easier it’s all about your sources. You could easily just follow your usual sources without social media tools and most of the time it doesn’t change too much for yourself if you get to know different information within 30 seconds or 5 min. because after 30 seconds when you didn’t use social media tools others were using so the information is spread anyway and you would eventually get it just not as fast. 39. O: So now we can talk about changes in development and how social media has contributed to that. Have you seen any development or change in how disaster management is carried out because of new ICT? If so, how has it changed? 40. Peter Stumpf: Very easily huge data deposits so you can easily build up the service and let people upload gigabytes to terabytes of data to whatever incident. For example, the earthquake in Japan. In Japan almost everyone has a phone because it’s a techie society, people have cameras in their phone, or smart phone, or tablets whatever they have. And at least they have access to the

 

Appendix 62     Internet, and they have the option to take pictures and upload them. Compared to Haiti, compared to disasters before this approach to social media it took a long time to get the first information out of a disaster area. Due to the developments in IT it’s much easier now, in the past in the past years to really get better indepth information on specific events. This was only possible due to development in IT going to the cloud, going more into the telecommunication center, investing more to that technology. So definitely there’s a big change. 41. O: Have you noticed no other disaster management organizations using more social media than before? 42. Peter Stumpf: of course. GDEX using it a lot more pushing out information and the Red Cross is very actively using it and informing with social media tools their many people on the ground who are working on relief efforts and their target groups. I think the some of the new disaster management agencies exists because of social media. There are newspapers reporting about disasters and they collect information from the big pool of social media information. These newspapers are sent to the network under network consists of followers of the disaster management community. And this is a new development. 43. O: What would be the next step, Specifically for social media in disaster management? 44. Peter Stumpf: well it’s starting now with more in depth information provided by the availability a GPS and geolocation because that just gives the whole social media tools more value. Because if you just talk about the disaster nobody’s going to listen to the guy in Canada, or in Germany they prefer to listen to the guidance in the house that’s about to be destroyed by a tsunami. Social media lets people see the quality of the information and that’s very important. With all the volume of information on twitter and Facebook it’s important to see what information from their his quality information and in this regard there needs to be more development. 45. O: do you think standards should be created for this type of information? 46. Peter Stumpf: standards help, standards help a lot to also continue our standards in revision of the time, continued further thinking in development. 47. O: What kind of standards? 48. Peter Stumpf: well first of all, out of my perspective and standards in ICT that data is handled in a standardized way so that you can exchange between different systems. So that the data gives information on what the data is about and then their needs to be a way to qualify that should also be machine readable. 49. O: there anything else you’d like to add, do you think there is an important topic that we missed? We didn’t discuss language barrier, would you like to comment about that?

 

Appendix 63     50. Peter Stumpf: yes there was a barrier in Japan, because we were trying to get information from the area and people most likely tweeted a Japanese. It would be so cool to search English terms and for the IT, the background IT in software would be able to translate that into Japanese so that the huge amount of data generated from Japan could be available by searching English terms, maybe it would be translated into bad English but understandable. 51. O: You mentioned something about Google Chrome being able to do something similar? 52. Peter Stumpf: yet that’s an approach from Google when there is a language in a page is in Chinese than you can translate it into your language. Maybe Google is working on something like that. Actually there are some chat systems that can do that, then you type in your own language and is translated into the language of the receiver of the chat in real-time. So if you and I are chatting what you write in Spanish I read in German and what I write in German you read in Spanish. That’s already available in beta phase. And that would be very useful. 53. O: another topic was early warning what could be due to develop this in social media? 54. Peter Stumpf: Again with standards. Like those auto messages from services who register an earthquake to be able to just throw that information or that warning in the community.

 

Appendix 64    

X.

Interview: Jacqueline Tsuma
UN-Spider Web Developer 30-03-2011 Face to Face / Video Recorded

Organization Job Title Date of Interview Method

1. O: can you start by saying a little bit about what you do, which her area of expertise? 2. Jacqueline Tsuma: sure my name is Jacqueline Tsuma and I work for the UN SPIDER in web development for the knowledge portal and that entails a lot of programming in Drupal them things to do with GIS, just general features And a bit of social media as well. I do some things to do with the layout of the website and graphic foundations for the website and building functionality. Two key aspects of what I’m doing is to define the social aspects of the portal so trying to see in what ways when you talk about social media or online communities can plug into this portal would be hosted in this portal in the field of disaster management. It’s an element of my TOR because organizations are beginning to realize we need to serve as a hub for the key individuals and networks involved in disaster management efforts on the practitioner point of view and also for the role of end-users like NGOs, governments, country parties and different institutions. At this point it’s not yet defined, the sky is the limit but there’s a lot that can be done with that. To give you background of what I’ve done before my background is computer science, I am computer scientist and I’m winding down my Masters and actual resource management in Cologne University of applied sciences and I’ve always been interesting in the whole people aspect of technology. In our current times it’s really encompassed in social media. When you talk about social media it’s really about how people use technology to interact with each other and that for me has been an interesting topic. From way back when, might graduating project was actually a virtual environment for learning where people would walk to school rooms and use chat on the walls implemented on a web platform. So that was quite interesting for me. Since I’ve been involved in in the area of web development, web can be used to bring communities together currently I am working on development of community portal for youth organizations that I’ve been involved with in Kenya. 3. O: which social media and the use for your work? 4. Jacqueline Tsuma: I forgot to mention that I also worked for three years in UNCCD in the area of desertification is one of those slowly creeping disasters and some of my experience with them in using social media and now with UN SPIDER is that we mainly use social media for disseminating information to profile the content that you haven’t to use viral networking or viral like hurting  

Appendix 65     for posting information on the web and information on Facebook. I think the main two platforms are twitter and Facebook. 5. O: you use social media to receive information or is it just to post information? 6. Jacqueline Tsuma: yes actually yes we do. I think one of the reasons that some new things from the disaster in Japan in using, just using twitter for example. As I said I use twitter so I can set up a search, for a hash tag for disaster or Japan and it is all about reviewing the information provided from the people that come up different things. So, yeah, I haven’t used it that much because the academic uses do not compare to other web platforms that are disseminating information for user, a very specific user. Someone, like, a government official or someone who’s interested in monitoring and evaluating a disaster, how’s the drought in Ethiopia? Or anything else that’s going on so they would come and review the data. 7. O: How do you see social media providing aid or helping the disaster management community? 8. Jacqueline Tsuma: I must say that when it comes to combining social media and disaster management it’s like I’m a bit new with the field. I haven’t used it on a very deep level. The extent of things like how all crowd sourcing are being used by Ushahidi or any other organization it presents one of the ways to use it for gathering information and trying to use it to filter out some of the key things that need to be addressed and to point the disaster response team to the relevant locations. I think it also comes with its limitations, I could also add here that my husband he works in conflict prevention and in the term of man-made disasters they are also looking as a way to look at it as an early warning, like social media and crowd sourcing as early warning tool rather than a response to world so that one can track indicators before conflict arises before conflict becomes a crisis. Right now the only indicators that are being tracked are the ones after a conflict has unfolded and is headed towards a crisis level. So there are some very useful things. And then how you see how social media is evolving every day. 9. O: that’s very interesting, do you see social media playing a part in early warning for natural disasters instead of conflict? 10. Jacqueline Tsuma: when it comes to natural disasters is quite difficult because your timeline for early warning and a pre-build up to the disaster is not very long. You don’t have a lot of room to work with. Not unless it’s the chronic disasters that go on and on and on like the drought in Ethiopia. I think that using social media for natural disaster prevention could be implemented if one built various sensors into devices that can capture relevant indicators. If you know that temperature is an indicator and high temperatures points towards a certain natural disaster coming up, perhaps someone being in a remote location and being able to tell both collect and transmit data through social media then it can actually serve towards early warning. Then you begin with issues about using it for monitory and and maintain, evaluation and I guess that’s more in the field of participatory monitoring. But, in social media it’s that it’s generated by people, it’s laymen and it’s people where they are sending out information to the world.

 

Appendix 66     So it’s possible, with phones nowadays and technology maybe there’s been a be a phone that can actually pick up and transmit such information, environmental information. There is a university in the US that did a little bit of work in this, I can’t remember the name. 11. O: So in which phased you think social media plays a bigger role? 12. Jacqueline Tsuma: speaking about natural disasters, in contrast with man-made disasters it can serve as a tool for raising awareness and prevention to build awareness on what people are doing so that a situation is not exacerbated to become a disaster. But in the case of natural disaster I think pretty much, at least in the past couple of years I’ve seen a lot of use in response, disaster response. I don’t think I’ve seen it in mitigation that much. But for mobile and remote technologies, mitigation to give feedback on the ongoing reconstruction and everything so it can lead mitigation efforts to really be targeted when you feature disasters. But I think it’s mostly response. 13. O: Can you explain in what ways it’s being used in response? 14. Jacqueline Tsuma: in addition to platforms like Ushahidi, which has been able to gather large amounts of information in a really short time. Because using people in their natural locations to send information to one central data bank and then process it and make it available for decision-makers and people responsible for response teams. But I think one way that it’s being used is to publicize, for example in a village where people can send text and say: oh this is happening. Person-to-person information. The standard ways in response. One thing that I’ve realized as well is that the reach it has is limited to the place where there’s technology or not that can support this information sharing between different people. So a lot of that obviously happens in cities or modern areas and so not so much in the rural parts. 15. O: How do you sift through information provided by social media, to validate the accuracy or trustworthiness of information? 16. Jacqueline Tsuma: personally I haven’t been involved in collecting information or validating it from the field apart from what’s available from secondary sources like new sites and different things. So, most times looking at our current situation with the tsunami a lot of information and validation happened by looking at the source and being able to say okay that is trustworthy source. Things like that we can distribute, from people that fact check their story and put this up. Otherwise we would not put it up if it wasn’t corrected. I think in instances where it’s not true or the source is questionable we don’t make it available to the readers. 17. O: was this the first time that you started actively using social media for disaster management through the earthquake in Japan? 18. Jacqueline Tsuma: well I think it depends on the nature of the disaster in the UN CCD they deal with disasters that develop over a long period of time months or years like desertification. So by the time that alarms have been raised it’s all

 

Appendix 67     there in the news. So I think this is the first time when that acute need for information, then yes it was the first time I saw it. In CCD it would normally be reports on researchers or when maybe certain organizations or research institutions release communiqués about destruction going on, or call for help. Sold before I never used it as something where I needed information quickly I think that’s a different. 19. O: Is there anything that you saw from this disaster that struck by something impressive or that you did not know before in terms of technology or how it is being used by people in a disaster situation? 20. Jacqueline Tsuma: actually I did not know about the comparison between the information that was being brought in after the Haiti earthquake in what’s being brought in now in Japan. I was not aware of these differences because I started working here a few months ago. And what I learned is that after this Japan disaster there was a lot more information available a lot quicker and it’s because of their infrastructure and technology. So it at once tells me that certain benefits of technology and social media cannot be gained by certain developing countries or regions that don’t have a sustainable infrastructure. For example, I’m sure a lot of population in Japan had access to mobile technology that allows you instant YouTube uploading from their phone, or twitter, or a lot more. So that was interesting to see the discrepancies in the fact that it all comes down to technology in the sense. 21. O: You think using social media is more challenging or does it make work easier? 22. Jacqueline Tsuma: I think it has its pros and its cons but the pros outweigh the cons in that it’s more advantageous to have more information in a critical situation than having less. It takes time to sift through that information and really find out what’s useful but at the same time that is our job and we will spend time doing what needs to be done. So I find that it’s useful, I also find that whoever is shifting needs to be really focused because it’s very easy to get sidetracked by the overflow of information that can also be a negative. 23. O: in which ways can that be a negative? 24. Jacqueline Tsuma: when you have a lot of information you can either focus so much on details that you might miss part of information that is important. When you try to juggle it all you either focus too much on the details and miss the big picture or you do see the big picture but you miss the opportunities where interventions can be made in regard to our mandate. 25. O: Have you seen big changes in how you do your work and have those changes have to do with ICT’s that are now available? 26. Jacqueline Tsuma: yes, I think there have been. I will talk mainly from the side of information systems because that’s my field of the web making information available. One of it is the level of interaction with users and end users because the difference I’ve seen is that a lot of organizations even when I left UNCCD I

 

Appendix 68     realized they get more interested in the engagement with their users such that it’s not just one way anymore it’s not broke sure sites were all you’re doing is information but you’re also seeking for feedback and have people forward your information, market your content as they chat with family and friends and things like that. I think in addition there is more awareness of the geographical information systems and being able to visualize the risks that different areas can have or visualize what has happened after the disaster has occurred. Visualize maps of what has happened and risks and all kinds of disasters and different things, because then people are able to get more global outlook. I think those are the main things I can see in the past couple years. It could be also about UN SPIDER being more focused on GIS. 27. O: you mentioned something about this but do you think there’s more interaction with users than before how is this done and I do think that benefits disaster management process? 28. Jacqueline Tsuma: there’s more interaction with users and movie move away from experts as the source of all information. So now people are looking more at the laymen and crowd sourcing. Right now it’s such a networked world really everyone has lots of information it’s almost like the model of supercomputers way back when before computer science with first invented. You have supercomputers that would fill an entire floor for example made up of tiny computers to allow it to have more power. And now technology itself has shrunk and you have so much power in the small space your servers don’t have to be big anymore and in a similar way I see that organizations are not the same. The don’t have to have a huge building filled with experts and researchers and everything we have a globe at our disposal a population span across the globe and the eyes different people can contribute by sending in the data and analyzing documents. Even though at the end of the day you have to verify the validity of the information the output is also higher so organizations are a bit more open to hearing from end users or readers. 29. O: How do you see it developing in the future, the use of social media and disaster management? 30. Jacqueline Tsuma: as it grows and becomes more used it might develop some standards I also see it already with websites like crisis mappers or Uhahidi. Move right now is trying to partner instead of reinventing the wheel. For example, all this information is open it’s not private information is being made available to users so perhaps it needs to have some guidelines. You seat free and open software has its own guidelines, includes a license or GPL license or things like that. So, perhaps for social media in an area of disasters management that may be a way to go to really make sure the key things are not being passed away. You get the feeling that in a couple years the landscape might be so different you have new ways of using social media coming up all the time new ways for users to interact and with this constantly changing standards and policies can sometimes make things less dynamic so maybe just a balance of things is needed. So maybe some of these platforms can provide a standards or can have other platforms build off of them. But I think there’s too many things to consider in that because organizations also like to do their own thing and have

 

Appendix 69     their own policies and regulations but also have the limelight. It also happens a lot with open source. It’s always a trick. 31. O: we thank you do you think I missed anything do want to comment on anything? 32. Jacqueline Tsuma: I think you covered everything despite it being a wide topic.                                                                          

 

Appendix 70      

XI.
 

Consent Form

Hochschule  Bonn-­‐Rhein-­‐Sieg  /  DW-­‐Akademie   Studiengang  International  Media  Studies  (M.A)   Oscar  Schlenker     Questionnaire  for  Thesis  research   A  help  or  a  hindrance?  The  role  of  social  media  in  natural  disaster  management    

Interview  Consent  Form  

  Name:   Surname:   Organization:   Job  title/  Function/  Position:   Can  your  name  be  mentioned  in  the  thesis?  (Y/N):   Can  your  position  or  title  be  mentioned  in  the  thesis?  (Y/N):   Can  your  answers  be  quoted  directly  in  the  thesis?  (Y/N):   Do  you  agree  with  being  filmed/  recorded  for  the  thesis?  (Y/N):     If  you  want  to  receive  a  copy  of  the  final  dissertation,  please  enter  a  contact   address  here:           -­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐             -­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐-­‐                            Signature                                  Date       The  use  of  any  recording  will  be  used  for  academic  purposes  only.  It  will  not  be   distributed,  published  or  uploaded  to  the  Internet.    

       

Appendix 71    

XII.

Acknowledgments
  I would like to thank all the people that supported me throughout this study. In particular, the UN-SPIDER team that inspired me to explore this topic through their dedication for disaster management. Additionally, I am grateful for the time I was given by the interview partners that participated in my research. I’m deeply thankful to my advisers, Dr. Katja Schupp and Dr. Irene Quaile for their knowledge and their help throughout this process. I am most thankful to the International Media Studies program and Dr. Cristoph Schmidt for making this study possible. I am also thankful to the directors and representatives from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, the Deutsche Welle Akademie, the Hochschule BonnRhein-Sieg, Universität Bonn and the Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe. Finally, I’d like to thank my family, friends and colleagues who encouraged and guided me with positive reinforcements along the way. Thank you all!   Oscar  Rafael  Schlenker  Balza                                        

Appendix 72    

XIII.

Affidavit / Eidesstattliche Erklärung

I herewith declare that the present thesis is a product of my own work and I used no published or unpublished sources and aids other than those indicated. All sentences or parts of sentences that have been quoted literally or analogously have been identified as quotations. This thesis has not previously been submitted either in whole or part to another examination board. Hiermit versichere ich, dass ich die Hausarbeit selbstständig verfasst und keine anderen als die angegebenen Quellen und Hilfsmittel benutzt habe, alle Ausführungen, die anderen Schriften wörtlich oder sinngemäß entnommen wurden, kenntlich gemacht sind und die Arbeit in gleicher oder ähnlicher Fassung noch nicht Bestandteil einer Studien- oder Prüfungsleistung war.

 

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