Tag Archives: research

Guest blog post: Dr Axel Bruns – social media and emergencies

From the Queensland floods to the Christchurch earthquake and the tsunami in Japan, the major disasters which we’ve already experienced during these first few months of 2011 have already demonstrated that social media has now found a place in emergency management. Social media is not replacing existing media, of course, but providing an important additional channel both for sharing information about the crisis itself, as well as for gathering first-hand information from those directly affected by the it. Managed appropriately, social media can become an important tool for emergency authorities and local residents alike.

In the Mapping Online Publics research project at Queensland University of Technology, we’re interested in the use of social media (including blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr) by Australians in general, and during acute events in particular. Based in Brisbane, we’ve experienced first-hand the role of Twitter and Facebook during the recent floods in Queensland, and the excellent use made of those tools by the Queensland Police Service in particular, and we’ve continued to track the role of Twitter in Christchurch and Japan as well as in other emergency situations.

To do so, we’ve also developed a range of innovative new research methods for tracking, capturing, and analysing social media activities around specific events and issues, and we’re working with a number of national and international partners to further develop and apply these methodologies. Already, we’re able to track the evolution of crisis events on Twitter on an almost real-time basis, and we’re looking to apply those insights in working with emergency authorities to further enhance their strategies for using social media platforms as part of their overall emergency media responses.

I’m looking forward to finding out more from the EMPA community about how they’re currently approaching social media, and how we might collaborate on further approaches. In the meantime, please feel free to visit our project website for a snapshot of our research activities.

— Axel , @snurb_dot_info, http://www.mappingonlinepublics.net/

Dr Axel Bruns is an Associate Professor at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, and will deliver at paper at the EMPA conference on tracking crises in social media.

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Guest blog post: Dr Susan Nicholls – the resilient community and communications practice

Hi all, Susan here, on a grey, cool day in Canberra, very autumnal. I’m looking forward to the conference, meeting everyone and listening to what I know will be a stimulating and rewarding set of papers.

My paper is about resilience, and arises out of my connection with an organisation called Australia21 and my research interest in community recovery after disaster.

Resilience is intimately associated with good communication. Without resilience, communities are not likely to recover after disaster. In this context, governments are rightly concerned with the maintenance of a robust and fully functioning society that is able to withstand the shock of disaster, whether caused by nature or human intervention.

However, the problem for government agencies is how to communicate with people at risk (which, given recent extreme weather and geological events, is virtually the entire population) initially to encourage preparation and mitigation activities, and later to assist with recovery following disaster.

Communication strategies for both of these stages are difficult to implement well and can be politically risky. My contention in this paper is that communication intended to foster resilience means more than simply delivering information. This is true of all stages of the emergency process – prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

My paper examines the components of resilience in the context of disaster, the role communication can play in promoting resilience, and proposes some pointers toward the use of communication to assist in building and maintaining resilient, adaptable communities.

See you at the conference!

– Dr  Susan Nicholls

Dr Susan Nicholls is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities, University of Canberra.

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Is your Blackberry on 24/7 and glued to your hip?

This week the Australian School of Business at UNSW released an article entitled The Smart Phone Turn Off: When the Boss’s Call is a Barbeque-stopper. It describes the psychological and business impacts of having smart phones and being ‘always on’ – something everyone in emergency management & media acutely understands.

We all know that phone and email access are vital for every emergency communicator, but is there a smarter way to manage this technology? Is it efficient to always be on call? How does an organisation find a balance between meeting its objectives and supporting its employees?

 According to the article, constant use of a smart phone can interrupt your thinking and  lead to burn-out:

“Hard cognitive work requires a fine focus. Younger workers may have grown up with constant distractions and could be better at handling the interruptions that technology delivers. But Andrew May (who’s written a book on skill-sets required for the digital age) argues ‘if you’re getting distracted every couple of minutes, there is just no way you can reach your potential.’ However, a balance is required because leaders can’t cocoon themselves away all day to focus on high-end tasks either – part of leadership is being available at all times.”

We’ve all seen that the media is generally unforgiving of leaders who are not available 24/7, and we’ve always known those types of roles require significant personal sacrifice. But this research suggests there is also a professional issue to be addressed as well – the effect on our thinking, and consequently, how that impacts upon decision-making and our ability to see the big picture. 

“Without time for recovery, human beings burn out. ‘If we’re always on, we don’t have time to refresh or to recover and that has implications for our capacity to think and act strategically. Our focus is narrowed because we’re no longer looking at a lot of the other elements in our work context and our wider work environment.’ A physiological aspect of working all the time is that it puts the body into a stress response, Judi MacCormick, a researchers at the Australian School of Business points out.”

The article goes on to suggest there should be clear agreement between individuals and organisations as to the expectations for being on-call which carefully acknowledge and respect the work-life balance everyone needs.

I think some of the bigger implications of this idea touch on how decision-making in emergency management is impacted by rostering schedules, and how media teams are created, managed, maintained and supported. Seems to be that it’s pretty important to get your team’s arrangements right, communicate them clearly, and make sure employees retain a measure of control. 

One of many thing to consider between emergencies, as we all review our operations and plan for the future.

-Sandeep
Twitter: @dizzydeep

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