Tag Archives: technology

EMPA day 1 – an overview

Hi all,

Well it’s been a long and busy day here in Canberra for day one of the Emergency Media and Public Affairs conference for 2011. The day was a more casual approach, a workshop run in the ‘world cafe’ style. For those of you not familiar with world cafe (which was most of us!), the aim is to spilt into tables and have the level of discussion you have have with your friends if you opened that second bottle of wine. Quiet an interesting way of going about it, and one that I think worked very well.

The aim was to have varing degrees of emergency management experience represented on each table, along with a media representitive.

Firstly we were to discuss what common ground emergency media communicators and media staff have in common, then onto issues and differences.

Tables were rotating (not the tables, but the participants!) under the following topics:
Working to deadline
Gathering facts versus the information vaccum
Facts, rumours and misinformation
Emergency warnings versus editorial content
Text, tweet, blog…the citizen journalist
Access to spokespeople

Table leaders, if you will, summarised the discussions at the end of the alloted time, and notes were taken, with the aim of coming up with guidelines and principals that emergency media communicators and media staff can use as a guide for collaboration to build on. Over the course of the conference the principals will be drafted, with the aim of testing them out on Tuesday, the last day of the conference.

A reminder, you can follow the conference on Twitter, @EmergMediaConf, and by using the hashtag #EMPA2011.

-Nathan, @nathanmaddock

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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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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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