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Researchers To Study Social Media During Disasters

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Researchers are going to start using social media to study disasters. They hope that by using social media they will be able to respond to disasters warnings and alerts much quicker.

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During the hostage situation yesterday in Sydney, social media was abuzz with information concerning the event. With some people offering aid to those fearing for their public safety to others who simply posted updates while they were in the area. There were also people taking selfies while they waited by the hostage situation, but let’s not get into how morally questionable that is just yet.

Though the Sydney siege was not a natural disaster such as a hurricane or earthquake it clearly shows us how quickly social media can react to events happening and how with such huge user bases, new information is bound to appear their first before many other sources.  

It’s with this thought in mind that the US National Science Foundation has given Kent State University in Ohio $300,000 (Approximately £192,000) to begin a study in which researchers will carefully monitor social media during any disaster crisis to determine what use it can be.

They’ll watch out for public responses as well as any posts which could lead to early warnings concerning any incoming disasters.

An assistant professor at the university, Xinyue Ye said this about the study: ‘The outcomes yielded from this research will assist in better designing and implementing disaster warnings and alerts as well as more efficient disseminating communications of political messages via social media and social networks.’

Working with the San Diego Office of Emergency Services, this research hopes to create a prototype platform which will use social media to study how people respond and react to messages warning of inclement weather, earthquakes, wildfires, disease outbreaks and evacuation orders.

Furthermore, they hope that through this study they will help bring more young people to volunteering and helping with disaster aid, even if the aid is just handled through social media.
Speaking more about the study, Ye also commented how, ‘The study may also allow government agencies to communicate more effectively to the public and be better prepared for both natural and human-made crises.’

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Ye also said: ‘We will try to reach out to the health providers and caregivers to introduce our social media channels and platform to people in senior communities, nursing homes and health centres.’

This is a bold move for the researchers. I think that correctly embracing social media in this manner could be an incredible response tool for disasters. Just by looking towards the events in Sydney this week we can see how helpful properly utilised social media channels can be during times of crisis.

Here’s hoping that this study pushes social media further in the correct direction. 


Tom has just graduated from University of East London in Creative and Professional Writing. He loves writing and is currently interning as a content writer hoping to go further. His other loves include Arnold Schwarzenegger films and his dog. Follow him @TomAtSMF

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Researchers To Study Social Media During Disasters Reviewed by Tom Welby on Friday, December 26, 2014 Rating: 5
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