News - 28. May 2015

Academic Breakfast Seminar

Social Media in Crisis Management - Futures and limits of communicating with crowds during emergencies

​With the increase of everyday communication platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, social media provide new opportunities for producing and accessing information about emergencies. The potential of digital tools and social media to transform crisis communication has been discussed by various groups. Communication scholars and public relations agencies, for example, have welcomed this development, because it provides new means for dialogue and emphasizes the democratic ideal of increased civic participation. Equally, scholars and NGOs in the field of humanitarian affairs and emergency management highlight the many opportunities that social media offer for crowdsourcing, information sharing and big data analysis during emergencies, for example to indicate dangerous areas and facilitate search and rescue operations. The DIGICOM breakfast seminar explored this trend and asked what the futures and limits of these digital communication platforms are for crisis communication and management.

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The seminar provided two angles on this topic:

First, Joel Rasmussen (University of Oslo, Media and Communication Studies) discussed how communication professionals in public emergency organizations engage in dialogue with citizens on social media. He explored practitioners' stances on the issue and finds that while dialogical communication is described as normatively superior, it is surprisingly a form of communication that is rarely used. He argued that the concept of ideological dilemmas can help clarifying institutional values and assist future risk and crisis communication.

Second, Mareile Kaufmann (PRIO and Hamburg University, Criminology) presented how the increased circulation of digital information during crises fosters new practices of emergency management and resilience. She showed and discussed how big data inspires three major transformations in crisis management, namely new forms of visualizing emergencies, of managing emergency developments, and of activities aimed at future response. All of these transformations are based on a new actor in emergency management: the crowd.

Both presentations were discussed by Øyvind Ihlen (Oslo University, Professor for Media and Communication Studies). Questions and comments from​ the audience are welcome!