RAPID/Collaborative Research: Emergency Response Authorities' Microblogging and Community Needs: An Analysis of the Boston Bombings
H. Raghav Rao Principal Investigator
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Emergency response authorities such as law enforcement, hospitals and firefighting agencies, have begun to use social media channels, such as Twitter, to keep people informed and minimize disruption. This Rapid Response Research (RAPID) project will identify how tweets disseminated by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events at Boston were interpreted by the public. This includes examining the factors that led to widespread dissemination of emergency response agency social media announcements. The research will use a novel method of data collection for this study - collecting all public tweets that match a tweet that originated from an emergency response authority. In addition, follow up interviews will be conducted of Boston emergency response personnel to obtain their perspective. This award will also examine the factors in the tweets that generated positive (or negative) actions and/or emotional reactions among the public. This research will explore which tweets were critical triggers, how the information triggers caused by tweets, when matched with the resulting emotional and action responses of Twitter users caused propagation/sharing/re-transmission of tweets. <br/><br/>Disasters are very expensive in terms of the disruption caused. Any additional measures that emergency response agencies can take to facilitate the restoration of normalcy can be worth billions of dollars in terms of avoided damage and harm. This award will study why certain tweets resulted in misinformation or had minimal impact on public actions, while others were of substantial value. This will help develop an effective way for emergency response agencies to restore public confidence quickly. This research will thus help increase the value of information tweets to improve their ability to meet the public's information needs and generate the desired actions among the public in emergency situations.