Social media shaking crisis communication

Hurricane Katrina - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Hurricane Katrina – NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Social media has proven it’s not just for selfies and cat videos. With the ability to spread news virally through networks and with users jumping to social sites when disaster strikes, social media has transformed the way we communicate during times of crisis.

Not only has social media provided another communication channel, with Twitter launching emergency alerts for public warnings, it also has also given the community an active voice through enabling multi-directional communication to occur. It is even providing a platform for user-generated content that can serve as both a primary news source and as supplementary content to mainstream media.

At this year’s ICA Regional Conference, an international and multidisciplinary panel brought together by QUT’s Social Media Research Group will address a range of topics that relate to crisis communication, emergency management and disaster media.

With the ongoing and growing use of social media during recent natural disasters, the opportunity to reflect on the conference’s theme of digital transformation through the lens of communication and media, as it relates to natural disasters, is particularly productive.

Firstly, highly mediated societally significant events such as natural disasters involve almost every part of the contemporary media ecology.

Secondly, by their very nature, crises not only test and reveal the practices and routines of public communication, but also disrupt them, thereby operating as complex actions in digital transformation processes.

Finally, such events provide researchers with opportunities to reflect, diagnose and influence the organisational practices and policies of public communication.

flooded car

Cedar Rapids flood – US Geological Survey

The ICA Brisbane panel will also include a case study focusing on the various roles and self-definitions of key crisis communication organisations during Tropical Cyclone Ita (Far North Queensland, April 2014); an examination of how to best harness self-organising systems in disaster recovery; and a comparative study that looks at the contrasting patterns of social media users participation during two distinct types of natural disasters, Typhoon Morakot (Taiwan, August 2009) and the H7N9 bird flu outbreak.

In addition to theDigital Transformations of Crisis Communication and Disaster Media Coverage’ panel, Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Professor Christine Huang will lead a discussion on ‘Crisis Communication in the Asian Century’ at a special event, on the Wednesday evening of the conference.

Register now for the ICA Regional Conference and gain further insight about crisis communication and other thought-provoking events, panels and discussions.

You can also follow the conference on #icabrisbane2014.

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