Social Computing: A revolution for Emergency & Crisis Response Work

During the last few week, I have been teaching on a course named Mobile Services and Society at the IT-university in Gothenburg. In this course, we have focused on how social software / social computing currently is improving the way people can live their life’s on the Internet.

It has not until recently been clear that Social Computing has the potential to revolutionize Emergency Response Work and large-scale Crisis Response. A fundamental aspect in small-scale and large-scale crisis response is to constantly organize and re-organize people and resources. Information needs to be widely distributed to actors across organizations and administrative boundaries. What could be more suitable than using the information technology already in place such as typepad, youtube, blogger, twitter and similar technologies? The biggest obstacle is probably to convince the crisis response community that these technologies are not just for fun but fundamentally changing the way to rapidly organize and share information.

Social computing will be a revolution for emergency and crisis response work.

One particularly interesting publication is the study on the Katrina Hurricane Disaster by Shelly Farnham and colleagues where they went into the field and tried out Groove Virtual Office among disaster relief workers.

There are other ongoing initiatives along this line of using social computing software for crisis response work. Read the very interesting post by Ed Schipul, on the issue on Pop-Up Emergency Response Tool versus Enabling Every Day Systems.

Farnham, S. Kirkpatrick, R., Pedersen, E. (2006). Observation of Katrina/Rita Deployment: Addressing Social and Communication Challenges of Ephemeral Groups. In Proc. ISCRAM 2006, Newark, New Jersey.

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