Important studies presented at the NEEDS2018 conference

At the Third Northern European Conference on Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS) on March 21-23 there we many insightful presentations on important aspects on crisis and disaster response. There were specifically two presentations that really made an impression on me. One was done by Myfanwy James and the other by Darryl StellmachThe photos below give an indication of the topics.




Design av insats: MSBs insats i Nepal ‘designas’ om…..

Idag kan vi läsa på att den tidigare planerade insatsen med sök och räddningsteam till jordbävningsdrabbade Nepal justeras. Vid en första anblick kanske denna justering inte är något att orda över. Men i ljuset av hur internationella insatser kan resultera i att fel resurser, materiel och kompetenser skickas iväg är dagens besked mycket glädjande.

I nyheten på kl 13:03 kan vi läsa om att insatsen designas om utifrån de behov som OCHA fått besked om från den Nepalesiska regeringen.


Just att uttrycket ‘designas’ används i nyhetstexten är spännande då det signalerar att insatser och organisering av insatser av naturen är föränderliga. De som planerar och leder insatser behöver kontinuerligt stämma av och vid behov justera inriktningen och åtgärderna för att svara upp mot identifierade hjälpbehov. Design är verktyget för att hantera en föränderlig omvärld. Att designa om en insats redan innan ett team har skickats iväg skall alltså ses som mycket positivt. Att begreppet ‘designas om’ användes i texten gläder kanske främst en del akademiker med stort intresse för ledning och samverkansfrågor. Men i grund och botten är användningen av större betydelse än rent akademiskt då det innebär bättre förutsättningar för ett lyckat insatsarbete.

Crisis rooms and situation reporting

JRC_BIGWALLHCIAt the end of last week, I had the fortune to meet a great group of people at the EU/JRC in Ispra Italy. Markus Rester and Tom de Groeve organised a two-day workshop on Situation Reporting and BigWall-HCI. They had invited crisis professionals from national authorities, solution providers and academic researchers. The two-day workshop gave a really good overview about the challenges and opportunities when it comes to situation reporting as a structured activity as well how innovative technology could enable and strengthen these activities. For me, these two days was pure energy that I will bring back home and inject into regional and national projects in Sweden. An insight from the workshop is that despite they heavy investments that organisations are willing to do in technology, situation reporting as an activity needs further studies. Thanks to Markus and Tom, important steps has been made in bringing a network together that over the next few years will be able to further advance the knowledge in this important area. I am also pleased to see that MSB here in Sweden seems to have come a long way in their development of a national Situation Awareness/ Situation Reporting-function. The rest of this year will be of outmost interest when learning more from MSBs professionals.

Highlights from the CSCW2012 Conference

Directly from the CSCW2012 conference in Bellevue (WA) in United States, here is my list of the most interesting pieces of work related to my own research field. A majority of the papers are related to social media in crisis response, one on the use of online forums for coordination in crises and lastly an impressive study on mobile live video production. All these papers will soon be available via

“Beacons of Hope” in Decentralized Coordination: Learning from On-the-Ground Medical Twitterers During the 2010 Haiti Earthquake  

Aleksandra Sarcevic (Drexel University)
Leysia Palen (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Joanne White (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Kate Starbird (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Mossaab Bagdouri (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Kenneth Anderson (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Abstract: We examine the public, social media communications of 110 emergency medical response teams and organizations in the immediate aftermath of the January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake. We found the teams through an inductive analysis of Twitter communications acquired over the three-week emergency period from 89,114 Twitterers. We then analyzed the teams’ Twitter streams, as well as all digital media they generated and pointed to in their streams—blog posts, photographs, videos, status updates and field reports—to understand the medical coordination challenges they faced from pre-deployment readiness to onthe-ground action. Here we identify opportunities for improving coordination in a decentralized and distributed environment where staffing, disease trajectories, and other circumstances rapidly change. We extrapolate from these findings to theorize about how “beaconing” behavior is a sign of latent potential for coordination upon which mechanisms of coordination can capitalize.

Relief Work after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake: Leadership in an Online Resource Coordination Network
Sean P. Goggins (Drexel University)
 Christopher Mascaro (Drexel University)
Stephanie Mascaro (Atlas Research)

Abstract: The US Navy directed its vast resources at the relief effort following the Haiti Earthquake on January 12, 2010. To coordinate with non-governmental-organizations (NGOs) participating in the relief effort, the US Navy used an online discussion forum. What follows is an examination of the emergence, rise, on-the-ground utility and decline of this “walled-garden” style discussion forum. Our findings show that most site activity is broadcast oriented and does not result in discussion, but in the small percentage of cases where discussion emerges, participants are focused on the exchange of medical, Global Information Systems (GIS) and equipment on the ground oriented information. We show how activity on the discussion forum changes over time, and corresponds with events on the ground in Haiti. Four archetypical users are profiled to demonstrate how invisible brokerage style leadership, identified through grounded theory analysis of posts, can be made visible through network analysis of interaction traces. Our findings have implications for the use of forum style, “walled garden” technology for coordination and information sharing in future crises.

(How) Will the Revolution be Retweeted?: Information Diffusion and the 2011 Egyptian Uprising 
Kate Starbird (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Leysia Palen (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Abstract: This paper examines microblogging information diffusion activity during the 2011 Egyptian political uprisings. Specifically, we examine the use of the retweet mechanism on Twitter, using empirical evidence of information propagation to reveal aspects of work that the crowd conducts. Analysis of the widespread contagion of a popular meme reveals interaction between those who were “on the ground” in Cairo and those who were not. However, differences between information that appeals to the larger crowd and those who were doing on-the-ground work reveal important interplay between the two realms. Through both qualitative and statistical description, we show how the crowd expresses solidarity and does the work of information processing through recommendation and filtering. We discuss how these aspects of work mutually sustain crowd interaction in a politically sensitive context. In addition, we show how features of this retweetrecommendation behavior could be used in combination with other indicators to identify information that is new and likely coming from the ground.

Amateur Vision and Recreational Orientation: Creating Live Video Together 
Arvid Engström (MobileLife at Interactive Institute)
Mark Perry (Brunel University & MobileLife at Interactive Institute)
Oskar Juhlin (MobileLife at Interactive Institute)

Abstract: We explore the use of a live video broadcast system by a group of amateur camera operators to film an event on networked cameraphones. Using an interaction analysis of physical interactions and orientations to the work of others, we examine their choice of camera angles and positions in their filming as they attempt to provide interesting visual content and a coherent narrative. Findings illustrate how users adapt their behaviour as co-ordination problems occur by drawing from a set of everyday visual practices (‘amateur vision’). They also show how the specifically temporal aspect of live video requires extended attention on its production, and that this is at odds with the ‘recreational orientation’ of amateur film crews who simultaneously participate in events for their own enjoyment and film them on behalf of other viewers. Implications for the design of collaborative live broadcast media are made, focusing on approaches to interaction design that augment users’ visual practices and allow users to look on behalf of others while experiencing places and events themselves.

What do we mean when we say crisis? Get ready for ISCRAM2012

Over time, when professional, commercial and researcher communities have been talking about crisis and the many different strategies, policies, methods and tools to prevent and mitigate crisis, I start to wonder what do we mean when we say crisis.

The terms, accident, emergency, disaster and crisis do not address the same phenomena but on different scales. They have fundamental differences but are at the same time somewhat related. I would like to see some theoretical work trying to make the differences of these concepts explicit and clear. Especially if we are truly interested in developing IS/IT-artifacts that will have even a remote chance of actually provide agency. There are some seminal work on this topic by researchers in disaster sociology, but perhaps we are in need for some re-modeled versions for the IS/IT field.

Too often a large scale accident is talked about in terms of a crisis. Too often these large scale accidents are just very simple events but on  a large scale. The casual relationships between actions and effects are clear. These accidents are solved by the use of standard operating procedures and efficient resource management. Large scale accidents are per se not a crisis. However, a poorly managed large-scale accident could develop into a crisis, not in terms of the physical dimensions of the accident, but the political dimensions.

A definition of crisis, should according to my view cover these critical dimenions:
* the temporal ambiguity
* the cascading dynamics
* the unclear causalities
* the boundary-spanning effects

I hope that the ISCRAM 2012 conference in the US will be the place where these important aspects are discussed and where the ISCRAM-community trigger discussions about crisis theory so we can start to make descriptive, predictive and normative models of how crisis grow, spread, and change form.

So before you submit to ISCRAM 2012, the deadline is approach fast, have a look in the book “What is a Disaster? – new answers to old questions” edited by Ronald W. Perry & E.L. Quarentelli (2005), and make an honest attempt to clarify your position. Chapter 11 by Arjen Boin is very valuable.

Myter och okunskap kring hur allmänheten agera vid kriser och stora olyckor

Det finns en hel del myter och ren okunskap kring hur allmänheten som grupp samt hur individer beter sig vid kriser och större olyckor. Alltför ofta hör jag av personer på exempelvis Myndigheten för Samhällsskydd och Beredskap och SOS-alarm att “Vi måste ju undvika panik hos allmänheten”.

För att undvika upprätthållandet av denna myt, för det är just en myt, så läs denna artikel. Läs med fördel texten på sidan 102.
I. Helsloot & A. Ruitenberg.(2004) Citizen Response to Disasters: a Survey of Literature and Some Practical Implications. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
Volume 12, Issue 3, pages 98–111, September 2004 [Link]
Om ni någon gång springer på någon som fortsätter med en Hollywood-baserad förståelse om hur människor agerar vid kriser och större olyckor så be dem läsa denna artikel eller be dem redovisa vilket empiriskt material de baserar sitt uttalande på, för det kan ju vara så att de senaste 60 årens systematiska forskning i ämnet har missat något. Det kan ju vara så, eller?

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