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Thematically analysing social network content during disasters through the lens of the disaster management lifecycle

Parsons, Sophie, Atkinson, Peter M., Simperl, Elena and Weal, Mark (2015) Thematically analysing social network content during disasters through the lens of the disaster management lifecycle At Social Web for Disaster Management, Italy. 18 - 22 May 2015. , pp. 1221-1226. (doi:10.1145/2740908.2741721).

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Social Networks such as Twitter are often used for disseminating and collecting information during natural disasters. The potential for its use in Disaster Management has been acknowledged. However, more nuanced understanding of the communications that take place on social networks are required to more effectively integrate this information into the processes within disaster management. The type and value of information shared should be assessed, determining the benefits and issues, with credibility and reliability as known concerns. Mapping the tweets in relation to the modelled stages of a disaster can be a useful evaluation for determining the benefits/drawbacks of using data from social networks, such as Twitter, in disaster management.

A thematic analysis of tweets' content, language and tone during the UK Storms and Floods 2013/14 was conducted. Manual scripting was used to determine the official sequence of events, and classify the stages of the disaster into the phases of the Disaster Management Lifecycle, to produce a timeline. Twenty-five topics discussed on Twitter emerged, and three key types of tweets, based on the language and tone, were identified. The timeline represents the events of the disaster, according to the Met Office reports, classed into B. Faulkner's Disaster Management Lifecycle framework. Context is provided when observing the analysed tweets against the timeline. This illustrates a potential basis and benefit for mapping tweets into the Disaster Management Lifecycle phases. Comparing the number of tweets submitted in each month with the timeline, suggests users tweet more as an event heightens and persists. Furthermore, users generally express greater emotion and urgency in their tweets.

This paper concludes that the thematic analysis of content on social networks, such as Twitter, can be useful in gaining additional perspectives for disaster management. It demonstrates that mapping tweets into the phases of a Disaster Management Lifecycle model can have benefits in the recovery phase, not just in the response phase, to potentially improve future policies and activities.

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More information

Published date: May 2015
Venue - Dates: Social Web for Disaster Management, Italy, 2015-05-18 - 2015-05-22
Keywords: disaster management, thematic analysis, disaster management lifecycle, situation awareness, twitter, social networks, natural disaster
Organisations: Web & Internet Science


Local EPrints ID: 378754
PURE UUID: 0734540a-b82e-47d7-95d5-aaa553fadd0a
ORCID for Sophie Parsons: ORCID iD
ORCID for Elena Simperl: ORCID iD
ORCID for Mark Weal: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 22 Jul 2015 12:32
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 20:50

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Author: Sophie Parsons ORCID iD
Author: Elena Simperl ORCID iD
Author: Mark Weal ORCID iD

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