Sign up or log in to bookmark your favorites and sync them to your phone or calendar.

Session 3D [clear filter]
Tuesday, July 12


Session 3D: Crisis Communities
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

avatar for Scott Sanders

Scott Sanders

University of Louisville
A Professional Internet Surfer... Scott Sanders studies the development of trust, the evaluation and management of information, and the effect of inauthentic communication within online brand communities. Specifically, he is interested in how consumers evaluate the credibility of... Read More →

Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:45 - 16:15
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2


Digital humanitarians: creating and connecting ‘online crisis communities’ in the aftermath of a humanitarian disaster.
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

  • Femke Mulder, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Julie Ferguson, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands

Citizen and volunteer networks play an important role in the aftermath of humanitarian crises, particularly in the Global South where formal authorities are not always able to provide an adequate response. Volunteer-driven action groups increasingly use social media-based platforms to enable stakeholders to access, share and broadcast crisis- relevant information. Such platforms are often mobilized by dispersed, relatively well- educated, digitally-literate citizens in an attempt to influence and monitor ongoing relief efforts and raise awareness of the plight of affected communities (Roberts, 2011). These ‘digital humanitarians’ (Meier, 2015) are members of the global digital elite who dedicate themselves to humanitarian causes and seek to champion the interests and needs of local citizens affected by disaster. To date, little research has been carried out into the role of these ‘digital elites’ in shaping crisis communities, to what extent they represent the needs of affected local citizens, and whether/how they succeed in communicating – and transferring - these needs to other networks, particularly networks of formal humanitarian responders (Boersma et al., 2014). 


This study compares social-media enabled crisis communications in the aftermath of the Haiti (2010) and Nepal (2015) earthquakes, toward two complementary goals. First, we explore how digital elites attempt to ‘program’ a social network (Castells, 2009: 45), that is, how they attempt to create online crisis communities with shared identities, shared goals and shared tasks - out of stakeholders with heterogeneous interests and agendas. An important focus here are the in- and exclusions of the voices of different groups of affected citizens on the ground. Second, we analyse how digital elites use social media in an attempt to get government bodies or humanitarian agencies to adopt the goals and tasks of ‘their’ online crisis community. That is, we examine how objectives are ‘switched’ from one social network to another (ibid.) In so doing, we explain how digital elites use social media in their (potential) role as social network ‘programmers’ and ‘switchers’. 


We analyze the online crisis communities using a mixed-methods research design, combining ethnographic methods (Hine, 2008; Tony, 1979) with social network and semantic content analyses (Williams and Shepherd, 2015) of social media data. We contextualize our findings using the historical method. 


Our research to date indicates that in both Haiti and Nepal digital elites played a leading role in ‘programming’ and attempts at ‘switching’, with elites in the latter facilitating more ‘bottom-up’ involvement.

Future Work

We carried out fieldwork in Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes and will follow this up with additional fieldwork in March 2016. Furthermore, we will analyse a dataset of online communications between ‘digital humanitarians’ (Meier, 2015) who volunteered their skills and time to create interactive online maps, in an attempt to channel the needs and problems of local affected citizens. 


Boersma, K., Ferguson, J., Groenewegen, P., and Wolbers, J. (2014) Beyond the Myth of Control: Toward Network Switching in Disaster Management. In: Proceedings of the 11th International ISCRAM Conference (pp. 125-130).

Castells M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. Hine, C. (2008). Virtual Ethnography: Modes, Varieties, Affordances. The SAGE Handbook

of Online Research Methods, 257-270. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Meier, P. (2015). Digital humanitarians. How Big Data Is Changing the Face of

Humanitarian Response. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Roberts, N.C. (2011). Beyond Smokestacks and Silos: Open-Source, Web-Enabled Coordination in Organizations and Networks, Public Administration Review, 71(5): 677- 693.

Tony, W. I. (1979). Anthropology and Disaster Research. Disasters, 3(1): 43–52.

Williams, T. A., and Shepherd, D. A. (2015). Mixed Method Social Network Analysis: Combining Inductive Concept Development, Content Analysis, and Secondary Data for Quantitative Analysis. Organizational Research Methods (online in advance): 1-31. DOI: 10.1177/1094428115610807 


Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:35
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2


Grieving in the 21st Century: Social media’s role in facilitating supportive exchanges following community- level traumatic events
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

  • Kimberly Glasgow, JHU/APL, United States
  • Jessica Vitak, University of Maryland, United States
  • Clay Fink, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, United States

In the aftermath of a traumatic mass casualty event, a community’s resources are strained, while its needs for tangible, emotional, and informational support are elevated. Social media may serve to bridge the distance between the locally affected community and those outside who are willing to offer support. This exploratory study uses Twitter as a lens for examining gratitude for support in the aftermath of disaster. We examine how social media may provide new opportunities for support to be exchanged and networks to be formed in the aftermath of a traumatic event. By analyzing tweets originating from Newtown, CT after the school shooting, we identify and describe six categories of support exchanged through Twitter, including two categories (symbolic and role-based) that have not been extensively discussed in the social support literature – but are valued by the community. Each type of support network shows distinct structural characteristics and temporal variance. 

Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:35
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2


Tracing Networks of Influence: Digital Innovations in the Crisis Response to the 2015 Nepal Earthquakes
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributor: Heather McIntosh, Canada's International Development Research Centre / The University of Ottawa

The 2015 Nepal earthquakes (NE) began with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which hit the nation’s capital, Kathmandu, and its surrounding areas on April 25, 2015. On May 12, 2015 a second major earthquake (of a 7.3 magnitude) struck to the northeast of Kathmandu, affecting various areas in Nepal and regions in Southern China. In the following weeks, continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal with short intervals separating them. The earthquakes killed more than 8,000 people, injured more than 23,000, and it is currently estimated that 2.8 million people require humanitarian assistance as a result of being harmed or displaced because of the disaster (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, 2015). The 2015 NE attracted global attention, and aid organizations from around the world mobilized to help. Yet, given that Nepal is a developing and largely rural country, its ability to respond to and manage such a large-scale crisis was limited. Despite such challenges, some indicate that ICTs were used to facilitate crisis management and response (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, 2015). Being that ICTs continue to play an increasingly important role in disasters (Burns, 2015), this study seeks to better understand the role of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis management to potentially inform future uses of ICTs in similar scenarios.

This study strives to contribute to an emerging field of research on the use of ICTs in crisis scenarios through a new case study on the 2015 NE. To do so, this study will gather information from those who leveraged ICTs to facilitate crisis management and response to understand the role of these tools in this specific case. The study is guided by the following research questions:

  1. How and in what circumstances can ICTs play an effective role in improving disaster response?

a)     How and by whom were ICTs used in the crisis management and response to the 2015 NE?

b)     How did these uses influence the delivery of aid and humanitarian support in the 2015 NE?

c)     What challenges and/or risks were involved in the use of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis response?

d)     What were the perceived benefits of the use of ICTs in the 2016 NE crisis response?

e)     What are the implications of access to and use of ICTs in the 2015 NE crisis response related to gender?
i. How do gender norms impact a woman’s ability to access and use ICTs in Nepal?
ii. How did gender norms with regards to women’s ability to access and use ICTs in Nepal impact their abilities during the 2015 NE crisis response?


To explore the role of ICTs in the 2015 NE, this study will use a qualitative single-case study research design (e.g., Stake, 1995; Yin, 2014). The case study used for this research will be descriptive in nature. This study will use the process-tracing method (George & Bennett, 2005) to identify the ways in which ICTs influenced crisis management and response in the 2015 NE. The process-tracing method seeks to identify the “intervening casual process—the causal chain and causal mechanisms—between an independent variable (or variables) and the outcomes of the dependent variable” (Ibid, p. 206). This method is defined as the systematic examination of diagnostic evidence selected and analyzed in light of research questions” posed by the investigator (Collier, 2011, p. 823). This method can contribute decisively to social phenomena and evaluating the unfolding of events (Checkel, 2008). It can be applied to research into ICTs and their influences on various social phenomena and activities; therefore, this type of analysis is particularly useful in exploring the influence of ICTs on response to the 2015 NE. This study will use abductive reasoning, as the study will begin with an incomplete set of observations and will seek to proceed to the likeliest possible explanation for the set (Walton, 2005).

The data collection method for this study will be qualitative semi-structured interviews with actors involved in facilitating crisis response and management through the use of ICTs. This may include actors from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government, and grassroots organizations/efforts. Semi-structured interviews are designed to explore issues in detail with the interviewee, using probes, prompts, and flexible questioning styles (Henn, Weinstein & Foard, 2006). This data collection method is selected for this study because it allows the principal investigator (PI) to pre-design questions guided by the goals of the study, but it will also allow respondents to provide information on their unique accounts and experiences.

A qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts will be conducted. Content analysis is a “careful, detailed, systematic examination and interpretation of a particular body of material in an effort to identify patterns, themes, biases, and meanings” (Berg, 2007, p. 248). This form of analysis is used in various disciplines for a multitude of purposes; it is mainly a coding operation and data interpreting process (e.g., Mayring, 2004; Schreier, 2012). The analysis will examine both manifest and latent content found in the data to understand the surface structure of the messages as well as their deep structural meanings (Berg, 2007). Thus, the study will examine exactly what the narratives found in the text may seek to do or mean based on the ways different ideas and concepts are expressed through the language of the text (Berg, 2011). This will be achieved through coding of themes and sub-themes expressed in the transcripts (Saldaña, 2015).

Given the case study research design, the study uses purposive and snowball sampling techniques, which are both nonprobability sampling strategies.

It is hoped that the report may be particularly useful to those who work at NGOs and government organizations involved in the management of and response to crises and disasters. This research will also seek to contribute to knowledge pertaining to the ways in which ICTs can be leveraged to improve crisis response and management.


Berg, Bruce L. (2007). An introduction to content analysis. In Mahmoud Eid and Martine Legacé (Eds.), Communication research methods: Quantitative and qualitative approaches (pp. 247-284). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Berg, Bruce L. (2011). An introduction to content analysis. In Mahmoud Eid (Ed.), Research methods in communication (pp. 209-236). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Burns, Ryan. (2015). Rethinking big data in digital humanitarianism: Practices, epistemologies, and social relations. GeoJournal, 80(4), 477-490.

Checkel, Jeffrey T. (2008). Process tracing. In Audie Klotz and Deepa Prakash (Eds.), Qualitative methods in international relations (pp. 114-127). London: Palgrave McMillian UK.

Collier, David. (2011). Understanding process tracing. Political Science and Politics, 44(4), 823-830.

George, Alexander L. & Bennet, Andrew. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Groupe Speciale Mobile Association. (2015). Disaster response – Nepal earthquake response and recovery overview. Retrieved January 6, 2016, from http://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/programme/disaster-response/disaster-response-nepal-earthquake-response-and-recovery-overview/.

Henn, Matt, Weinstein, Mark & Foard, Nick. (2006). A short introduction to social research. London: Sage.

Mayring, Phillip. (2004). Qualitative content analysis. In Uwe Flick, Ernst von Kardoff, and Ines Steinke (Eds.), A companion to qualitative research (pp. 266-269). London: Sage.

Saldaña, Johnny. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles: Sage.

Schreier, Margrit. (2012). Qualitative content analysis in practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Stake, Robert E. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Walton, Douglas. (2005). Abductive reasoning. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press

Yin, Robert. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. 


Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:35
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2


Mapping Resistance in the Digital Public Sphere: Counter-Surveillance on Social Media
Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributor: Wil Chivers, WISERD, Cardiff University, United Kingdom


New networked forms of ordering challenge how we conceive of democracy, political participation and policy-making. Social media are but one facet of how networked forms of communication and organisation are increasingly important and influential in our societies. Platforms such as Twitter are a popular and increasingly vital social space for civil society organisations to promote campaigns and mobilise members. Equally they enable individuals to connect with these groups and one another and voice their own opinions on social issues. This ‘new public sphere’ (Castells 2008), thus offers enormous potential for interaction between citizens and public, private and third sector organisations but, consequently, challenges our traditional understanding of collective action. 

This paper reports on on-going empirical research examining patterns of communication and organisation on social media. Specifically, it explores these patterns in the context of resistance to proposed reforms to UK surveillance legislation (the Investigatory Powers Bill). Drawing on data gathered from Twitter, the paper employs a social network analysis approach to identifying key participants to the online debate about surveillance reform and examines the unique structural features of this conversation. The paper concludes by offering critical reflection on the implications of these patterns for understanding collective and ‘connective’ (Bennett and Segerberg 2012) action. 


There are three overarching objectives of this project: first, to examine how resistance to surveillance happens on social media; second, to theorise the impact of social media on civil society organisations and collective action more broadly, and; third, to begin developing a methodological toolkit for researching ‘digital civil society’. 


The data for this project were collected and analysed using NodeXL. Twitter data were retrieved at different intervals by searching for the hashtag ‘#InvestigatoryPowersBill’. The data were subject to social network analysis techniques and preliminary content analysis of tweets has also been carried out. 


 The results for this project are currently undergoing analysis. Early findings indicate that the conversation about the Investigatory Powers Bill on Twitter has a distinct structure and the analysis seeks to relate to this to the broader social context of resistance to surveillance. There are also indications, drawn from parallels with other similar work being conducted by the researcher, that similar debates on Twitter (i.e. resistance to legislative reform in the UK from civil society actors and connected individuals) generate conversational patterns that both resemble but differ in significant ways from the contours of the debate concerning surveillance reform. 

Future Work:

 This project seeks to contribute to on-going research as part of the Wales Institute for Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) Civil Society programme. 


Bennett, W. L. and Segerberg, A. (2012). The Logic of Connective Action. Information, Communication and Society, 15 (5), 739-768 
Castells, M. (2008). The New Public Sphere: Global Civil Society, Communication Networks and Global Governance. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 616 (1), 78-93  

Tuesday July 12, 2016 14:46 - 16:36
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2