Social Media and Crisis Response

This month’s Net Tuesday will be on “crisis response” and social media.

Recent crises — whether caused by nature (like Haiti or Katrina) or by humans (like the London subway bombings or PA budget cuts for arts and culture) — have been met by a new type of response virtually unavailable just a decade ago. Social tools, including Facebook and Twitter, GIS/mapping applications, mobile technology, image and video sharing services and others, have been used in ways that are creative, widely participative and, often, surprisingly effective.

The March Net Tuesday will be about this phenomenon and how it might be relevant to you, today. We’ll have an interactive discussion and workshop, not only about how some of these sorts of tools have been used in past crises, but about the sorts of social structures (e.g., CrisisCamps) that are emerging to build community and prepare proactively for the next crisis.

Who should attend?

  • People working in agencies or non-profits who want to gain some background and context for how they might utilize social tools when a crisis suddenly appears.
  • Techies who want to be prepared to utilize their skills and capabilities for the next disaster.
  • Activists, social change agents and “plain, old citizens” who want to learn more about how the “crowd” can be effectively used in crisis situations.

Our evening will be highlighted by a panel of people with important experience and perspectives on both reactive and proactive crisis response with social tools, including (alphabetically):

George Heake is Director of Operations at Temple University’s Center for Preparedness, Education and Practice (CPREP), as well as Emergency Management Coordinator & Information Technology Accessibility Coordinator for Temple’s Institute on Disabilities. He has been involved with social applications for emergency response, with a focus on the special needs community, around which he organized a specialized crisis camp event in October.

Josh Marcus is a software engineer at Avencia, Inc., where he is the lead developer on DecisionTree, a set of innovative web-based geographic decision-making tools that enable business owners, citizen or government agencies to weigh multiple geographic factors and generate a map that highlights optimal locations for their activities. He has spent the last decade applying his software engineering, system architecture, and management experience to building sophisticated, scalable web-based applications to solve social and organizational problems for governmental organizations and non-profits using innovative technology solutions. Under Avencia’s policy to allow time off for natural disasters, Josh worked with the International Network of Crisis Mappers and a volunteer effort to develop technical tools to track missing persons in Haiti and develop data integration standards between systems for crisis responders.

Walter Svekla is a geographer with ImageCat, Inc., where he’s a member of a team of engineers, scientists and programmers that are developing tools for natural hazard loss estimation and risk reduction, including the Virtual Disaster Viewer. In response to the earthquake in Haiti, ImageCat along with the World Bank initiated a remote rapid damage assessment for Port au Prince and the surrounding area. Given the severity and extent of damage to the built environment, a call for volunteers was put out through the Earthquake Engineering and Research Institute for experts to apply their knowledge and conduct damage assessment utilizing pre- and post-event very high resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth. The novelty here is not so much the application of satellite imagery for remote damage assessment, but rather the ease and speed at which a network of over 500 volunteers spanning 23 countries was mobilized in response and how certain resources and platforms made that possible.

Lisl Zach is an assistant professor at Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology. Dr. Zach was on the faculty of Louisiana State University at the time of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and was instrumental in coordinating communication efforts among the Louisiana and southern Mississippi special libraries community following those disasters. She serves as chair of the Special Libraries Association’s Emergency Preparedness and Recovery Council and is a member of the disaster and emergency preparedness task force of Drexel University’s Engineering Cities Initiative. She is currently working on a project with Drexel University’s 11th Street Family Health Center to examine the use of information and communications technology (ICT) as a means of accessing health information among the population being served by the Center and is collaborating with IST doctoral student Thomas Heverin, who will join her to describe a project to investigate the role of microblogging in crisis communication.

Light food and refreshments will be available. And, if you’re driving, one of the better deals is the Autopark on Arch Street between 15th and 16th, entrance down ramp.

Image: US Geological Services

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