AA #5

The Use of Social Media in Disaster Situations:

Framework and Cases

APA Citation:

Lang, G., & Benbunan-Fich, R. (2010). The Use of Social Media in Disaster Situations: Framework and Cases.  International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response Management, 2(1), 11-23. doi:10.4018/jiscrm.2010120402

Link to Lang’s Slideshare

Purpose of the Research:

The researchers are seeking to further the understanding of social media use by members of the public in disaster situations through a proposed theoretical framework.


Used a qualitative comparative case analysis method (QCA).  QCA combines qualitative and quantitative research with a case study analysis.  The hope of the research group was to provide support for the recently developed framework.  The first case study analyzed the Virginia Tech Tragedy (VT) of 2007, a man-made disaster, as well as the Britain Blizzard Crisis of 2009, a natural disaster.

Main Findings:

Due to little theoretical support for this developing field, they used the idea of e-participation to structure a framework for social media use which contains the following four categories:  Selection (Control number and relevance of participants), Facilitation (Ensure input from all participants), Deliberation (Elicit open-response input), and Aggregation (Produced unified output based on rules).  See figure #1 below for a visual representation of this framework.  There are 16 different possible variations (archetypes) of these four components of social media which can help researchers understand varying patterns of use of different social media types depending on the crisis situation.  Through the case study the researchers discovered that social media use during the VT Crisis represents selection, facilitation, and deliberation.  However, the Britain Blizzard case represents only aggregation, despite the varying archetypes of social media use, both crisis situations were aided by social media.


I am extremely excited to have found this article! It was actually quite a struggle to obtain a full copy version having to use Purdue Library Inter-library Loan, but the effort paid off when I actually found an article that is trying to provide theoretical support for the growing body of research that is looking at social media use during disaster situations.  The images listed in the article were very helpful and started my thought process of how other crisis situations could fit this model.  Therefore, this article is very valuable to my research interests surrounding this topic, especially because this one of the first articles that discussed the potential lack of infrastructure during an emergency situation such as power outages or limited internet access and how that can effect communication via social media.

Some of the limitations of this article would be that only two case studies have been applied to this framework.  Also, both of the case studies were fairly localized issues and it makes me wonder how the research team would apply this framework to a multinational disaster or an extremely complex situation such as the recent March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan.  I believe that this framework has great potential to add the theoretical backbone that researchers in this area are desperate for.  Hats off to Lang and Benbunan-Fich on an amazing framework!

~ by amandastirratt on April 23, 2011.

2 Responses to “AA #5”

  1. Just noticing how your focusing on social media during emergencies and thought you might like this. During the past couple of days back home in KY, there have been horrible storms with funnel clouds, hail, etc. One thing I’ve noticed is people are flocking to the Facebook pages of the local news down there and spreading the word on what the current conditions are for the towns they are in. This not only was letting people who are in the same town know, but others who were in the line of the storms. They were also posting pics of the storm & funnel clouds as they were passing. This topic though it seems has limited case studies now, will def grow. Good luck on your research!

    • Scott, I am glad you introduced me to the emergency situation going on in KY. I think it is amazing how lifesaving information can be shared using social media. Other articles I have read refer to this use of social media as a form of “backchannel” communication because the emergency information is coming from the people closest to the disaster, not the mayor or other community officials.

      Since you have friends and family members who were in this recent emergency situation, do you think that this type of emergency information would be more effectively dispersed if there was a specific emergency networking site set up to manage and share this information? Or do you think people decide only to post this information on the social network sites they are already familiar with (Facebook, Twitter, etc)?

      Thank you so much for you post! I look forward to your reply.

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