My colleague Dr. Ioanna Tantanasi and I have published an article entitled ‘Social media’s not all bad- it’s saving lives in disaster zones‘ for the Conversation UK today. The piece draws on our CascEff and IMPROVER work on social media and crisis communication. Thanks to Stephen Harris for his editorial support and the invitation to comment on this issue.
My Research Assistant Rebecca Stevenson will be presenting preliminary results from our EC H2020 project IMPROVER at the 2018 iConference this week. This paper will discuss some of our recommended guidelines for effective crisis communication by critical infrastructure operators. The abstract can be found below:
Enhancing Critical Infrastructure resilience through information-sharing: Recommendations for European Critical Infrastructure Operators
1University of Sheffield, United Kingdom; 2European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC)
This paper explores how critical infrastructure (CI) resilience can be improved through effective crisis communication between CI operators and members of the public. Drawing on academic and practice-based research into crisis and risk communication, as well as the results of 31 interviews conducted with key stakeholders from across Europe, the AESOP guidelines are proposed for enhancing the communication and information-sharing strategies of CI operators. These emphasise the importance of integrating both traditional and digital media into a multi-channel communication strategy that facilitates dialogue between CI operators and key stakeholders including emergency management organisations and representatives of local communities. The information-seeking behaviours of citizens should be evaluated by these organisations in order to ensure that this messaging reaches key demographics in disaster-vulnerable areas. This paper concludes by examining how post-disaster learning should be incorporated into a flexible framework for crisis and risk communication that manages public expectations about the time needed to restore services in the aftermath of large-scale incidents.
Rebecca’s presentation will take place in Lecture Theatre 5 in the Diamond on 28 March (09:00-10:30). The full paper can be accessed here
My CascEff research report on the role of social and traditional media in crisis communication has been cited in the UK Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology POSTnote 564: Communicating Risk. I was also one of several UK academics to be an invited reviewer of this publication. It can be downloaded here
I am currently looking for a full-time Research Associate (fixed term for 5 months, to start as soon as possible with provisional end date of 30 May 2018, and probable extension to 31 August 2018) for my EC Horizon 2020 project IMPROVER: Improved risk evaluation and implementation of resilience concepts to critical infrastructure.’ The closing date for applications is 22 November 2017 and further details on the role can be found here
If you have any questions about the role please contact me at: P.J.Reilly@sheffield.ac.uk
This morning my Research Associate Giuliana Tiripelli will present our paper “Challenges and opportunities of dialogic communication in crisis situations: Twitter, affective publics and the 2015 Channel Tunnel fire” at the Understanding Transition V: Developing Dialogic Communication conference at the University of Bucharest. The abstract for the paper can be found below:
Challenges and opportunities of dialogic communication in crisis situations: Twitter, affective publics, and the 2015 Channel Tunnel Fire.
Giuliana Tiripelli & Paul Reilly
The ‘ambient storytelling infrastructure’ of Twitter today enables ‘affective publics’ to present their own perspectives on events and issues (Papacharissi, 2015). This phenomenon challenges established top-down communicative dynamics, in which definitional power appeared to lie with institutions, organisations, and journalists rather than citizens, and seemingly presents new opportunities for dialogic communication between these actors in the digital age. At the same time, ‘affective publics’ “are mobilized … through expressions of sentiment” (Papacharissi, 2016: 311), creating new information flows that challenge the ability of organisations and journalists to channel communicative resources that manage public responses to crises. This paper explores this binary role of ‘affective publics’ in contemporary media ecologies through the study of the Twitter debate that emerged during the Channel Tunnel Fire. The incident on 17th January 2015, during which a lorry was set alight by an electricity bolt from overhead power lines, led to the evacuation of the passengers and significant disruption to Eurostar services for the next few days. Specifically, the study analyses the role played by journalists and Eurostar staff in the co-construction of meaning of the incident. A critical thematic analysis was conducted (Braun and Clarke 2006) to explore key themes of the 12,652 English-language tweets posted between the 17th and 19th January 2015. URL links shared in tweets were also classified using an inductively-developed content analysis codebook. Results indicate that Twitter accounts belonging to members of the public, rather than the affected organisation (Eurostar) or emergency institutions, were primarily responsible for starting information flows about the Channel Tunnel fire and subsequent disruptions. Although many tweets expressed gratitude for the professionalism of the company and their prompt reply to customer queries, the study suggested an ‘imbalance’ between organisations and private citizens in the co-creation of meaning of the incident in favour of the latter. One interpretation of this finding was that it was a manifestation of the increasingly important role played by flexible and mobile affective publics in defining news events within the contemporary ecology, often at the expense of less flexible news organisations and political institutions that operate in these online spaces. This may present practical problems for emergency managers during incidents such as the Channel Tunnel fire, especially when the cacophony of views on Twitter make it difficult to both filter and share real-time crisis information on the microblogging site. In this way, the paper adds to the emergent literature on dialogic communication and disasters by considering the extent to which the mobilisation of affective publics online challenges the ability of emergency managers to share accurate real-time information with members of the public during such incidents.
Braun V and Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(2):77-101.
Papacharissi Z (2015) Affective publics: Sentiment, technology and politics. Oxford University Press.
Papacharissi Z (2016) Affective publics and structures of storytelling: sentiment, events and mediality. Information, Communication & Society 19(3):307-324.