Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Leysia Palen

Second Advisor

Kenneth M. Anderson

Third Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Fourth Advisor

Michael Muller

Fifth Advisor

Katie Siek

Abstract

Emergency response agencies, which operate as command-and-control organizations, push information to members of the public with too few mechanisms to support communication flowing back. Recently, information communication technologies (ICTs) such as social media have challenged this one-way model by allowing the public to participate in emergency response in new and unexpected ways. These developments place new pressure on emergency managers to release information over social media streams, monitor online activities during an emergency event, incorporate information provided by members of the public into response efforts, and engage in the public conversation around an event. Within US emergency response organizations, public information officers (PIOs) are in a unique position to use these emerging communication technologies. PIOs are responsible for communicating official response information to members of the public during an emergency event and ensuring that the information available in the public arena is accurate and complete. In this dissertation work, I examine how social media and the forms of public participation enabled by it are changing the role of the PIO. Based on this understanding, I explore ICT solutions for the PIO through human-centered methods that include the PIO in the design process. Finally, I design, implement, and evaluate a software application informed by this work that supports the social media needs of PIOs. With the aim of improving emergency response efforts, I demonstrate how empirically-based understandings of emergency management work can inform technology design, practice, and policy. This dissertation research provides the following contributions: (1) an examination of PIOs' roles and the sociotechnical environment in which they work; (2) a new model of PIO communication that takes into account new communication pathways that have been enabled by ICT; (3) a set of requirements for supporting PIO social media communication needs; (4) the design, implementation, and evaluation of a tool--the PIO Monitoring Application--that supports the social media monitoring, documenting, reporting, and organizing needs of PIOs during an emergency event; (5) a description of the likely future role of PIOs and how that role might be supported.

Share

COinS