Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Operations & Information Management

First Advisor

Jintae Lee

Second Advisor

Kai R. Larsen

Third Advisor

Laura Kornish

Fourth Advisor

Karina Hauser

Fifth Advisor

Oh Onook

Abstract

With the advancement of social networking and mobile technology, social media enables people to communicate with previously unreachable people at an unprecedented speed. Particularly, its importance becomes more salient during times of disaster in which localized and up-to-date information about unexpected, dynamically changing life-threatening events is highly necessary. From this perspective, Twitter has attracted the public at risk and online citizens who purposely relay information of local relevance at a faster rate than traditional media as it provides immediate, near-real time access to unique information. The follower-followee network, and short tweets up to 140 characters, are two major mechanisms that allow the public to rapidly exchange time-sensitive information at a large scale about disaster events.

However, traditional emergency messages have been longer, averaging 1,380 characters, and such a message length might be well aligned with the following criteria of disaster-related information: accurate, precise, specific, and clear. In fact, most of the previous research has ignored how short tweets would affect communication practices on Twitter during disaster events. Additionally, recent studies have kept arguing that more research should pay attention to possible influences of such short messages for disaster communication. Understanding how people interpret a brief tweet during disasters is important, as a short tweet may not always convey accurate, precise, specific, and clear messages. In my dissertation, “What Have We Missed When Examining Twitter as a Communication Medium during Disasters,” I closely investigate the shortness of tweets in association with retweeting as the short length of tweets can be viewed as a double-edged sword during times of disaster: one aspect allows for fast updates and the circulation of critical information among twitterers; on the other hand, a tweet may not convey all pertinent information about a disaster event.

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