Crystallizations in the Blizzard: Contrasting Informal Emergency Collaboration in Facebook Groups

7th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Making Sense Through Design (NordiCHI '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 428-437. DOI=10.1145/2399016.239908

10 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2013  

Andreas Birkbak

Aalborg University Copenhagen

Date Written: October 16, 2012

Abstract

This paper presents a comparative case study of improvised social media use in response to an emergency situation. The study focuses on a severe blizzard on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, which left hundreds snowbound for more than a week. Within a period of 10 days, two public Facebook groups showed a burst of intense activity. Combining content analysis of these online interactions and interviews with group members and authorities on Bornholm, the study demonstrates how divergent perspectives on the blizzard were collectively articulated in these two groups. While the members of one group self-organized to support each other in response to feeling overlooked by public authorities, the other group saw the snowstorm as an exciting spectacle. While the widely used notion of altruistic communities explain some of the activity in the groups, the concept does not capture how emergent groups construct emergencies in diverging ways. The analysis demonstrates how an entanglement of social and physical contexts influenced user adaptation of the Facebook platform. These dynamics must be recognized and understood better in order to design information technology that aids emergent groups in future emergencies.

Keywords: Altruistic communities, emergent groups, emergency, social media, computer-mediated communication, Facebook

Suggested Citation

Birkbak, Andreas, Crystallizations in the Blizzard: Contrasting Informal Emergency Collaboration in Facebook Groups (October 16, 2012). 7th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Making Sense Through Design (NordiCHI '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 428-437. DOI=10.1145/2399016.239908. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2232886

Andreas Birkbak (Contact Author)

Aalborg University Copenhagen ( email )

A C Meyers Vaenge 15
Copenhagen SV, DK-2450
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.aau-cph.dk/

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