Crisis and Disaster: Communicative Ecologies in Action

There is a tendency that social media is playing an increasingly important role. One of the main reasons is that the distributed network is more effective and indestructible than traditional media like TV and broadcast in crisis and disaster.

Years ago, social media could only be a kind of supplement of news. However, in some crisis and disaster which happened recently. We could find that social media has been one of the main information source. For instance, a chemical explosion happened in Tianjin, China in 2015. The explosion happened at midnight and people who lived not far from the site of explosion uploaded photos and videos in first time. By comparison, media organisations arrived at the scene in a few hours later.

Furthermore, the disparities are not only on efficiency, but also on broadcasting scope and influence. After the explosion happened in five days, more than forty-thousand relevant articles could be searched on social media and they were read more than one hundred million times.

Nevertheless, the exaggerated number also means that unconfirmed news and rumours must be existed and the negative influence would show in 24 hours. To this case, as the number of casualties increased, rumours were raised as well. Such as ‘there is no survivor within one kilometre area of explosion.’ Or ‘Tianjin was in Chaos, shops are robbed by villains.’ Although these rumours were clarified in short time, they still caused panic within a certain range.

Another tendency of social media in crisis and disaster is the link between online and offline. People donated the charity organisations which took immediate actions. And they sent site situation and feedback to normal citizens. Sometimes these organisations sent the analysis of materials utilisation to encourage people to donate the most lacking goods and materials and avoided the potential waste.

In conclusion, due to the feature of decentralised network and distributed network, social media communicative ecologies have been an essential part in crisis and disaster relief. But we also need to be alert to the misleading of unconfirmed informations.

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