Communication patterns on the Facebook page of emergency management organisations

  • Jayan Chirayath Kurian

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Social Networking Sites (SNSs) have attracted millions of users by giving them an opportunity to communicate in a globally-connected world. This user communication has value in crises such as floods, earthquakes, fires and hurricanes. SNSs are used as tools to disseminate information in crises, but no existing studies have examined stakeholder input (such as comments posted by external organisations and members of the public on the SNSs of emergency management organisations) during the different stages of a crisis (pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis) so as to understand the deployment, costs, and benefits of many-to-many emergency communication, and to help prepare future resilience strategies. To address these gaps in the literature, this study presents findings from a qualitative study of user posts on the Facebook page of two emergency management organisations, FEMA in the United States and ACT SES in Australia. A thematic analysis of user posts and interviews of emergency management organisation website administrators were used to examine this study’s research questions.
This thesis, situated in the discipline of Crisis Informatics, identifies and categorises the patterns of communication (collection of major user-generated content) evident on the SNSs of emergency management organisations and their benefits and challenges for the stakeholders of emergency management. Contributions include the development of a framework for classifying information on SNSs which enables the identification of the overarching themes in emergency management, as well as the communication patterns and the communication culture of stakeholders. Activity Theory was used to describe communication on SNSs and its benefits and challenges for emergency management stakeholders. Practical contributions include recommending a social media strategy for organisations to mitigate criticism on the SNSs of emergency management organisations.
Findings indicate that based on the crisis communication matrix, emergency management organisations differ significantly in terms of communication at the inter-organisational (domestic and international) level. Communication from the public to organisations had significant positive as well as negative characteristics and included updates, criticism, requests, opinions, recommendations and praise. In addition to their principal emergency management activities, the activities of organisations differ widely in terms of community services. With respect to communication from organisations to the public, in both cases communication was most intense in the pre-crisis phase. However, organisations differed markedly in terms of their open communication culture: all administrators filtered content and administered workflow for the approval of content as some users posted non-relevant information, but ACT SES adopted a more inclusive style of online communication than FEMA, reflecting ACT SES’s institutional openness to public involvement, in the shape of volunteer recruitment.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJerry Watkins (Supervisor), Mathieu O'Neil (Supervisor) & Kerry Mccallum (Supervisor)

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