Sending Out an S.O.S

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We live in an extremely connected world, with 74% of adults using Social Media. Every day we are logging into our devices to watch videos of cats, and to check if Polly really did dye her hair another ridiculous colour. It has become so ingrained in everyday life for our generation (90% of 18 – 29 year olds) that it’s almost considered abnormal to not maintain an online presence. I believe the main draw is the convenience of the Internet; connecting you to anyone, anywhere around the world. It is this convenience that makes it the ideal tool for use during emergency situations.

The Australian Government stated “Recent disaster events, in Australia and internationally, have demonstrated the importance of social media, not only in delivering vital information to the community during emergency events, but also in strengthening relationships between emergency services and Australian communities. There is also an increasing awareness of the benefits of crowdsourcing, for example, to gain critical intelligence on emergencies and natural disasters.

This got me thinking about how I use technology during these times of crisis. In order to explain this I have to tell you a little bit more about myself. I grew up in Victoria and moved to Queensland in 2008. This means I left all my old friends and family back in the cold southern state. My new home in Queensland is about an hour north of Brisbane, making for a lovely commute to Uni everyday and putting me well out of the spotlight for most events. It’s because of my geographic location that when I sat down to write this post I thought “I’ve never been involved in a Natural Disaster though…” But indirectly I think I have.

I remember using Facebook during the 2010-11 Brisbane floods to update friends and family. Although, I wasn’t directly in an effected area, I still took to Facebook to let everyone I know I was OK. This was because my family weren’t local and didn’t know how widespread the disaster was.

Great Brisbane flood of 2011. Contact erik@erikveland.com for licensing.

McDonald’s Milton – Brisbane Floods by Erik K Veland is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Additionally, I remember updating my Facebook on March 8th 2013, after Police Shut down Queen’s Street Mall due to an incident with a gunman. On that day I was supposed to be walking through that section of the CBD on my way home, but I had left earlier due to a class cancellation.

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Lockdown – Police take cover & Lockdown – Evacuating civilians by Brad Wood is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Recently, I signed up to popular site Twitter (Yay for knowing every time a minor celebrity buys Starbucks) and I used it to monitor #TCMarcia and #BigWet. Obviously I am not quite that far north, so I used it to stay updated. As a newbie to the platform I found it really interesting to see how the authorities kept the public updated on their efforts and possible hazards to be cautious off. It was also interesting to see first hand accounts of the devistation some people were experiencing. Also, all the of people dangerously braving the conditions for a photo op. :/

IDL TIFF file

Cyclones Lam & Marcia by NASA is licensed under CC0 Public Domain.

At the time I really didn’t consider how important that information could be to some people, nor did I even question the fact that this information was so readily available to me at the click of a button. Having taken a step back I can see that in times of crisis this information can be the difference between life and death for some people in desperate need of help. Additionally, this information can be used after the emergency situation is over to analyse how well the event was handled and to make improvements to the system.

For example, it is interesting to consider the large role Social Media played in the recent siege of Lindt Cafe. Sydney Morning Herald reported that police followed “conversations on Twitter to inform their tactical response as well as monitoring Facebook posts by the 18 men and women trapped inside the cafe.” It makes you wonder how much worse the outcome could have been without this inside intelligence.

Having reflected upon the various emergency situations that I’ve experienced in person and online; I feel confident about how I would respond to a situation. Of course this is only in terms of how I would manage it online, as I would probably also call emergency services (000) given the circumstances.

If I were to be directly involved in a disaster I would probably update Facebook first to contact my personal network of friends and family. Then, I would keep people updated about my situation on Twitter, as it’s a public format and I would be able to engage more directly with the authorities managing the situation. I would also use Twitter as a tool to stay updated on developments that could effect my situation.

That is really the extent of my experience on the topic and I hope you found some of this interesting. I will be investigating alternative emergengy communication platforms that might be useful to me in future so feel free to let me know what you like to use in the comments below? Or let me know of any new technologies you’ve heard about?

Thanks for Reading,
– M.

Are We A Community?

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In this post I’m going to talk about Online Communities, but first let’s look at what an online community is and how we can define them.

An article on i-Scoop describes communities as:

“A natural phenomenon, a mindset and a way of engagement. Communities of people have always existed and online communities existed long before we even used blogs. Social communities are online communities using social platforms. An online community is no different than any other community except for the fact it’s online. It is a group of people with something in common, which could include shared interests, experiences, ideals, goals or profiles.

This is an interesting definition because it implies that the technology is irrelevant to the concept of communities, even though in some cases it is the main platform for communication.

i-Scoop defines 7 parameters for classifying communities: Scale, Scope (Exchanging ideas or answering questions), Settings (Public/private), Maturity (of the features, Networking and content sharing or collaboration and co-creation), Value Proposition, Members and Tools.

Using these definitions and parameters you could say that a blog or a site such as LinkedIn is not a community. This is because there is no clear community goal or engagement. Let’s see what happens if I apply this information to some of my own social networks.

Facebook – has a small scale based on my personal connections; is an environment for sharing ideas, having conversations or answering questions; the setting is private; the network has basic community features, and it has a wide range of members from various profiles all with a shared goal.

DeviantArt – has a large public community of members all with a shared goal or interest in Art. It is a platform for communication and learning and even collaboration, utilising basic tools and features.

By this definition, both of these networks can be considered communities. But let’s look at one more, and consider Kate’s twitter network of library and information professionals.

Twitter – has a large public and private audience; utilises basic features of networking and content sharing to communicate between people of a similar interest; and is used as a platform for sharing ideas, conversations, learning experiences and collaboration toward similar goals.

It meets all the criteria, I think it’s fair to say it’s an online community.

Lastly, I was going to write about my networks, where they exist, how I participate, enact relationships, etc. But I feel like I covered most of that In my previous blog post about my online identity so if you want to give that a read go ahead and check out my previous post, Internet & Me.

If you disagree with this definition of online communities or my conclusions about specific networks, let me know in the comments, I’ll be interested to hear your different opinions.

Have a lovely day,
– M

More statistics than you’ll ever need

stats 2So many statistics~

What you’re seeing here is a glimpse of my personal statistics collected from my Facebook and organised graphically by the WolframAlpha “Facebook report” tool.

I know the aim of this activity was to generate a network map but to me the most interesting data was about my activity history and friend demographics (age, gender, relationship status, etc.). It was interesting to see when I’m most active and the type of updates I commonly make.

What do you think? What was the most interesting thing you observed when you completed this activity? And for those of you that didn’t, what is the most interesting thing you noticed in my data?

I look forward to hearing from you.
-M