The switchboard mechanism: How social media connected citizens during the 2013 floods in Dresden

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

Social media platforms are increasingly used for a variety of purposes in disaster preparedness, response and relief work. In a growing number of cases, citizens use social media platforms to self-organize in emergent networks and groups that carry out tasks in emergencies. During the 2013 floods in Dresden, Germany, several Facebook groups emerged as a primary medium for citizens to acquire and share information about the emergency. These networks also functioned as “switchboards” whereby citizens in need of help could be connected to those that offered it. Moreover, these networks also amplified solidarity and social cohesion among volunteers. The article provides an in-depth analysis of one of the Facebook groups by categorizing the different posts according to their function, and combining this qualitative approach with a quantitative analysis of the number of likes, comments and shares each post received during the emergency period. It concludes that social media platforms offer new ways for civil emergency response to emerge, as such digital networks facilitate a communicative infrastructure that provide some sense of order to the phenomenon of emergent civil disaster response. This development brings with it both potentials as well as challenges for incorporating citizens into emergency policies and plans which will be discussed at the end of the article.
TidsskriftJournal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)350-357
StatusUdgivet - 2018


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