The Call for Paper for this Special Issue was answered by 29 author teams, of which 16 chose to submit a full paper based on the feedback they got on the initial abstract they submitted. In two rounds of revisions, supported by about forty reviewers, six papers were selected for this Special Issue that presented thorough analyses and/or innovative concepts of collaboration to understand the complexity of coordination in crisis situations that can better inform the design of future collaborative systems in this application domain. We start with high-level approaches to developing inter-organizational coordination mechanisms for crisis response organizations (CROs)—emergency management agencies, non-profit organizations, and spontaneous volunteer networks—and then continue on with papers that have a more narrow focus on the use of specific technology to facilitate collaboration in crisis management.
Benedikt Ley, Thomas Ludwig, Volkmar Pipek, Dave Randall, Christian Reuter and Torben Wiedenhöfer describe in their paper “Information and Expertise Sharing in Inter-Organizational Crisis Management” a long-term study on the development of an inter-organizational socio-technical infrastructure for exchanging information and expertise among different CROs. The combination of a (restricted) social media site with two embedded modules that provided map-based information and facilitated expertise exchange proved to be successful particularly to support practices of improvisation in crisis management. Improvisation work is often necessary to gather all necessary information on the existing crisis situation, and to include the expertise necessary to assess this information when deciding how to prioritize issues and how to proceed with coping and recovery work. The modules of a lightweight inter-organizational tool for shared situation assessment (ISAC), and of a shared information repository (IOIR) that allows users to annotate, discuss and manage the information sources the different CRO bring to the table proved to be helpful Ley et al. derived design requirements for supporting improvisation work that can also inform other solutions.
Sophia B. Liu’s paper “Crisis Crowdsourcing Framework: Designing Strategic Configurations of Crowdsourcing for the Emergency Management Domain” provides us with a comprehensive overview of the crowdsourcing phenomena in the context of crises. Her paper presents a series of vignettes illustrating the evolution of crisis crowdsourcing, which spontaneously emerged after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, to more established forms of public engagement during recent crises. Best practices extracted from the vignettes illustrate the formalization of crisis crowdsourcing, resulting in innovative interfaces designed to support the articulation work needed during the spontaneous efforts. This led to the development of a framework that strategically guides the development of a crisis crowdsourcing system.
This Crisis Crowdsourcing Framework is a comprehensive and methodical approach to determining the why, who, what, when, where, and how aspects of a crowdsourcing system, as well as the social, technological, organizational, and policy (STOP) interfaces to manage the articulation work involved with reducing the complexity of coordinating across these salient dimensions. The paper offers an example of how the framework was applied to develop a crowdsourcing system called iCoast at the U.S. Geological Survey.
Dharma Dailey and Kate Starbird’s paper “Journalists as Crowdsourcerers: Responding to Crisis by Reporting with a Crowd” provides a detailed account of one specific practice of crowdsourcing, and address the risks and necessities of information sharing in crisis situation from a citizen-oriented perspective. The focus of their study are social media, but in connection with traditional media and their protocols and practices. In particular their ethnographic study covers the journalistic practices of information sharing guiding a community of (information) crowdsourcerers to form an ad-hoc mesh network that produces information to help CROs as well as citizens affected in managing the crisis caused by Hurricane Irene. They discuss their results against the existing discourse on ‘infrastructuring’ that aims to understand and support the emergence of infrastructures.
While Liu as well as Dailey and Starbird describe successful approaches to operationalize social media for crisis response, Andrea Tapia and Kathleen Moore’s paper “Good Enough is Good Enough: Overcoming Disaster Response Organizations’ Slow Social Media Data Adoption” points towards the reluctance of professional CROs to embrace the new opportunities social media platforms offer. They start with the requirement of CROs to base decisions only on ‘trustworthy’ data, often categorically excluding data generated by or in social media. This need is contrasted with the fact that in the early stages of crisis response, necessary information is often limited. In their interview study with a range of CRO officials, they describe how social media are indeed already in use by CROs, but with a focus on the people with whom they are in contact, not with the data that is produced or shared. They show how crisis responders’ needs for information and its availability through information are already driving changes in practice, which needs to go further. They argue for a critical perspective of appropriately knowing when and what social media to use in disaster response, while emphasizing that using networks of trusted people, in addition to ad hoc needs, is the basis for validation.
Hemant Purohit, Andrew Hampton, Shreyansh Bhatt, Valerie Shalin, Amit Sheth, and John Flach’s paper “Identifying Seekers and Suppliers in Social Media Communities to Support Crisis Coordination” offers an approach to derive trustworthy and useful information from social media particularly from Twitter. With their ‘Twitris’ system, they aim to identify, extract and process information on actors seeking or providing resources that may be helpful in a crisis. Their concept of combining Natural Language Processing with annotations as metadata for every tweet considered to be relevant, while at the same time bridging the gap between professional CRO with their defined, formal terminologies and the ordinary citizens or volunteers with their more informal language provides a promising way to overcome information overload of CRO in social media. The system has been validated using a Twitter dataset from the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Athula Ginige, Luca Paolino, Marco Romano, Monica Sebillo, Genoveffa Tortora, and Giuliana Vitiello’s paper “Information Sharing among Disaster Responders - An Interactive Spreadsheet-Based Collaboration Approach” concludes our Special Issue with an approach to developing a crisis management system based on a spreadsheet-mediated collaboration among on-site emergency responders and decision makers. Using a participatory design approach, they developed a mobile application that allows CRO to gather and share information organized through spreadsheets. The concept has been evaluated based on a set of earthquake management scenarios for high-risk areas in Italy.