Social media sites Twitter and Facebook played a crucial role in disseminating information during the 2011 Queensland floods.
That is the key finding of a report released today by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) available at http://is.gd/mf0FUE
CCI researchers Associate Professor Axel Bruns and Dr Jean Burgess from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Associate Professor Kate Crawford and Frances Shaw from the University of New South Wales focussed especially on the role of Twitter, which was prominently used by the Queensland Police Service during the crisis.
"Through their @QPSMedia Twitter account, police staff provided timely updates directly from the Queensland Premier's situation meetings," said Professor Bruns.
"Many mainstream media picked up on these updates and included them in their own news tickers."
Dr Burgess added that social media did much more than just improve communication between police and media organisations.
"During the week of 10 January 2011, some 15,000 users participated in the #qldfloods hashtag on Twitter, sharing news, advice, photos and videos of the inundation," she said.
"Social media were important in enabling local communities to stay informed, share their own knowledge and experiences, and to coordinate flood protection and cleanup activities.
"People on Twitter were working together to respond to the crisis, showing a strong spirit of cooperation."
The researchers said the @QPSMedia account became a leading participant, sharing important information which was widely passed along by other users in the network, and responding quickly to the local Twitter community.
"@QPSMedia's updates achieved great visibility online especially because Queensland and Australian Twitter users were passing them along through retweeting," said Ms Shaw.
"It is only by collaborating with the overall userbase that official accounts manage to get their news out, and the Queensland Police Media Unit understood this well. They also received great encouragement and applause for their work from the wider Twitter community."
Professor Crawford said the @QPSMedia's series of '#Mythbuster' tweets, which corrected rumours and misinformation circulating through social and other media was particularly successful.
"These tweets were retweeted widely by other users," Professor Crawford said.
"During times of crisis, many arguments and disagreements are suspended, and we see users come together to ensure that important information gets through to as many people as possible.
"Social media users understand that their networks have become important additional channels for crisis communication," Professor Crawford said.
The CCI Report, #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the south East Queensland Floods, is an outcome of the multi-year Media Ecologies and Methodological Innovation project, which examines the place of social media within the overall mediasphere, with a particular focus on acute events such as natural disasters.
The ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) was established in 2005 to focus research and development on the role the creative industries and their contributing disciplines make to a more dynamic and inclusive innovation system and society and is acknowledged as a global leader in this emerging field.
More information about the research conducted by the QUT team can be found at their project website http://mappingonlinepublics.net/. More information about the CCI is available at http://cci.edu.au/.
For more information contact Professor Axel Bruns 3138 5548 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact: Rose Trapnell, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2999 or email@example.com