Communication Dynamics During Disasters

Datalab Faculty

Emma Spiro


Carter Butts

Jeannette Sutton

Project Description

Informal exchange of information occurs continually throughout daily life. These pre-existing communication patterns are vital during non-routine circumstances such as emergencies and disasters. In recent years, informal communication channels have been transformed by the widespread adoption of social media technologies and mobile devices. Although the potential to exploit this capacity for disaster response is increasingly recognized by practitioners, relatively little is known about the dynamics of informal online communication in response to exogenous hazard events. To address this gap, this project employs a longitudinal and comparative approach to examine the content, structure, and dynamics of online communication and information exchange during emergency and disaster events.


Fitzhugh, S.M., C.B. Gibson, Emma S. Spiro, and C.T. Butts. (2016) ``Spatio-temporal filtering techniques for the detection of disaster-related communication.'' Social Science Research. Vol. 59, pp. 137-154.


Sutton, J., C.B. Gibson, N.E. Phillips, Emma S. Spiro, C. League, B. Johnson, S.M. Fitzhugh, and C.T. Butts. (2015) ``A cross-hazard analysis of terse message retransmission on Twitter.'' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(48) 14793-14798; doi:10.1073/pnas.1508916112.


Spiro, Emma S., J. Sutton, S. Fitzhugh and C. T. Butts. (2014) “Online Communication Dynamics During Natural Hazard Events.’ International Communication Association Annual Conference. Seattle, Washington.

Sutton, J., Emma S. Spiro, B. Johnson, S. Fitzhugh, C.B. Gibson, and C.T. Butts. (2014) ``Warning Tweets: Serial Transmission of Warning Messages During a Disaster Event.'' Information, Communication, and Society, Vol. 17, Issue 6.


Sutton, J., Emma S. Spiro, M. Greczek, B. Johnson, S. Fitzhugh, and C.T. Butts. (2013) ``Tweeting the Spill.'' International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management. 5(1), 1-21, pp. 58-76.


Spiro, Emma S., J. Sutton, S. Fitzhugh, M. Greczek, N. Pierski, and C. T. Butts. (2012) “Rumoring During Extreme Events: A Case Study of Deepwater Horizon 2010.” In Proceedings of the ACM Web Science 2012 Conference (WebSci12). Evanston, Illinois. Best Social Science Student Paper Award.