HEROIC Project Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

A HEROIC-funded paper entitled “A cross-hazard analysis of terse message retransmission on Twitter” was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week.  This research provides the first systematic study of the factors predicting the social amplification of risk communication in OSNs by examining the retransmission of official messages across five hazards. Our findings demonstrate the respective impacts of sender characteristics, message content, and message style in determining whether an official message will be passed on during an emergency, as well whether these vary across hazards. These results contribute to the evidence base for policies guiding the delivery by emergency management organizations of lifesaving information to the public.

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NSF Grant Kick-Off Meeting

We are excited to announce the kick-off of a new NSF funded effort by researchers at the University of Kentucky and the University of California-Irvine to better understand the dynamics of informal online communication in response to extreme events. Through a combination of data collection and modeling of conversation dynamics, the project team aims to understand the relationship between hazard events, informal communication and emergency response. The Project HEROIC Data Consortium is to be created to further the goals of this project and provide infrastructure for future data collection and analysis related to informal online communication and emergency response.


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HEROIC Research Featured by Calit2 Newsroom

The HEROIC project was featured in a recent article by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

The article can be found here.

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HEROIC PI Sutton Presents at WCDM

Sutton presented on “Alerts, Warnings, and Social Media: what works, what doesn’t, what makes a difference” to a standing room only crowd in Toronto on June 24, 2013 at the World Conference on Disaster Management. Drawing from current HEROIC project research efforts and the empirical record on disaster alerts and warnings, Sutton translated research findings into practical lessons for emergency managers who utilize new media as one channel among many for alerts and warnings in disaster events.

Twitter has become a redundant channel for crisis communicators in disaster.  Effective messaging has become vital. This talk addresses how message content, style, and exposure predicts message dissemination in a disaster.  Using data from empirical research over a set of different hazard events, we show ho message factors affect transmission across social networks online.  From this, we identify the key elements that will lead to social amplification of crisis communications in disaster.

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HEROIC Team Published in IJISCRAM

Research from the HEROIC team was published in the recent issue of the International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (IJISCRAM).


Informal online communication channels are being utilized for official communications in disaster contexts. Channels such as networked microblogging enable public officials to broadcast messages as well as engage in direct communication exchange with individuals. Here the authors investigate online information exchange behaviors of a set of state and federal organizations during the Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill disaster. Using data from the popular microblogging service, Twitter, they analyze the roles individual organizations play in the dissemination of information to the general public online, and the conversational aspects of official posts. The authors discuss characteristics and features of the following networks including actor centrality and differential mixing, as well as how structural features may affect information exchange in disasters. This research provides insight into the use of networked communications during an event of heightened public concern, describes implications of conversational features, and suggests directions for future research.


Sutton, J., Spiro, E., Butts, C., Fitzhugh, S., Johnson, B., & Greczek, M. (2013). “Tweeting the Spill: Online Informal Communications, Social Networks, and Conversational Microstructures during the Deepwater Horizon Oilspill.” International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (IJISCRAM), 5(1), 58-76. doi:10.4018/jiscrm.2013010104

Full article can be found here.

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Final Report on Twitter Response to Boston

Today we released the final report in a series of three research highlights on the bombing and other events in Boston, MA earlier this month. In this third report we discuss the content of Twitter messages and the warnings/advisories that were released across many different channels.

Please see the online research highlight here.

Sutton, J., Johnson, B.,  Spiro, E.,  and Butts, C. (2013). “Tweeting What Matters: Information, Advisories, and Alerts Following the Boston Marathon Events.” Online Research Highlight. http://heroicproject.org


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Gibson and Spiro to Present HEROIC Research at Sunbelt 2013

Team members Ben Gibson and Emma Spiro will head to Hamburg, Germany next week to present preliminary findings from HEROIC projects at Sunbelt XXXIII. The annual conference is sponsored by the International Network for Social Network Analysis.

Gibson will speak on recent work that introduces a method for estimating the size of active user populations in an online environment over short time intervals (e.g., minutes to hours). Using a variant of the capture-recapture method, Gibson et al. can estimate the total population of those who are active in online environments such at Twitter. Preliminary findings suggest that this method is an effective and useful approach for estimating active user population dynamics in a variety of online social network settings.

Spiro will present an exploration of tie dynamics in online social networks.   Many social systems now facilitate rapid re-organization (creation and dissolution) of social ties over short time scales on the order of days. Spiro et al. examine tie decay following instances of mass convergence of attention (i.e. “degree spikes”) on particular users of a popular microblogging service. They do so for randomly sampled users as well as a population of targeted emergency management organizations.

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Second Report on Twitter Activity During Boston Bombing

The HEROIC team has released a second online research highlight that focuses on Twitter activity during the recent events in Boston, MA. This second report explores relational and conversational aspects of messages posted by official government accounts during the event.

Please see the online research highlight here.

Sutton, J., Spiro, E., Johnson, B., Fitzhugh, S., and Butts, C. (2013). “Tweeting Boston: The Influence of Microstructure in Broadcasting Messages through Twitter.” Online Research Highlight. http://heroicproject.org

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New Research Highlight on the Boston Bombing

In recent work the HEROIC team examines the behavior of government organizations during the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon.  In particular the team looks at the drastic increase in followers that these government accounts experienced during the week of the bombing and subsequent events.

Please see the online research highlight here.

Sutton, J., Spiro, E., Johnson, B., and Butts, C. (2012). “Following the Bombing.” Online Research Highlight. http://heroicproject.org

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Sutton Speaks at TAMU

HEROIC PI Jeannette Sutton spoke at the Industrial and Systems Engineering Seminar at Texas A&M University on Monday, April 22nd, 2013. The abstract of her talk is below.


The speed with which our society is enjoying technological change, including the growth of networked communications, lead many to appreciate the possibility for innovative uses of online communication tools.  Social media represent one set of channels and tools for use in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery by both members of the public and responders alike.  As a source of “big data,” it also brings challenges and opportunities for researchers and engineers.  This presentation will provide a historical narrative of some key social media events along the disaster timeline, and describe strategies for collecting, approaching, and analyzing Twitter data in order to create predictive models of social behaviors during the warning phase of a disaster.


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