Geosciences and Social Media Research at EGU GA 2010 (1)

There are several presentations at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2010 that investigate social media and the Geosciences, as a tool for dissemination or source of material for research. The below guest blog comes from Dr. Maria del Carmen Llasat Botija of GAMA (Meteorological Hazards Analysis Team) at the University of Barcelona concerning research into using social media for communicating about Natural Hazards.

From paper to facebook, travelling trough the natural hazards divulgation by M.Llasat-Botija, M.C.Llasat and A. Rodriguez [XY518] presented in Session NH9.3/EOS6 Natural Hazards Education and Communications to Students, Government Officials, and the Public on Friday 7th May (Poster Summary and Discussion Session: Room 29 08:30-10:00, Authors in Attendance at Posters: XY512-533 10:30-12:00).

One of the main objectives of this preliminary work is to study the possibilities that Internet offer to develop communicative actions in the field of natural risks as well as to improve the risk awareness. In order to do this, a systematic procedure in order to identify the knowledge, kind of information and lacks existing is being created. The poster starts showing the treatment of natural hazards in Spanish press news and its evolution since 1881. The entrance of internet in the 90’s is clearly identified, as well as a positive trend and strong anomalies due to electoral processes or other specific situations. Using Google searches’ as an indicator, it has been observed an important but very heterogeneous presence of natural hazards in Internet, being the earthquakes the most cited (more than 50 million of entrances) and landslides and snow avalanches the less cited (less than 3 million). The impact of the volcanic eruption in Iceland is clearly revealed. The term “climate change” shows a factor of 10 in comparison with “natural hazards”. Most of the found sites have a static design. However, an increasing trend of dynamic sites has been found on last year, frequently updated and with a high level of participation (this kind of sites are so-called “web 2.0”).

In relation to the contents, internet is an ideal platform to provide information and formation, to divulgate the new results or to introduce prevention measures. The educative sites show a tendency to be more specialized in the contents, the objective public and language used (technical, scientific, popular). Internet is an opportunity to the researcher to communicate his work to the general public. The presence of scientists and experts in Internet is continuously increasing through blogs, websites, wiki’s, although it is still considerably inferior to the amateur’s contributions. In this sense, social networks can be a good channel to divulgate the scientific work, news results as well as to awake the historic memory in order to improve the risk awareness.

Internet tools, like blogs or social networks (Facebook etc.) enable provision of information in real time like warnings, to share experiences and experiments or to work in networks.

These all are opportunities but it is necessary consider some weaknesses. One of these is that people is most interested in sharing personal experiences and pictures, than in learning to improve their resilience. Other important question is the heterogeneous distribution of Internet that does not arrive at the major part of the most vulnerable countries. Another point to be considered is that these new tools need time to be updated (to write a post in a blog,…) that has to be considered in time table of the researcher.

Our challenge is “How do we use this potent tool to improve the risk awareness?”. At the moment we have started with a website and a blog in Spanish, but, why not take benefit of the Natural Hazards EGU Section and the expertise and enthusiasm of their members to have a common blog?

JAH

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