Studying Crisis Events on Social Media for non-WEIRD people

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Faculty Mentor:​ Shion Guha

Doctoral Student Mentor:​ Fayika Farhat Nova

Around the world, people are getting habituated with social media, using it for different purposes to ease their social lives. One of the most common uses of it is to work as a platform for sharing opinions and concerns related to any events that the users may find interesting.

Studies have been done to comprehend what people say and share in social media based on certain interests. Certain events elicit specific reactions from people, which are later shared on social media as a response. For example, in an event of crisis, we see certain levels of concerns, opinions, arguments being posted on social media by people as a response to that crisis. During crises, publics’ social media usage increases (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2006), leading some experts to conclude that public participation is the new norm in crisis management (Baron, 2010). It is important to understand whether all the crisis events cause such response in the social media or some specific events get more attention and priority over the others by these social media users. Though researchers have worked in the issue of crisis managements in social media, their works relied heavily on a specific type of users, often called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) users. There are very little studies on how non-WEIRD users may react to crisis in social media, as opposed to the WEIRD ones.

In our summer study, we intend to address the perspective of non-WEIRD users to evaluate their reactions on social media in the event of any crisis. For instance, we may ask what kind of Facebook posts get more priorities and attention from the users of this cultural context? Does location play a role while sharing a response on certain event, for example, reacting more on western crisis events than local? If so, what is constructing such kind of behaviors? Is it the effect of post-colonialism that favors the western context more or exposure of the international news more than the local? All these questions are needed to be answered in this social context, as it will provide a clearer perspective on how people react in certain situation in social media.

During summer, we are planning to do data analysis on the data collected from Facebook and Twitter APIs. We will create a program to search for specific hashtags or keywords that will connect the reactions on location based crisis events shared by the users in social media, which will appraise the disparities the users show in developing country. Accordingly, we seek bright undergraduate students with a programming background who will helps us design, develop and evaluate this study as well as be co-authors on the paper that we plan to submit to the ACM SIGCHI conference in early September 2018.