PhD Defense by Rachel Michelle Samuels

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Summary Sentence: Identifying, Defining, and Utilizing Sociospatial Variances in Social Media Usage to Improve Crisis Response and Urban Resilience

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Ph.D. Thesis Defense Announcement

Identifying, Defining, and Utilizing Sociospatial Variances in Social Media Usage to Improve Crisis Response and Urban Resilience

by

Rachel Michelle Samuels

 

Advisor(s):

Dr. John E. Taylor (CEE)

Committee Members:

Dr. Iris Tien (CEE), Dr. Emily Grubert (CEE), Dr. Ryan Wang (CEE), Dr. Michael Elliott (PUBP)

 

Date & Time: May 27th, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Location: https://bluejeans.com/771042953

Increasingly large numbers of people are living in areas susceptible to catastrophic disasters because of urban sprawl and worsening extreme weather patterns from climate change.  While more severe weather events are becoming more of a certainty than a possibility, the extent of the impact on humans and society can be mitigated through increasing real-time information on human location, activity, and responsiveness. New forms of information are being utilized in crisis response, and there has been a substantial push towards finding ways of applying data such as social media to emergency responder needs.  However, although many potential uses for social media information have been identified, a number of both ethical and computational biases have been identified as well. An important area for research is identifying these biases, the effects they have on disadvantaged populations, and how to mitigate that bias in the growing body of work designed to utilize social media in crisis situations. Within this dissertation, I describe three studies that identify, define, and address select limitations in social media for crisis response. In the first of these studies, I examine the prevalence and significance of decreases in social media activity from a normal state to crisis conditions. Through correlating changes in social media usage and infrastructural damage, I show the importance of considering social media usage drop-offs in crisis identification.  In the second, I examine the influence of geographic scale on the statistical reliability of social media data and the correlation between social media and infrastructural damage. By varying the geographic scales at which I aggregate behavior, I show the high sensitivity of social media usage analytics to scale and the consequences of neglecting to incorporate scale into existing research conclusions. For the third, I examine the effect of social vulnerability factors on the presence or absence of social media data during a disaster. By comparing the contribution of social vulnerability factors to social media data availability during a normal state and a crisis state, I show that social vulnerability contributes heavily to a decrease in data in a crisis state that is not present during a normal state. The results of this dissertation inform the reliable extent of social media data and its sensitivity to external factors (i.e., infrastructure damage and the presence of vulnerable populations) and analytical factors (i.e., spatiotemporal scale, aggregation, and bursting behavior). Social media analytics offer one method of improving our crisis response; however, any new technology holds the danger of leaving certain populations–especially vulnerable populations–behind. By pinpointing disparities in the representational capacities of the data and proposing alternative methods of use, I hope to improve the usability and equity of social media data for crisis response.
 

 

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Phd Defense
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  • Created By: Tatianna Richardson
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  • Created On: May 18, 2020 - 1:41pm
  • Last Updated: May 18, 2020 - 1:41pm