Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Study Highlights How Twitter Is Used To Share Information After A Disaster

A study from North Carolina State University shows how people used Twitter following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, highlighting challenges for using the social media tool to share information. The study also indicates that social media haven’t changed what we communicate so much as how quickly we can disseminate it.

Binder's study examined whether Twitter is an effective tool for sharing meaningful information after a disaster.

“I wanted to see if Twitter was an effective tool for sharing meaningful information about nuclear risk in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant,” says Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and author of a paper describing the work. “I knew people would be sharing information, but I wanted to see whether it was anecdotal or substantive, and whether users were providing analysis and placing information in context.

“In the bigger picture, I wanted to see whether social media is changing the way we communicate, or if we are communicating the same way using different tools.”

Binder searched for Twitter posts, or “tweets,” originating in the United States that specifically referenced “Fukushima Daiichi” – which is the name of the nuclear plant – rather than searching for the term “Fukushima.” This allowed him to target tweets about the plant instead of general references to the tsunami and overarching disaster in the region. Using that as a base, Binder then selected every 20th tweet on each day over the two weeks following the onset of the Fukushima disaster – from March 11 to March 25, 2011 – to create a representative sample of these tweets.

Fifteen percent of the tweets in the sample contained some mention of risk-related terms, such as hazard or exposure, while 17.7 percent of the tweets included language that helped place the events at Fukushima Daiichi and their potential causes or consequences in context. For example, one tweet read “Most of the 100s of workers at Fukushima Daiichi live close to the plant so it’s their families and houses at risk.” Overall, 54 percent of the tweets included hyperlinks to external websites, of which 62.7 percent linked to traditional news sources.

“I found that, initially, tweets that mentioned risk were unlikely to include analysis or information on context,” Binder says. “Similarly, tweets that attempted to help understand events at Fukushima Daiichi rarely mentioned risk. By the time people began tweeting about risk issues in a meaningful way, the initial high level of interest had begun to wane significantly.”

Binder also found that people were more likely to include links to websites as time went on. And, as time passed, a higher percentage of those links were to traditional news sites.

“This highlights a significant problem,” Binder says. “People are clearly looking to news outlets for insight and analysis into disasters such as this one. But news organizations have fewer and fewer reporters who specialize in covering science and technology issues – and those are the very reporters who would be able to provide insight and analysis on these events.”

The study also seems to imply that social media have not significantly changed the content of our communications. “This case, at least, indicates that Twitter is allowing people to share news quickly and easily,” Binder says. “But the news they are sharing is not much different from that available to someone reading a print newspaper – they’re simply getting it sooner.”

The paper, “Figuring Out #Fukushima: An Initial Look at Functions and Content of US Twitter Commentary About Nuclear Risk,” will be published in the June issue of Environmental Communication.


Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Figuring Out #Fukushima: An Initial Look at Functions and Content of US Twitter Commentary About Nuclear Risk”

Author: Andrew R. Binder, North Carolina State University

Published: June 2012 issue of Environmental Communication

Abstract: This study takes an exploratory look at Twitter content in the USA about the emergency at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station. In particular, I focus on the concepts of the ‘‘atrophy of vigilance’’ from the risk communication literature and the message functions fulfilled for social media users. Two important results emerge from this analysis. First, Twitter content in the USA reflected a cautious approach, mainly suggesting an informative versus interpretive function and rarely mentioning risk or hazard outright. Second, this informative emphasis on risk dominated the content of tweets in the few days following the emergency but decreased substantially within 2 weeks afterwards; it was then overtaken by an interpretive risk emphasis. In addition, toward the end of this period, tweets were more likely to include hyperlinks to websites of traditional news outlets. Implications for the empirical study of social media and risk communication are discussed.

Matt Shipman | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht Product placement: Only brands placed very prominently benefit from 3D technology
07.07.2016 | Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt

nachricht NASA Goddard network maintains communications from space to ground
02.03.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>