Mass Convergence of Attention During Crisis Events

Emma S. Spiro (PI)

When crises occur, including natural disasters, mass casualty events, and political/social protests, we observe drastic changes in social behavior. Local citizens, emergency responders and aid organizations flock to the physical location of the event. Global onlookers turn to communication and information exchange platforms to seek and disseminate event-related content. This social convergence behavior, long known to occur in offline settings in the wake of crisis events, is now mirrored – perhaps enhanced – in online settings. This project looks specifically at the mass convergence of public attention onto emergency responders during crisis events. Viewed through the framework of social network analysis, convergence of attention onto individual actors can be conceptualized in terms of network dynamics. This project employs a longitudinal study of social network structures in a prominent online social media platform to characterize instances of social convergence behavior and subsequent decay of social ties over time, across different actors types and different event types.