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research

Research brief:

My research is grounded in the radical notion that information is humanitarian aid.
Facts about what happened, news about where to get help, and reports about the fate of one’s community are as vital as food, shelter, medical care, and other relief aid.

Over the last decade, humanitarian response increasingly includes a 24/7 digital crowdsourcing network of trained global volunteers to quickly gather, verify, and analyze information about crisis zone damage, relief needs, and responding organization expertise. A key information source of local situational awareness for the crowdsourcing network is real-time social media produced by crisis-affected people, government officials, and non-governmental organizations.

However, parsing the enormous streams of user-generated content to derive timely, helpful, and actionable situational awareness remains a big challenge. Traditional ways of assessing the age/timeliness of information through datestamps and chronological timelines are upended by social media platforms due to content throttling, algorithmic ordering, etc., which are out of the control of crisis-affected people, emergency responders, and the digital humanitarian network.

Together with the digital humanitarian group, Standby Task Force, I explore qualitative representations of experiencing time in virtual/online spaces during high tempo, fluid, and time-critical crisis scenarios.

The aim of my doctoral research with the TMI Lab in the Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder is to unpack how time is embedded in social media data and in the digital humanitarian crowdsourcing process.

The sociotemporal representations I’m most interested in are the different ways people think about, talk about, and make sense of time. In everyday life, we don’t refer to time zones, 24-hour clock time or ISO 8601 standards. Instead, we refer to time as trajectories (“yesterday”, “next week”), rhythms (“urgent”, “race against time”), horizons (“now”, “soon”), and personally-situated moments that virtual/non-colocated teams appear to use to communicate over time and space (“after dinner”, or “8:30 a.m. my time”).

My participatory research agenda explores both theoretical and action-oriented computer-mediated communication, social computing, and human-computer interaction in humanitarian response.