Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Recovery, Resilience and Beyond: ICT Use During Ongoing Disruption
by Semaan, Bryan Christopher, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2011, 271; 3499143
Abstract (Summary)

The role Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in enabling people to coordinate efforts in providing aid and assistance during disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes, has emerged as an active research topic, as people can now participate in the recovery effort globally. The majority of these studies, however, have focused on the acute emergency phase during and shortly after a disaster strikes. It is still unclear what role ICTs, like Facebook, can serve during ongoing disruption as caused by violent conflict, and this dissertation attempts to address that gap. When people experience war, they are living under constant threats, such as bombings and militia attacks. Thus, it may be difficult for people to engage in emergency related behaviors, as well as maintain their daily routines. Two main problems may further limit people's ability to act in such contexts: (1) the degradation of societal trust and (2) increased distance, thus resulting in the breakdown of trust of not only the government, but of their community. Additionally, support networks are disrupted and many people may flee a war zone to seek safety in another location. Likewise, it may be difficult to travel safely and easily due to ongoing violence. In order to better understand how ICTs enable people to act when experiencing ongoing disruption, we used a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods to longitudinally study the Iraqi population. We conducted 90 semi-structured interviews in both English and Arabic with Iraqis who had been experiencing the current Gulf War since March 2003. We also designed and deployed an online survey to better understand people's friendship formation behavior and Facebook use. Additionally, we collected archival materials like news articles and blog data, which we used to further inform our analysis. We found that Iraqis were using ICTs to engage in emergency related behaviors as part of the disaster recovery process, as well as to be resilient in maintaining and developing new routines. Firstly, Iraqi civilians used ICTs to manage their public identity, to develop collaborative practices that relied on those with whom interpersonal trust previously existed, and to conduct background checks. These new practices, in turn, enabled people to maintain and develop new routines for work, social life, and public discourse, to be able to obtain trustworthy jobs and services, and to continue interacting with others in public. Secondly, ICTs mediated the development of unofficial, trust-based social arrangements through which people then resolved continual breakdowns in the infrastructures supporting travel, education, and information. Thirdly, Iraqi civilians are now using Facebook to engage in emergency related behaviors, to maintain integral cultural practices, and to engage in new activities to improve their country. We then discuss how Iraqi citizens were using ICTs to regain security, to rebuild their society, and to engage in activities that are beyond what are considered routine.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mark, Gloria J.
Commitee: Olson, Gary, Olson, Judith, Palen, Leysia
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Information and Computer Science - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Information Technology, Web Studies, Information science
Keywords: Crisis informatics, Disruption, Facebook, Information and communication technologies, Recovery, Resilience, Trust
Publication Number: 3499143
ISBN: 978-1-267-23085-0
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