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Title: Harnessing collaborative technologies in digital disaster response work : an examination of digital volunteers' activities in processing crisis data
Author: Abdulhamid Gambo, Najeeb
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 7627
Awarding Body: Brunel University London
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines the activities involved in processing crisis information. The study demonstrates how digital volunteers acquire, assess, organise and scrutinise crowdsourced information to warrant confidence that their information product is good enough for use by humanitarian organisations. Furthermore, this study explores the use and appropriation of technological tools and platforms in crowdsourcing along with their implications for digital disaster response. Together, these two areas give insight into how digital volunteer communities appropriate collaborative technologies to provide information as a form of aid. Participant observation from virtual fieldwork work, alongside digital records, and interviews are used as methods of qualitative data collection, and the data is examined using Activity Theory Methods. These provide an interpretive frame for analysing the composition of activities and understanding the social organisation of digital volunteers' work using collaborative computing applications. This study contributes to the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Crisis Informatics, Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM), and Disaster literatures. Its contribution to the existing literature is threefold. First, its compliments the socio-technical debates on information quality and integrity by providing evidence and insight into the (visible) manifestation of professionalisation and knowledge of humanitarian principles. Second, this study introduces an additional perspective to the current debate about the importance of language as a substantial factor in response operations. This is crucial since responding to disasters in non-English speaking countries can be problematic and subsequently slow down response operations. Third, this research enhances the current understanding of the digital volunteer communities' delineation and typology by discovering an overlooked group - the Emergency Telecommunication Providers' Community. Regarding its theoretical contribution, this study proposes a new analytical framework outlining the various stages involved in digital disaster response for the social media and data aggregation communities. This framework contains critical components derived from the empirical data that could potentially signal the emergence of a new model for digital disaster response. Thus, the framework is flexible enough to support the coordination of response operations across all types of disasters with different scales by these communities with comparable characteristics in different countries and settings. This work takes a holistic approach through studying different disaster types of various scales, across developed and developing nations over an extended period. This allows an understanding of the challenges involved in responding to disasters across developing countries. As a result, the insights derived from studying disaster across nations of different infrastructural density could potentially signal the development of an evaluation framework for the standardisation of digital disaster readiness of such countries. This approach therefore offers a unique contribution to the methodological advancement of disaster research within the CSCW, ISCRAM and crisis informatics fields. The findings from this research have important implications, since it brings out the salient but under-reported practical field challenges associated with the use of various technological tools and platforms. By providing such insights, system designers and technology developers can utilise this information to improve collaborative work. Insights derived from the findings can also assist volunteers, aid agencies and emergency responders to adapt and improve the way they use ICT tools in their daily routine. In like manner, emergency management organisations from developing nations could take better advantage of the available tools and platforms and incorporate them into their operations.
Supervisor: Perry, M. ; Hone, K. S. Sponsor: Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Digital humanitarians/volunteers ; Crowdsourcing ; Social media ; Collaborative computing ; Humanitarian emergencies ; disasters ; crisis informatics