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Chapter 4. Natural Hazards: Changing Med... > IMPLICATIONS OF THE CASE STUDY FOR D...

IMPLICATIONS OF THE CASE STUDY FOR DISASTER COMMUNICATION AND THE USE OF ICT

The case study shows that traditional mass media still play a major role in people's information seeking behaviour in times of crisis. In recent years, rapid changes in mass media structures coupled with new communication technologies have promoted a shift in disaster communications. The analysis indicates that journalism has moved away from public service orientated goals towards the imperative of market logic. Most coverage by the newspapers are extending their focus on human-interest stories, highlighting the personalities of victims combined with ever larger visuals/photographs. Dramatic elements appear as necessary elements in response to the pressures of the media business. The selective processes (and arbitrary decisions on whether or not to cover the big story within the media) prompted by business logic leave out important elements of disaster processes which can have far-reaching serious consequences for disaster management agencies and citizens. One example from our case study is the low perceived risk of the public: Despite the general increase in media coverage on floods the people seem to trivialise the actual risk. This may due to the media's trend towards short-lived human interest stories using tabloid styles of presentation.

In accordance with the findings, we need to consider ICTs as effective tools for disaster agencies to raise and strengthen risk perception, as well as self-protection measures. ICTs facilitate access to official disaster information in times of emergency and have advantages over traditional media for disaster communication agencies. First, information provided by the disaster agency directly and via ICT is independent of the gatekeeping process by classical media outlets. ICTs offer disaster agencies the opportunity to create their own web pages, to constantly update information beyond space and time limitations, and address audiences directly. Disaster agencies can transmit relevant content rapidly, provide content in different languages, and use different forms of presentation. Information on this basis may be more authentic than that processed through the media system and the content can include detailed information of local, national and international services. According to Nudell & Antokol (1988) in crisis situations "it is always the best if the information comes from you!" (p. 68), i.e., from disaster managers or designated spokes-people. Second, new technologies offer unique information and communication opportunities. The traditional one-to-many communication without feedback provisions and the hierarchical relationship between media communicators and audiences are replaced by bi-directional or multidirectional communication (Geser, 1997). New media enable users to set up personal preferences for the kind of information they want to receive. For disaster management, personalised forms of information before, during or after an event offer useful applications. In particular, individualised information about the necessary behaviour in the case of a disaster must be emphasised (Winerman, 2009). Additionally, people will no longer be just passive audiences, as web-based software supports interactive tools. People are able to report incidents, post messages and start discussions (Morris & Ogan, 1996; Geser, 2002). Third, the archive function of ICT presents an advantage for disaster communication. After initial publication on the internet, digitalised information is available for days, weeks or even months. In addition, the electronic mode of communication results in abundant information in all domains of disaster and risk knowledge.


  

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