The following is a guest post from Francesco Ciriaci on the recent CrisisCamp held in Bologna, Italy in March and the discussions that followed among crisiscampers in that country.
Italian Campers joining the conversation
The first Italian #SMEM Camp
The first Italian Camp on Social Media in Emergency Management took place in Bologna, on the 17th of March 2012. It has been a great camp, not only by the number of participants (40!), well beyond our expectations, but for the quality of the work done and the commitment of the whole group.
Special thanks go to CrisisCommons for the support, guidance and for keeping us focused on the global #SMEM conversation: there is a pattern emerging from the latest camps, a model that could be replicated. We are also collaborating with Stefania Milan, researcher and Italian expat, who is helping CrisisCommons better understand virtual volunteering.
Highlights from the Camp
The SMEM theme is particularly felt in Italy as a result of some emergencies of the last winter: many of us strive to foster a serious discussion on the topic and a more effective use of social media for risk prevention and emergency in Italy.
11 short talks were made during the morning, all very interesting and varied: a presentation on the basic concepts of emergency management and the Italian context, one on the impact on the legal framework, and one on communication/official communication; two startups (Metwit and UPTU) working on the topic! and many others.
Three talks were particularly relevant for the global conversation on SMEM:
1. Alfonso Crisci presented his amazing work on Twitter semantic analysis, showing the tools used and how well such analysis could monitor an emergency, and predict risk.
2. Michele d’Alena talked about #boneve, the beautiful, enlightening case on how Twitter had been used during the last snow emergency in Bologna
3. Emanuela Risso and Flavio Ciaranfi presented the stunning case of Angeli con il Fango sulle Magliette: how to reach millions of people and engage them in few days, using Facebook.
[Quote: “Twitter is king and Facebook queen of Social Media in Emergency.”]
In the afternoon we divided into three working groups to address the best practices of Twitter usage (guidelines, hashtags, …) in three different types of risk: health, volcanoes and earthquakes, geological.
We concluded the day with more open questions that we had before the camp, but different and definitively better ones!
One month later
After the camp the discussion continued online (there are now 85 people in the group), for the questions require some answers and, as Elena Rapisardi (co-founder of CrisisCamp Italy) reminds us: “emergencies do not wait”.
Here are the main points:
• it is rooted in the “citizens as sensors” approach that, to be a sensor, means to switch from an emotional participation to a proactive collaboration. It means to learn how to be ready, how to recognize a normal natural phenomenon from a risk, and thus be proactive when coping with natural hazards and emergencies:
• there is a serious demand coming from Civil Protection bodies, rescue bodies, monitoring research centers, scholars and volunteers for guidelines in Twitter usage
• itʼs not possible not control the hashtags but it is possible to influence them, and we have to find better ways to manage hashtags
• the geographical dimension is the most complex to manage online, tools are not there yet (we could ask Twitter to improve their system, right?)
Learning how to be a proactive – and not passive – sensor, could be a huge challenge, but the main stream on disaster reduction underlines that the wave of the cultural change could come from a wider citizens engagement:
”Disasters can be substantially reduced if people are well informed and motivated towards a culture of disaster prevention and resilience, which in turn requires the collection, compilation and dissemination of relevant knowledge and information on hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities.” (Hyogo Framework for Action).
A common tag strategy could help raising awareness on natural hazards and emergencies among citizens. We are working on the rationale document aiming to contribute to the wider international debate, and preparing a short guideline for citizens (the SMEM Vademecum) to support the switch from emotional participation to proactive collaboration and engagement.
The Italians woke up later than others, but are moving fast: there is a strong interest for another camp soon and the Angeli con il fango sulle magliette have kindly offered to host the next Camp in Genova, likely in June. In the meantime the work continues online!
Official event web-page and slides of talks:
Talk audio recording by Radio Perusia (Italian): http://www.spreaker.com/page#!/show/ radio_perusia