Computing That Serves

Supporting the Social Media Needs of Emergency Public Information Officers with Human-Centered Design and Development


Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 11:00am


Amanda Lee Hughes

Post-doc, University of Colorado at Boulder


Dan Olsen

Colloquium is in 1170 TMCB.

Emergency response agencies, which operate as command-and-control
organizations, push information to members of the public with too few
mechanisms to support communication flowing back. Recently, information
communication technologies (ICTs) such as social media have challenged this
one-way model by allowing the public to participate in emergency response in
new and unexpected ways. These developments place new pressure on emergency
managers to release information over social media streams, monitor online activities
during an emergency event, incorporate information provided by members of the
public into response efforts, and engage in the public conversation around an

Within US emergency response organizations, public information officers
(PIOs) are in a unique position to use these emerging communication
technologies. PIOs are responsible for communicating official response
information to members of the public during an emergency event and ensuring
that the information available in the public arena is accurate and complete.

In this talk, I present
findings from a study that examined how social media and the forms of public participation enabled by it
are changing the role of the PIO. I
then describe the exploration of
ICT solutions for the PIO through human-centered methods that include the PIO
in the design process. Finally, I discuss the design, implementation, and
evaluation of a software application informed by this work that supports the
social media needs of PIOs. With the aim of improving emergency response
efforts, this research demonstrates how empirically-based understandings of
emergency management work can inform technology design, practice, and policy.


Amanda Lee Hughes recently graduated (December 2012) with
her PhD from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado at
Boulder. Her research interests span human-computer interaction,
computer-supported cooperative work, social computing, software engineering,
and disaster studies. She grounds her work in the empirical analysis of social
relationships and work practices, after which she designs, prototypes, tests,
and implements digital solutions that support this analysis. Her current work
investigates the use of ICT during crises and mass emergencies with particular
attention to how social media affect emergency response organizations. Amanda
has also received a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Brigham Young
University and a master's degree in Computer Science from the University of
Colorado at Boulder.