Kate Starbird

2015 Seminar Series

Social Media Use during Disaster Events: The Evolving Role of the Connected Crowd in Response and Resilience

Crisis events in the physical world are now precipitating mass convergence events online, where thousands and in some cases millions of people turn to social media to seek and share information. This activity includes a new form of spontaneous volunteerism—digital volunteerism—where individuals and organizations come together in online spaces to provide assistance, both to those affected and to emergency responders. Often this takes the form of informational assistance, as volunteers help to process, filter, categorize, map and route information. Starbird's research has focused on ways in which remote volunteers contribute to these efforts. In this talk, she will cover some of the foundational research in digital volunteerism, and discuss as well more recent studies examining how members of affected communities, including emergency responders and local volunteers, come together with remote volunteers to participate in "emergent crowdwork" after disasters.

2014 Seminar Series

Rumoring on Social Media after Disaster Events

Social media use is becoming an established feature of disaster response. People, including emergency responders and affected individuals, are increasingly turning to available platforms to seek and share information during major events like natural disasters, extreme weather events and political uprisings. These new information-sharing behaviors are accompanied by new opportunities for disaster response, as well as new challenges, including the rapid spread of misinformation. This talk provides some background on crisis informatics, an emerging field of research that examines information communication technology (ICT) use during disaster events, and then shifts to focus specifically on how rumors spread online after disaster events—and how the online crowd "works" to challenge and correct misinformation. 

2013 Seminar Series

Crowd, Crisis, and Convergence: Crowdsourcing in the Context of Disasters

The potential of connected crowds to solve complex problems has been the focus of considerable research in recent years across disciplines and certainly within the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). This talk examines the crowdsourcing phenomenon during natural disasters and other crisis events. The crisis context provides a unique perspective on crowd activity, one where timescales are compressed and prosocial behaviors are magnified. It also comes with a ready-made problem regarding information sharing—some people have it, many others need it, and it often requires a great deal of improvisation to get it to where it's needed. Armed with mobile devices and connected through social media platforms, people on the ground of disaster events are newly enabled to share information about unfolding events with their neighbors, emergency responders and the wider "crowd." This real-time information could become a vital resource for affected people and responders, but it remains difficult to get the right information to the right person at the right time. An important part of this problem, as well as a potential route to its solution, are the activities of the crowd—in this case the global audience. In our hyper-connected world, large-scale disaster events also act as catalysts for mass "convergence" online, where people from all over the world come together to make sense of the event. This activity functions both to generate massive volumes of information and to help organize that information, intentionally and otherwise. Pulling from several studies of crowd work during crisis events, in this talk Professor Starbird will describe how the crowd attempts to solve complex problems and address gaps in response efforts through digital volunteerism and other productive crowd work. Professor Starbird will also outline research directions for supporting and leveraging crowd work to improve response efforts during disasters.

About Kate Starbird

Kate Starbird is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering and Director of the Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation Laboratory. The emCOMP Lab examines the dynamics of and applications for massive interaction facilitated by social media and other online platforms. The lab also considers how connected, collective intelligence manifests and can be supported within contexts of emergency and humanitarian response, political disruption, and other events of large-scale interest. Starbird received her PhD in 2012 from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among her accomplishments, Starbird co-created "Tweak the Tweet," utilizing the Twitter platform as a two-way communication method to get on-the-ground help where it is most needed. This was first deployed just in time for the Haiti earthquake disaster. Starbird is the Principal Investigator (PI) for a National Science Foundation (NSF) two-year grant for the project, "Detecting Misinformation Flows in Social Media Spaces During Crisis Events."