Analyzing and Leveraging Social Media Disaster Communication of Natural Hazards: Community Sentiment and Messaging Regarding the Australian 2019/20 Bushfires

Sarah Gardiner, Jinyan Chen, Margarida Abreu Novais, Karine Dupré, J. Guy Castley

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

This research presents a new model based on Twitter posts and VADER algorithms to analyze social media discourse during and following a bushfire event. The case study is the Gold Coast community that experienced the first bushfire event of Australia’s severe Black Summer in 2019/2020. This study aims to understand which communities and stakeholders generate and exchange information on disasters caused by natural hazards. In doing so, a new methodology to analyze social media in disaster management is presented. This model enables stakeholders to understand key message themes and community sentiment during and following the disaster, as well as the individuals and groups that shape the messaging. Three main findings emerged. Firstly, the results show that messaging volume is a proxy for the importance of the bushfires, with a clear increase during the bushfire event and a sharp decline after the event. Secondly, from a content perspective, there was a consistent negative message sentiment (even during recovery) and the need for better planning, while the links between bushfires and climate change were key message themes. Finally, it was found that politicians, broadcast media and public commentators were central influencers of social media messaging, rather than bushfire experts. This demonstrates the potential of social media to inform disaster response and recovery behavior related to natural hazards.

Original languageEnglish
Article number138
JournalSocieties
Volume13
Issue number6
Early online date31 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Big Data
  • bushfire
  • disaster communication
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences

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