Mass Convergence within Disaster and Humanitarian Response


A network graph based on retweet patterns related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizion Oil Spill

Retweet patterns from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oilspill show distinct conversations and collaborations taking place.


The emCOMP Lab examines mass participation in the context of crisis (i.e. large-scale, natural, and man-made disasters). Disaster events have long been known to occasion convergence behavior—i.e. after disasters people converge physically onto the scene to— among other things—offer help. With the widespread adoption of social media and other online tools, we are now seeing digital convergence after disaster events, whereby people all over the world come together in virtual spaces, participating in a number of capacities, including volunteerism. Digital volunteerism has quickly become a recognized feature of the informational landscape after disaster events. The emCOMP Lab pursues empirical research and design opportunities in this space, seeking to find ways to support and leverage digital volunteerism and other forms of social media participation during crises, and to integrate the products of these activities into formal response efforts.

We believe that digital volunteerism offers an interesting perspective on crowdsourcing and crowdwork, one where participation is volunteer-based and motivations are largely altruistic, yet in many ways fluid (changing as an event progresses).