In our latest DGSMtech workshop (see post below) we have debated the current role of fake news for civil protection agencies and Virtual Operation Support Teams (VOST). Fake news are not a new phenomenon; propaganda, false information, prefabricated alternative facts but also the demand for alternative sources and critical reflection on opinions have all existed before the advent of the internet. One often repeated arguments for the internet, youtube and social media age being different to TV, photo and print media is speed and accessibility. It is supposed that not only the opportunities for feedback and easier spread of information have increased. Also, the habits of media consumption and expectations for rapid (tweet-speed) information delivery have changed. But also the trust in authorities, journalism and sources of information have transformed, as for example, some digital natives might turn to some youtubers’ opinion first rather than to some of the old media anchor persons.
On this backdraft of transformations in society in dealing with new media and information technologies, the question debated on our workshop was; how does this affect professionals working with social
media in press and public relation offices in civil protection agencies for instance, but also, how does it affect volunteers working sometimes „from the sofa“ in similar topics or even in organised structures such as a VOST?
On the topic of Urban Resilience and Crisis Management, the Franco-German Workshop in Lyon, Sept 28-30, hosted by Cerema, aimed at finding out “Perspectives, Barriers, and Innovative Pathways”. There were many topic identified as joint interests by a transdisciplinary group of 35 participants, but also certain barriers hindering cooperation. While language is still a major challenge, it is also necessary to understand responsibilities and subtle terminological differences in what is understood under “crisis management” in contrast to long-term planning in advance. Urban critical infrastructure, knowledge management and sharing, risk and resilience governance, integration of urban planning, smart technologies, cross-border topics and translation of academic reports into digestible guidance sheets for decision-makers, but also the need for joint education programs were just some of the topics intensively discussed. The group will set-up a network and position paper in order to improve visibility and opportunities for future project proposals and exchange.
On Sept 15-16 2016 the 29th annual meeting of the German working group “AK Naturgefahren/Naturrisiken” took place at UN campus in Bonn, hosted by UNU-EHS, Matthias Garschagen. The main topic this year was a discussion on how geographical risk research is developing and how it can contribute to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction process. “Understanding Risk“ as priority No. 1 in the Sendai Framework has been identified as one key aspect where it has to be analysed whether new knowledge is produced or rather, representation of existing knowledge and competencies is insufficient.
Talks at the workshop presented insights into recent research on topics such as how society deals with a new vulcano as an unexpected and not much welcomed surprise on the calm canary island of El Hierro (Benedikt Orlowski, Universität Erlangen), how to generate overviews and find common indicators for Community Resilience in European countries (Sylvia Kruse, Universität Freiburg, and Stefan Schneiderbauer, EURAC Bozen), reconstruction and urban planning after the earthquake in Nepal 2015 (Rupesh Shrestha, TH Köln), flash flood monitoring and multi-stakeholder acceptance in Berlin (Thomas Kox, FU Berlin), downscaling of a global risk index for multiple risks in the Philippines (Mia Wannewitz, Universität Bonn und UNU-EHS), the relevance of the topic of critical supply infrastructure for resilience (Simone Sandholz, UNU-EHS) and a joint discussion on existing demands for inter- and transdisciplinary risk research within and beyond Geography (Matthias Garschagen, UNU-EHS, Alexander Fekete, TH Köln, and Sven Fuchs, BOKU Wien).
From Aug 25th to Sept 5th, TH Köln (lead by ITT) undertook a fact finding mission to Myanmar, with an adjoining visit in Bangkok, Thailand. The main objective was to identify mutual cooperation fields in education and research. We have visited Myeik in the South, Yangon, Yezin and the capital, Naw Pyi Taw in Myanmar. Alumni of ITT and our DAAD seminar have guided us and we have talked to universities, signed Letter of Intents. We also met with local ministry, FAO, embassy and other NGO representatives. We identified joint interests in the fields of food security, eco-based DRR and risk and crisis management. The earthquake near Bagon on 24th Aug was a topic for future collaboration in research, as were riverine and flash floods, droughts, landslides and rural livelihoods as well as urban topics, including electricity and blackouts, smart grids, supply chain security and others. In Bangkok, we met with the Asian Institute of Technology to discuss similar interests in the fields of natural disasters. We are looking forward to future collaboration and hope that also student and expert mobility will be upcoming steps.
Abstract presented at the symposium “Educational landscapes in rural areas: Interdisciplinary and international research perspectives“ 22. March 2016 in Lüneburg, Leuphana University
Especially crises and disasters perpetually provide novel insights and carry a ‚surprise factor’. The public, media and responsible organisations are then confronted with the burden to explain how it could happen, why it was unforeseen and what will be done immediately to deal and manage situations. Crisis situations affecting the whole of today’s media society are as diverse as ranging from suicidal plane crashes, tsunami affected nuclear power plants to economic and war-inflicted humanitarian crises. It should be no surprise that such crises carry elements of surprise, but the public demand for causal explanations, the full set of information at an instant, are actually overwhelming for experts to answer. Lack of information and lack of knowledge is not always the problem. During the following investigation processes, precursor events often turn up, and previously established but then forgotten knowledge has to be painstakingly re-collected by those who seek explanations or are in the role of instructors, scientists or decision-makers dealing with such events. There clearly is a demand for better information and knowledge management, in order to better understand and communicate, but also, to avoid the reinvention of the wheel, so to speak.
TH Köln and University of Bonn currently investigate this phenomenon in a project dealing with knowledge management of civil protection authorities. The special focus of this project, the “Atlas of Vulnerability and Resilience”, is on two influential concepts. Resilience is one facet of security and societal processes, but it is also a major academic paradigm, vulnerability just as well. Another new project at TH Köln is BigWa: “Civil Protection within societal change – New interdisciplinary approaches and instruments for operational forces and the population” Demographic change is just one topic of an even broader societal change including in-migration to Germany, increased job-mobility and the effects of modern social media technologies, that all together reshape daily lives of emergency and disaster managers. Modern risk management and governance concepts such as resilience reshape traditional civil protection as well, and conceptual gaps between prevention and intervention concepts and instruments need to be scrutinised as well as interlinkages between urban and rural areas and populations.
How do experts working in civil protection, rescue and relief organisation, security-related industry and lay people communicate about resilience? How can such information be managed, structured and preserved in a way that in the next crisis with a surprise factor, existing knowledge can be accessed better? What types of ‘communities’ exist under the umbrella of ‘community resilience’ and do they reflect mobile societies appropriately? How can education be modernised and fitted to the needs of individuals and communities?
Around 30 workshop participants are debating VOST – Virtual Operations Support Teams at TH Köln, Sat. 27 Feb 2016. Key question is how can mobile groups, volunteers and professionals, external experts temporarily or permanently abroad, all be included into crisis management and relief support. Especially digital operations support utilising social media is one option. Crowd mapping and crowdsourcing have inspired such possibilities, thinking of ushuaidi, for example. Crisis mapping and volunteered geographic information are another aspect improving existing risk assessment methods.
At TH Köln we welcome this opportunity provided by the workshop of DGSMTech to expand our network and gain more insight how to advance networks between interested experts and laymen, and, to find inspirations how to improve spatial geographic risk assessments.
Many professionals and organised volunteers working in disaster relief organisations are highly motivated to help even after work or when abroad. They enjoy “sitting on the sofa and being able to contribute a bit to saving the world”, as one workshop participant expressed. But of course, limitations to such engagement must also be considered. Also, a sober estimation of the real share that digital help can offer for emergency support is necessary and discussed.
Wir veranstalten zusammen mit der Deutschen Gesellschaft zur Förderung von Social Media und Technologien im Bevölkerungsschutz e.V. (DGSMtech) einen Workshop zum Thema „Virtual Operation Support Team (VOST)“ – Aus der Theorie in die Praxis.
Inhaltlich geht es dabei um die Nutzung sozialer Medien in Krisensituationen, auch bekannt unter den Stichworten crowdsourcing, oder crisis / crowdmapping.
Am 26. und 27.2. an der TH Köln, Raum ZN4-1. Interessierte Zuhörer sind herzlich eingeladen. Zeitplan Workshop DGSMTech26-27.02