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Comm 150 Final Project
Transcript of Comm 150 Final Project
Electricity in some areas went out.
Phone lines were jammed.
Roads were impassable. People were stuck inside their homes... ... or on the roofs. ... or were fleeing from them to go to evacuation centers. People were doing everything they can to stay afloat... Almost immediately, it was dubbed worse than Ondoy. For those who were fortunate enough to still have access to computers and the Internet, they thought that the best way to help was to use social media. One of the main social networking sites used was Twitter. At first, the tweets were mainly echoing concern about what was happening in Metro Manila. Everything was personal. Eventually, the spirit of helping each other shone through. Increasingly, people started tweeting about relatives, friends, and even complete strangers who were in dire need of help. In the midst of everything, Sarah Meier posted the tweet that would soon become viral. This became the start of what is popularly known as #rescuePH. App developer JP Loh, together with social media strategists Ros Juan and Tonyo Cruz, soon picked it up. Edwin "Ka Edong" Soriano, whose brainchild is Rescue Hub used during Ondoy in 2009, enlisted the help of volunteer organization Angel Brigade's Ariel Roda to further enhance the site. In a matter of hours, Rescue Hub turned into rescuePH.com Even sixteen-year-old Robby Cruz joined in on the online efforts through creating @RescuePH. #rescuePH paved the way for others, such as #reliefPH and #floodsPH, to emerge. Seeing the gap in relief efforts, Katrina Stuart Santiago and others from ReliefPH.com did not hesitate in creating their Twitter counterpart, @ReliefPHcom. "... the reliefph.com website was our primary channel for disseminating relief information -- not the Twitter account. And this is really the crux of our difference from those who have since celebrated how Twitter helped or was the vehicle for doing good during the Habagat. To us, the site was precisely a response to the limits of Twitter, and the problem with those Excel spreadsheets that had information difficult to verify (not to mention difficult to get through)." -- Katrina Stuart Santiago It wasn't long before tweeting using #rescuePH about people in need of rescue became a must-do. Twitter users say they chose the site to disseminate information about the flood because... The site only allows the user to post a 140-character content. In effect, only vital information was being shared. The updates were quicker as the posts came in real time. The ReTweet feature which people can opt to use to easily spread info to every single one of their followers. Media organizations and government agencies have Twitter accounts. Mentioning them in tweets was an easier way of reaching out. Adding that "#" at the beginning of a string of words made a difference that chaotic August week. Updates and related tweets were easier to find in one place just by typing the hashtag in the Search bar. RescuePH.com and ReliefPH.com, however, used Twitter only as a sort of lead-in to their actual domains. Info bursts and updates were automatically tweeted, but always with links to the sites where details were more comprehensive. But better response to calamities entails not just looking back, but also looking forward. Here in the Philippines, will social media continue or cease to play a role in disaster response? "Social media tools that were previously just available on desktops/laptops will become more pervasive and within easier personal reach for as long as there's WiFi or 3G signals. Information from the field and other organizations focused on rescue/relief have come much faster. And as more confirmations from other people also come in, info postings become more trustworthy within a shorter period of time -- thereby enabling action-oriented organizations (relief, rescue) to move faster." -- Ariel Roda But did the collective effort of Twitter users translate into saving lives and providing relief? The Philippine Red Cross, through Jose Maria Natividad of the Emergency Response Unit, wrote that it still relies on its more than 100 "local chapters for primary response during natural or man-made calamities." The PRC's Twitter account is used mainly to monitor that of PAGASA's and MMDA's for info that may be used in their operations. Natividad adds, "During disasters, internet connections fail. The option is still traditional radio communication transceivers. Most of the successful rescue operations during Ondoy were relayed through these.
"Sometimes, people do not understand the rescuers' mission objectives. Some post bad comments when their requests are denied or are unattended." Through reaching out to all actors involved in this phenomenon, the group sees a clearer picture of how social media and disaster response relate.
More than just sending out info, the more important issue points to how info is used to change the present and maybe even future living conditions. Sources: