PhD Project: Exploring the Emergence of Situational Awareness through Social Media Listening Practices in Crisis Management

Towards an integrated approach on the practice of social media listening.


Listening to the affected population before, during, and after a disaster in social media platforms is a comprehensive and cost-effective way to get an overview of the situation and its evolution through time. The process understood as social media listening consists of gathering, classifying, and analyzing social media conversations to generate situational awareness reports that serve to inform decision-makers throughout the disaster lifecycle.

However, making sense of the constantly changing data streams of content, text, and multimedia, from both humans and artificial intelligence in social media is a cumbersome practice that researchers and practitioners seek to automate for over a decade. Current research suggests a disconnect between technological tools designed to aid listening to the public on social media, the perceptions of practitioners and researchers. While the phenomena has been identified as socio-technical, current research tends to either techno-deterministic prescriptions such as focus to automation of social media listening functions, or socio-determinisms where humans are in charge of sense making and technology is observed only as a tool used to fulfil an objective. The effect of this disconnect is a partial understanding of the phenomenon and the subsequent development of solutions that only address parts of the process of obtaining situational awareness.

Therefore, a shift of attention from analyzing separate entities or partial development of solutions to an integrated approach that focuses on the practice of social media listening is the essence of this project. The practice of social media listening takes place in a complex ecosystem characterized by unclear and complex boundaries between social and material entities within distinct technological, geographical, organizational, political, sociocultural, or economical contexts. Through an exploratory research approach and combining Actor-Network theory and the sociomaterial analysis in practice, this study aims to understand and conceptualize how situational awareness is achieved through the process of social media listening in diverse contexts. The results from this study will evidence how social media listening processes become sociomaterial as well as better awareness of the reach of the practice in the context of crisis management. In addition, the study will contribute to theory development by combining to related but different theoretical approaches that look at the network and practice. Moreover, the results of this study hope to serve as guidance for decision-makers in terms of staffing, training, technology appropriation, coordination between agencies, and further development of innovations in social media listening.


Lucia Castro Herrera is a PHD candidate at the Information Systems department at the University of Agder. She holds a MSc. In Engineering & Management with a concentration in Crisis, Emergency and Risk Management form The George Washington University, US and a BA in Government and International Relations from Universidad Externado de Colombia. Her research interests include crisis, disaster and risk management, social media analytics, crisis communications, logistics and process improvement.


Associate professor Tim Majchrzak and professor Devinder Thapa

PhD Project: Exploring the Emergence of Situational Awareness through Social Media Listening Practices in Crisis Management
PhD Fellow Lucia Castro Herrera

Project Info

Project Manager: Lucia Castro Herrera
Researchers: | Lucia Castro Herrera | Devinder Bahadur Thapa | Tim A. Majchrzak
Project Period: September 2019 - August 2022