Friday, April 26, 2019

Computational Social Science of Disasters: Opportunities and Challenges

Figure 1: Relation of computational social science of
disasters (CSSD) with other fields.
Past posts have discussed or demonstrated how  computational social science (CSS) (i.e. the study of social science through computational methods) can be utilized explore disasters or diseases but this has not really been  formalized.  To this end, Annetta Burger, Talha Oz, William Kennedy and myself have just had a paper published in Future Internet entitled "Computational Social Science of Disasters: Opportunities and Challenges". In the paper we introduce computational social science of disasters (CSSD). CSSD is defined as an approach to explain the social dynamics of disasters via computational means by adopting the relevant parts of CSS, social sciences in disaster, and crisis informatics as depicted in Figure 1. Specifically, we briefly review the domains and the approaches of each of the traditional social science disciplines to disasters (e.g. sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, and economics). Next we describe the fields of CSS and crisis informatics before discussing the components of CSSD. We highlight some exemplar studies which capture certain elements of CSSD along with the challenges and opportunities it brings to the study of disasters. If you would like to find out more, below is the abstract to the paper along with the full reference and link to the paper.

Disaster events and their economic impacts are trending, and climate projection studies suggest that the risks of disaster will continue to increase in the near future. Despite the broad and increasing social effects of these events, the empirical basis of disaster research is often weak, partially due to the natural paucity of observed data. At the same time, some of the early research regarding social responses to disasters have become outdated as social, cultural, and political norms have changed. The digital revolution, the open data trend, and the advancements in data science provide new opportunities for social science disaster research. We introduce the term computational social science of disasters (CSSD), which can be formally defined as the systematic study of the social behavioral dynamics of disasters utilizing computational methods. In this paper, we discuss and showcase the opportunities and the challenges in this new approach to disaster research. Following a brief review of the fields that relate to CSSD, namely traditional social sciences of disasters, computational social science, and crisis informatics, we examine how advances in Internet technologies offer a new lens through which to study disasters. By identifying gaps in the literature, we show how this new field could address ways to advance our understanding of the social and behavioral aspects of disasters in a digitally connected world. In doing so, our goal is to bridge the gap between data science and the social sciences of disasters in rapidly changing environments.

Keywords: Disasters; Computational Social Science; Crisis Informatics; Disaster Modeling, Web 2.0; Social Media; Big Data; Volunteered Geographical Information; Crowdsourcing.
Figure 2: Interactions of data analysis, computational models, and social theory
in computational social science of disasters.

Full Reference:
Burger, A., Oz, T., Kennedy, W.G. and Crooks, A.T. (2019), Computational Social Science of Disasters: Opportunities and Challenges, Future Internet, 11(5): 103; (pdf)