MySpace-style websites perfect for disaster survival

时间:2019-03-01 10:13:11166网络整理admin

By Celeste Biever Dialling emergency services when a major disaster strikes is a typical first response. Now US computer scientists are recommending useful follow-up: logging on to a social networking site, such as MySpace, to share information and survival tips. A bird flu outbreak among humans or a major earthquake will leave emergency call centres quickly overwhelmed, say Ben Shneiderman and Jennifer Preece at the University of Maryland, US. They came up with the idea of creating a web-based emergency alternative, along similar lines to social networking sites MySpace, Wikipedia and YouTube. Citizens would use PCs or cellphones to access the site and receive vital updates from the authorities while also sharing information with one another. This kind of “many-to-many” information exchange, which might include sharing photos and video clips, could be at least as valuable as an emergency call centre or a radio or TV-based alert system. “The web is a very effective way of disseminating information,” Shneiderman notes. “There seems to be a remarkable effort from people to provide information and develop relationships in the electronic environment.” Shneiderman has applied for a grant to build a web-based emergency social network for his university campus. The idea is for participants to register beforehand and access the site should disaster strike. “The current success stories from social networks are so provocative that it is worth giving it a try,” says Shneiderman. “We have an opportunity to engage these emerging technologies for social benefit.” A number of web-based emergency systems already exist, like the Department of Homeland Security’s Information Network in the US and the Emergency Response Grid in Europe. Sheiderman says these existing systems focus primarily on sharing information, support and communication between professionals. “There is a great deal to be done on the side of the resident,” he says. B. J. Fogg at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, US, describes the idea as “super-interesting” but says it could be necessary to employ moderators – or “credibility filters” – to ensure information is pertinent. Fogg adds that it may be more practical to make use existing social networking sites, such as MySpace or Facebook, rather than requiring people to register with a new site altogether. “To get people to do a new social network is going to be a tough sell,” he believes. Journal reference: Science (vol 315, p 944) More on these topics: