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Disasters. 2014 Jul;38 Suppl 2:S123-43. doi: 10.1111/disa.12071.

Multi-level functionality of social media in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

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Associate Professor, Department of Media, Communication and Culture, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.


This study examines the multi-level functionalities of social media in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011. Based on a conceptual model of multi-level story flows of social media (Jung and Moro, 2012), the study analyses the multiple functionalities that were ascribed to social media by individuals, organisations, and macro-level social systems (government and the mass media) after the earthquake. Based on survey data, a review of Twitter timelines and secondary sources, the authors derive five functionalities of social media: interpersonal communications with others (micro level); channels for local governments; organisations and local media (meso level); channels for mass media (macro level); information sharing and gathering (cross level); and direct channels between micro-/meso- and macro-level agents. The study sheds light on the future potential of social media in disaster situations and suggests how to design an effective communication network to prepare for emergency situations.


Japan; Twitter; disaster; earthquake; multi-level; social media; social networking site; tsunami

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