After many recent disaster events, community members, government officials, and others are increasingly using social media, particularly Twitter, to seek and share hazard-related information. In some states, such as Oklahoma, the frequency of earthquakes has risen significantly in the past decade, with many scientists arguing that these earthquakes are induced by injecting vast quantities of salty wastewater, a byproduct of petroleum production, deep underground. Because the cause of increased seismicity is debated publicly, communities impacted by these quakes often face uncertainty when it comes to understanding the reasons behind earthquakes and the subsequent effects on they will have on their lives. As a result, many community members turn to social media to seek and share information on topics ranging from debating the cause of the earthquakes to safety procedures during an earthquake. This paper seeks to understand how community members use social media to grapple with hazards in this uncertain context by examining how Twitter networks change after a significant hazard event: the magnitude 5.8 Pawnee earthquake in 2016. The paper presents a method that uses web-mining techniques to develop the Twitter network of Edmond, Oklahoma, 1 week leading up to the earthquake, and the week following the quake, and uses social network analysis to examine these data. Our results show that posts discussing the earthquakes, and their purported causes, increase after an event. The overall network also becomes more fractured and disconnected, which runs contrary to theory that would suggest a more densely connected community after a disaster. The method developed to create and analyze community networks from Twitter data can be used to better understand this phenomenon, which will help us better understand how networks change over time, how information is spread through community networks following disasters, and how communities may respond to and discuss contentious infrastructure projects.

Tracy, A., Klucik, R., Javernick-Will, A., Poleacovschi, C. (2018). “New Disasters in the Twittersphere: How Communities Utilize Social Media to Seek and Share Information in the Wake of Induced Seismicity.” Proceedings of the 2018 Construction Research Congress, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2018