Didn't Roger That: Social Media Message Complexity and Situational Awareness of Emergency Responders

Nicolai Pogrebnyakov, Edgar A. Maldonado

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This study investigates the role of social media in situational awareness in the emergency response domain. It builds a theoretical model to that effect, the first such effort to the best of our knowledge, and empirically investigates one of the components of the model, text complexity. The empirical analysis was performed on a dataset of 999,243 messages from 997 Facebook pages of US police departments in 2009—2016. Messages were classified into four categories based on their utilitarian or hedonic nature: emergency preparedness, emergency response, post-emergency and user engagement. Three measures of complexity were used, each capturing different aspects of text. Contrary to the hypothesis formulated in the study, messages in the post-emergency and the emergency response categories were found to be the most complex. With text complexity on social media being an underexplored area, these results suggest a need for an explicit study of the link between social media messages and situational awareness, and indicate a need for practitioners to revisit social media practices.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Pages (from-to)166-174
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Social media
  • Text complexity
  • Situational awareness
  • Emergency response

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