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Emergent social cohesion for coping with community disruptions in disasters


Fan, Chao; Jiang, Yucheng; Mostafavi, Ali (2020), Emergent social cohesion for coping with community disruptions in disasters, Dryad, Dataset,


Social cohesion is an important determinant of community well-being, especially in times of distress such as disasters. This study investigates the phenomena of emergent social cohesion, which is characterized by abrupt, temporary, and extensive social ties with the goal of sharing and receiving information regarding a particular event influencing a community. In the context of disasters, emergent social cohesion, enabled by social media usage, could play a significant role in improving the ability of communities to cope with disruptions in recent disasters. In this study, we employed a network reticulation framework to examine the underlying mechanisms influencing emergent social cohesion in online social media while communities cope with disaster-induced disruptions. We analyzed neighborhood-tagged social media data (social media data whose users are tagged by neighborhoods) in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to characterize four modalities of network reticulation (i.e., enactment, activation, reticulation, and performance) giving rise to emergent social cohesion. Our results show that, unlike regular social cohesion, communication history and physical proximity do not significantly affect emergent social cohesion. The results also indicate that weak social ties play an important role in bridging different social network communities, and hence reinforce emergent social cohesion. The findings can inform public officials, emergency managers and decision-makers regarding the important role of neighborhood-tagged social media, as a new form of community infrastructure, for improving the ability of communities to cope with disaster disruptions through enhanced emergent social cohesion.

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