Combining Real and Virtual Volunteers through Social Media

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Reuter, Christian; Heger, Oliver; Pipek, Volkmar

Recent studies have called attention to the improvement of ‚Äúcollaborative resilience‚ÄĚ by fostering the collaboration potentials of public and private stakeholders during disasters. With our research we consider real and virtual volunteers in order to detect conditions for cooperation among those citizen groups through social media. Therefore we analysed the usage of Twitter during a tornado crisis to look for role patterns and aspects that helped volunteer groups in the virtual to emerge, and matched the data with an interview study on experiences, attitudes, concerns and potentials professional emergency services recounted in the emergence of volunteer groups in the real. While virtual groups seem to easily form and collaborate, the engagement of real volunteers is decreasing according to the perception of professionals. We discuss the dynamics in both tendencies and suggest design implications (use of existing social networks, promotion and awareness, connection among volunteers, connection to emergency services and systems) to support both types of volunteer groups, which lead to a software prototype.