Session 5: Theoretical and conceptual development

Presentationer av forskning onsdag 27/3 kl. 13.00. Presentationerna hålls på engelska.

Emergence and Volunteerism in Disaster Response Operations

Roine Johansson, Mid Sweden University; Erna Danielsson, Mid Sweden University; Kerstin Eriksson, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB; Linda Kvarnlöf, Mid Sweden University
The actions of unaffiliated volunteers in disaster response operations are often regarded as a form of emergence, which is frequently considered a spontaneous and context-free phenomenon. Recently, analyses of emergence have been criticized for not acknowledging the pre-conditioned aspects of social life, such as power, networks and community attachment. In the present study, such conditions have been included in the analysis of emergence in a disaster response context. The aim is to investigate under what conditions emergence occurs. What kind of emergent actions take place in response to a disaster? Can just anybody get involved in emergent response activities on a voluntary basis? What kind of social relations do emergent volunteers develop with other volunteers and with other actors? Interviews have been undertaken with people who made voluntary contributions, outside the official response operation, to the response to a large-scale forest fire in Sweden. Results show that emergence is not as context-free as earlier assumed. Our study shows the importance of strong ties to the community, with friendship or professional connections between local people. In some cases, the emergent nature of voluntary actions decreased over time: some emergent activity became more organized and was included in the official response operation.


Conceptualizing community in disaster risk management

Aleksi Räsänen, Norwegian University of Science / Technology and University of Helsinki; Haakon Lein, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Deanne Bird, University of Iceland; Gunhild Setten, Norwegian University of Science and Technology   
The concept of ‘community’ is frequently used in disaster risk management (DRM) literature, but it is usually not defined or elaborated upon in any detail. In the broader social science literature, community is a widely discussed concept and multiple ways of understanding community have been identified. These include, among others, perceiving a community as (1) an organized group of actors carrying out a task (such as DRM) together, (2) individuals involved in informal interactions, and (3) a specific geographic location including its residents, organizations and authorities. 

In practical policies in the Nordic countries, the understanding and role of community is a thorny issue. In fact, public authorities’ role and individual self-preparedness is frequently emphasized, leaving little room for community in relation to DRM. 

This presentation is based on a review of policy documents, as well as qualitative and quantitative research material from multiple study areas prone to natural hazards in Finland, Norway and Iceland. We outline key features of different understandings of community and reflect on how they relate to Nordic DRM practices across national and local scales. We argue that the role assigned to communities in DRM practices differs according to how 'community' is defined and understood.


Worry, News Media and Terrorist Activity: The Swedish Case

Saman Rashid and Anna Olofsson, Mid Sweden University
We investigate whether terrorist activity abroad affect worry regarding terrorism at home and the possible mediating effect of news media. Terrorism uses violence intentionally to obtain political or social objectives thorough the extortion of a large audience beyond that of the immediate victims. Although the most common form of terrorist activities are domestic, transnational terrorist attacks, which involves more than two countries, may take place in order to capture more media attention and, hence, affect people emotionally by spreading fear and insecurity. This development poses a challenge for the policy makers to take action to deal with the public fear, and worry about terrorism is an important component in the design of these measures. Previous research shows that terrorist attacks in a country reflects people’s worry, i.e. where people have the so-called first-hand experiences of terrorism. Little is known, however, about the relationship between public worry regarding terrorism and terrorist attacks abroad. The aim of this paper is thus to fill this research gapin the Swedish context. The study uses Global Terrorism Database (GDT), Swedish News Agency (TT), and Swedish National Annual Survey (SOM). The results show that worry about terrorism co-vary with the frequency of terrorism activity in the same geo-cultural region but outside of the country of residence. It also shows that not only single events (so-called one-off attacks) with enormous impact, but also an increase in the number of attacks with less impact influence worry. Furthermore, media coverage is associated with the level of worry of terrorism.