Traditionally, emergency response is in large part the role and responsibility of formal organizations. Advances in information technology enable amateurs or concerned publics to play a meaningful role in emergency response. Indeed, in recent catastrophic disasters or crises such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Japan earthquake and nuclear crisis, participatory online groups of the general public from both across the globe and the affected areas made significant contributions to the effective response through crowdsourcing vital information and assisting with the allocation of needed resources. Thus, a more integrative lens is needed to understand the responses of various actors to catastrophic crises or disasters by taking into account not only formal organizations with legal responsibilities, but also volunteer-based, participatory groups who actively participate in emergency response. In this dissertation, I first developed an “event-driven” lens for integrating both formal and volunteer-based, participatory emergency responses on the basis of a comprehensive literature review (chapter 1). Then I conducted a deeper analysis of one aspect of the event-driven lens: relationships between participatory online groups and formal organizations in crisis or disaster situations. Specifically, I explored organizational and technical determinants and outcomes of forming such relationships (chapter 2). As a consequence, I found out three determinants (resource dependence, shared understanding, and information technology) and two outcomes (inter-organizational alignment and the effectiveness of coordinated emergency response) of the relationship between participatory online groups and formal organizations and suggested seven hypotheses. Furthermore, I empirically tested these hypotheses, focusing on the 2015 Nepal earthquake case (chapter 3). As a result, I found empirical evidence that supports that shared understanding and information technology improve the development of the relationship between participatory online groups and formal organizations. Moreover, research findings support that the development of the relationship enhances inter-organizational coordination. Lastly, I provide implications for future research (chapter 4). This dissertation is expected to contribute to bridging the disconnect between the emergency management literature and the crisis informatics literature. The theoretical insight from inter-organizational relations (IOR) theory provides another contribution.
- Toward a Better Understanding of Complex Emergency Response Systems: An Event-Driven Lens for Integrating Formal and Volunteer-Based, Participatory Emergency Responses