Accepted Paper:

Measuring Disasters: from context to distributed interactions  

Author:

Katrina Petersen (Trilateral Research, Ltd)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores what it means to measure disasters in a way that moves concerns away from the complexity of disasters over time and in specific locations, towards shareable information and communication to provide insight into how acts of knowing, measuring, and sharing are interwoven.

Paper long abstract:

Disasters are often described by their numbers, but numbers alone do not render a disaster comparable, shareable, or explainable. A 7.9 magnitude earthquake in one place can cause extreme destruction challenging any return to normality, while, in another place the same magnitude earthquake can cause mild disruptions of daily routines. Knowing that half a million people evacuated offers a sense of spatial scale, but says little of the devastation that can vary from almost everyone returning home to almost everyone with ruined homes. Yet, disasters are increasingly being made knowable via technologies that measure effects (such as satellites visualisations or text message tallies) and information systems that share data among diverse networks. Doing so requires many of these qualities to be predefined and reduced to numbers and standards. In this paper, I explore what it means to measure disasters in a way that foregrounds the ability to engage with distributed infrastructures, moving concerns away from the complexity of disasters as social, technological, and natural interactions over time and in specific locations, towards information and communication. Drawing on collaborative and ethnographic research, I take up the design of new disaster information technologies meant to produce and share data about disasters across a variety of actors from a range of disciplinary, experiential, national and cultural backgrounds. I aim to provide insight into how acts of knowing, measuring, and sharing are interwoven.

Panel T045
New Collective Practices of Measurement, Monitoring and Evidence