The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events

April 27 | 1 p.m. ET
This book examines the changing process of decisionmaking among multiple organizations operating at different levels of authority in the uncertain conditions of extreme events. It uses the shared hazard of seismic risk to examine how 12 communities in nine different countries responded to the trauma of sudden, urgent destruction from earthquakes, and began the painful process of reconstruction and recovery. The study, undertaken across 16 years (1999-2015) sets this global policy problem within the framework of complex adaptive systems to explore how the consequences of sudden, urgent events ripple across jurisdictions, communities, and organizations in complex, interdependent societies, triggering unexpected alliances and exposing gaps in social, economic, and legal structures.

Networks of organizations that engaged in response operations are identified for each of the 12 communities to determine patterns of adaptation and collective action in recovery. The response networks are analyzed using centrality measures to assess points of strength and weakness in the evolving operational systems. Advances in information technology led to increases in timely communication, search and exchange of information, enabling communities to anticipate risk more easily and manage complex response and recovery operations more effectively. Seismic risk represents a global threat as metropolitan regions increase in size, scale, and interdependence. Investing in a global information infrastructure to monitor and anticipate this risk before earthquakes occur would lessen the costs and problematic outcomes of dispatching humanitarian relief after the event.

Attendees will understand how:
  • Changing information technologies alter the information flow within and among organizations before, during and after urgent events.
  • Timely, valid information enables people at risk to act collectively to reduce risk for themselves and their community.
  • Learning to live with risk is an iterative process that depends on candid feedback and willingness to listen to multiple perspectives.
  • Investing in smart technologies to enhance collective learning and action enables communities at risk to adapt to changing hazardscapes more quickly, easily.
Louise Comfort, University of Pittsburgh, GSPIA