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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.509

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Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.478

Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2018, Issue 222


Shaken and stirred: Social representations, social media, and community empowerment in emergency contexts

Mauro Sarrica / Manuela Farinosi / Francesca Comunello / Sonia Brondi / Lorenza Parisi / Leopoldina Fortunati
Published Online: 2018-04-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0208


In this paper we examine the use of Twitter and Facebook in two dramatic earthquakes that hit Italy: L’Aquila (in 2009) and Emilia (in 2012). Indeed, disasters disrupt everyday life and engage people in meaning-making processes aimed at recovering meaning and control of their world. In these cases, we argue that the use of social media may contribute to social representations processes and functions: cognitive coping, social sharing of emotions, preserving self-efficacy, boosting identity, and community empowerment. Different methods were adopted to examine the use of social media in the immediate aftermath, a few days after, and in the medium-long term. Differences between the events, combined with the differences between Twitter and Facebook, entailed a multiplicity of uses. Nevertheless, the analyses point to the same conclusions: by fostering new forms of communication and encounters, social media played an increasingly important role during and after the earthquakes. First, they were used for providing information and material coping, then they favored the social sharing of emotions and joint remembering, and finally they contributed to claiming voice and control. Results thus suggest that the use of social media favored different representational functions, which progressively contributed to community empowerment.

Keywords: functions of social representations; social media; earthquakes; disaster; empowerment


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-04-25

Published in Print: 2018-04-25

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2018, Issue 222, Pages 321–346, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2016-0208.

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