Gina R. Méndez, Megan Stubbs-Richardson, Somya D. Mohanty, Arthur G. Cosby
T. Thornton Neaves, A. D. Williams, K. M. Simon & J. F. Sklarew (Eds.), Managing Challenges for the Flint Water Crisis (pp. 1-17). Westphalia Press, 2021
Publication year: 2021

The Flint Water Crisis is a profound humanitarian disaster for the citizens of Flint, Michigan. It is also an event that has captured the attention of individuals throughout the United States and indeed the world through extensive media coverage. It is unthinkable to many that a developed country can have a city whose water supply is poisoning its citizens and that the government failed to respond in an appropriate, timely manner to the water contamination. Given the increasing use of internet-based communication, this technological crisis created a high volume of human communication in the digital news and social media. It is apparent that humans are using social media as a new form of adaptation for dealing with extreme events and its challenges such as the Flint water crisis (Bernabé-Moreno et al.2014, Hossmann 2011, Saleem et al. 2014). In order to explore the possibilities and pitfalls of online communication during critical events, this chapter will discuss the collective ability of social media users to communicate, reach out to others for collective action, and organize in response to the negative consequences of the Flint disaster through the lens of Twitter. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of data collection and analysis, our goal is to reach a wide variety of audiences with a key message, social media has the capacity to transform the way public and private sectors and civil society manage critical events in general and technological disasters in particular. The chapter starts by describing the event as observed in Twitter followed by some inferences from the data, building on former theoretical and empirical work about social media and disasters.