Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

John Skvoretz, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

James C. Cavendish, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Kleiman, Ph.D.

Keywords

American Red Cross, disaster relief, Facebook Causes, social movement, social network analysis

Abstract

With the exponential growth of Facebook users worldwide, this platform for social network online has become a powerful tool to connect individuals and share information with each other. This study explores the phenomenal trend of utilizing a Facebook application called Causes to help users organize into online communities for a specific cause and mobilize their resources for disaster relief during the Haiti earthquake disaster. Two separate samples of 100 joiners each from the American Red Cross (ARC) Cause on Facebook were randomly selected before and after the Haiti earthquake disaster to examine the differences of the composition (i.e., attributes) and structure (i.e., relational ties) of each social network. The social network analysis performed for this thesis research intends to fill the gap of historical research literature on recruitment to activism and support provision following a disaster in the digital age of the 21 st century. The results of this study show how understanding the membership size of online communities, salient identity for the cause through organizational affiliations, interpersonal ties among the joiners, density of the network as well as gender diversity can be crucial recruitment factors to leverage for disaster relief efforts. The findings reveal a beneficial partnership between disaster relief organizations and online social networks in mobilizing their resources for a speedy response to disasters.

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