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Title: The dynamics of a virtual community during a natural disaster: a network analysis

Authors: Yuanyuan Cao; Qingyao Wan; Yong Lu; Jing Quan; Jingyu Chen

Addresses: Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Management, Xi'an University of Posts and Telecommunications, Chang'an District, Xi'an, Shaanxi, 710121, China. ' School of Insurance, Shanghai Finance University, 995 Shangchuan Road, Pudong, Shanghai, 201209, China. ' Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, 76 University Dr., Hazleton, PA 18202, USA. ' Department of Info and Decision Sciences, Perdue School of Business, Salisbury University, 1101 Camden Ave, Salisbury, MD 21801, USA. ' Department of Marketing, School of Business Administration, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, 610074, China.

Abstract: Online discussion forums are computer-mediated social networks where individuals self-organise to help each other and share knowledge, advice, and perspectives about their common interests. The present study empirically examines the dynamics and changes to the properties and structure of an electronic network based on an online forum during a massive earthquake. This study found that the open, fluid electronic network allowed members easily to join and participate in the forum communication. The communication links and the numbers of initiators and repliers increased during the earthquake. We also found that network density and reciprocity decreased along with the network growth, while the average shortest path length increased. This research provides a framework to study dynamics and changes of electronic networks.

Keywords: virtual communities; network analysis; earthquakes; natural disasters; web based communities; online communities; discussion forums; online forums; electronic networks; disaster response.

DOI: 10.1504/IJIEM.2012.049869

International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management, 2012 Vol.8 No.1, pp.1 - 15

Available online: 17 Oct 2012 *

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