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On anonymity in disasters: Socio-technical practices in emergency management

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>08/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
Issue number2
Volume17
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)307-326
<mark>State</mark>Published
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Disasters are often thought of as exceptions to the norm, where it is ethical to break rules in order to maintain social order and security. Indeed, such exceptions are recognised in high-level international legal provisions such as the European Union’s (EU) Data Protection Regulation, building the expectation that during disasters systems of data sharing and protecting, including anonymity, will have to balance the urgency of the situation, the effort to manage those regulations, and the risks being faced in order to provide the security these protections intend. This paper explores what this means for the
practice of anonymity as it examines the tensions between the social and technical practices behind information sharing for disaster management. By examining anonymity as a practice both in relation to how information is sourced from a community being protected and to how information is shared between organisations doing the protecting, this paper opens up the black box of information sharing during disasters to begin to unpack how trust, community, liability, and protection are entangled. As disaster management exposes and juxtapose social and organisational elements that make it work, we find that what anonymity means, and the security and protection anonymity offers, creates a mélange of hope of unprejudiced reception, protection from liabilities, opportunities for shared meaning, limitations to solidarity, reinforcement of power struggles and norms, and the ability to mask difference.