Digital Emergency Communication (DIGeMERGE)

Led by Åshild Kolås

Oct 2022 – Sep 2025

Digital Emergency Communication (DIGeMERGE) studies the use of digital communication platforms and tools in four highly digitalized European countries; Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Using a grounded, applied approach, DIGeMERGE examines the scope and implications of the digitalization of emergency communication in these four countries, including debates about privacy and data protection and efforts to integrate user-generated content into emergency responses. DIGeMERGE is funded by the Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe (CHANSE) under the program 'Transformations: Social and cultural dynamics in the digital age'. 

​During disasters and emergencies, good communication is of vital importance to life-saving efforts. In recent years, numerous digital tools have made their way into emergency management. Initially, the main purpose was to warn the public about risks and hazards, but with increasing digitalization of society, such tools are now also used to collect data from the public and those at risk, including user-generated content posted on social media. 

Digital Emergency Communication (DIGeMERGE) examines the scope and implications of the digitalization of communication in responses to emergencies in the four Nordic countries. Digital communication tools under study include pandemic tracing apps and other smartphone applications that use location data, mass alerting via text messages, and the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for issuing advice as well as situational data collection. The overarching objective of DIGeMERGE is to understand both the everyday practical challenges of emergency services digitalization and the deeper implications for the state-citizen relationship. The project pursues this objective by investigating challenges associated with new digital emergency communication tools and related debates about societal and individual responsibility, protection needs, vulnerability and rights. 

DIGeMERGE is led by Åshild Kolås at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and includes Stine Bergersen as co-investigator from PRIO. The research team further consists of principal investigators Linda Paxling at Malmö University in Sweden, Vasileios-Spyridon Vlassis at the IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and Mourad Oussalah at the Centre for Machine Vision and Signal Analysis, University of Oulu in Finland. 

In addition to the research partners, DIGeMERGE further involves stakeholder cooperation partners, including the NGO Norwegian People’s Aid, a major rescue service organization in Norway, and Finland’s 6G Flagship program. DIGeMERGE also has a stakeholder reference group of emergency management practitioners, which is geared towards knowledge co-production.

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