Explaining the role of Twitter in the amplification and attenuation of risk during health risk events through causal loop diagrams : a comparative study of Nova Scotia and Scotland

  • Emma Louise Comrie

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The goal of the research is to support the development of an effective communication strategy within public health through social media. Drawing upon the Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF), developed by Kasperson et al. (1988) as the theoretical basis, this research explores and compares the use of Twitter by health organisations during health risk events. The research focuses on Twitter as an information channel and its role in the amplification and attenuation of risk events. The empirical research employs a two case comparative case study approach in which data was collected from participants in health organisations in Nova Scotia and Scotland. The data collection method was semi-structured interviews. The interview data was analysed through a thematic analysis to identify the main themes emerging from the data. Lastly, a causal loop diagram was developed to model the interdependencies among factors during a risk event. The research found that health organisations were using Twitter as a means of strengthening risk communication strategies. The use of Twitter had an increasingly important role within communication showing that it had a role in increasing credibility and trust in the organisation; a way of pushing and pulling information and a means of direct communication. However, the participatory, interactive nature of Twitter provided challenges for these organisations. Theoretical contributions are made to the extant body of research relating to SARF, extending the application of the framework to Twitter. Also, more widely, to the field of risk communication identifying that Twitter is a medium through which information can both be pushed and pulled by organisations. Methodological contributions are made by applying causal loop diagramming to SARF. The use of causal loop diagrams enhances the SARF tool-kit providing a tool that models relationships between factors during a risk event. This methodology could be used by others and applied in other areas related to SARF.
Date of Award17 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde

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