Our project explores the online relationships and behaviour of people affected by a variety of extreme circumstances. Each of these forms a research area within the project:
- Disasters and humanitarian crises
- Life-threatening, terminal and chronic illnesses
- Organ and tissue donation
- Emotional distress
- Illicit drug use
- Social media data sets
Why are we looking at these particular situations?
People in these circumstances are extremely vulnerable, and some of them may be seeking help that could make the difference between life and death. It may be necessary to establish trust and empathy very quickly to make that difference. In these extreme contexts, people may end up over-sharing information, or they may be disadvantaged by not sharing enough. At the same time, others in the online community need to know when they are responding to genuine distress.
Understanding how trust and empathy works in these circumstances may help to transform how resources and aid are distributed on a local and global basis. It could also enhance individual and community resilience. But such changes may have both good and bad consequences. Because of this, ethics at a personal, global, institutional and governmental level, will also be at the core of our project.
As part of the research, we will be accessing online data from a wide range of sources and interacting with a variety of organisations, including UK charities, international NGOs and health providers. The outputs from the research will be made available to academic audiences, our stakeholders and to the general public.