Quake experiences told through tweets

'EMOTIONAL LANGUAGE': Martina Wengenmeir is comparing moods and feelings reflected in tweets after each major jolt.

'EMOTIONAL LANGUAGE': Martina Wengenmeir is comparing moods and feelings reflected in tweets after each major jolt.

A University of Canterbury postgraduate researcher is trawling through nearly a million tweets posted after the Christchurch earthquakes.

Media and communication PhD student Martina Wengenmeir, from Germany, said the tweets featured "a lot of swearing and emotional language".

"Mostly people are describing what they're experiencing, some tweeting while still sitting under the desk," she said.

What did you tweet after the September 2010 and February 2011 quakes or after major aftershocks? Email your old quake tweets to cecile.meier@press.co.nz.

Wengenmeir is analysing 963,795 tweets through key words, hashtags and prolific users.

She is comparing moods and feelings after each major jolt and will produce her findings next year.

She could find only two tweets posted at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011. Then phone towers went down and most of the tweets were from outside Christchurch, she said.

Kiwis overseas picked up on it a couple of hours later when they woke up in the morning, and tweets from Christchurch came later, she said.

"Twitter played an important role after the quakes as a tool to gather and distribute information," Wengenmeir said. 

"Twitter is also highly reactive, and information is spread a lot quicker than on traditional media channels and takes a different form, as single private users as well as organisations and media-affiliated accounts write tweets. This is why people turned to the platform for the latest information whenever there was an aftershock." 

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Wengenmeir interviewed people from organisations such as Rebuild Christchurch, Gap Filler, the Re:Start Mall, Avon River Park and Rise Up Christchurch about their use of Facebook and Twitter. 

"Everyone I spoke to was driven by the motivation to help Christchurch people after the earthquakes," she said. 

"They were passionate about what they were doing, and so most of the Facebook pages and the organisations behind have grown into something bigger. They became attached to their online communities." 

 - The Press


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