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Authors: Rubbia, G. 
Title: Are we ready for earthquakes? Some hints from the web
Issue Date: 9-Sep-2009
Keywords: web, information dissemination
2009 L'Aquila earthquake
Subject Classification05. General::05.02. Data dissemination::05.02.99. General or miscellaneous 
Abstract: Italy is a country prone to earthquakes. Most of us remember 1976 Friuli, 1980 Irpinia and, more recently, 1997 Umbria-Marche and 2002 Molise earthquakes. The September 26, 1997 Umbria – Marche earthquake (Magnitude 6.4), with the well known sequences of the collapse of the roof of the Basilica in Assisi, was the first event that occurred in the Italian territory and was the first documented over the Internet. The October 31, 2002 in San Giuliano di Puglia (M=5.9) is sadly famous as 28 people died and 27 were children in the school that collapsed. The April, 6 2009 (M=6.3) earthquake that stroke L’Aquila region (nearly 300 deaths) represents the third large seismic event felt in Italy in the last thirty years, and the third one in the “Internet era”. Beyond other considerations, shall we label it as the “missed prediction” earthquake? The Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia – INGV had a preminent role in giving information either through the institutional website, both through on line databanks and web applications that constitute its web disseminating system (Rubbia et alii, 2008). A huge amount of requests and comments came soon after the main shock and during all the crisis. Some were posted in the month before. “…We felt several (small) shocks. Shall we be worried about…?” “… Gas radon theory… Is it an unreliable theory or a new frontier to be crossed? “ “… There is a mistake on the website: it occurred at 1.32 AM, not 3.32 PM…” And more… This kind of questions and many others give several hints about the so-called “user” awareness and expectations: what does he/she knows about and what does he/she requires from the information supplier. The one who posts the question is himself/herself information supplier in the whole process of communication and can even reveal how the role of scientist is perceived. All nodes in INGV web disseminating system have been solicited and have replied, often experimenting similar patterns of questions/comments. See for examples the public archive run by INGV Sezione di Milano-Pavia available at an “Ask our expert” system that was set up after the 2002 Molise earthquake. In a broader sense the communication role was not only acted by the Press Office, but also by researchers in a distributed way. Shall we label it as that earthquake that generated a huge amount of traffic, and made serious difficulties to the overall telematic infrastructure? Since a handful of years, changes in the sociotechnical landscape have been so great that we can label it as the first large Italian earthquake in the social networks, whose relationships with institutional networks are worthwhile to be explored into details (Rubbia and Camassi, 2008).
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