When Ecuador was hit by a 7.8 intensity earthquake on April 16, 2016, the coordination efforts that unfolded relied heavily on the use and appropriation of social media such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. While studies on informal volunteers in crisis situations have largely examined digital volunteerism and visible online activities, behind-the-scenes interactions among informal volunteers on the ground remain understudied. We present a qualitative interview study of how Ecuadorian informal volunteers self-organized to provide relief efforts in response to the earthquake. We found that informal groups of volunteers appropriated WhatsApp to articulate relief efforts within their groups and beyond. Drawing on our findings, we emphasize that the design of technologies for crisis response must consider how informal volunteers on the ground harness existing technology practices and situated expertise to address the ever-changing demands of the crisis relief environment.
In the TanDEm lab, we focus on matters relating to the design, deployment, adoption, and use of technologies towards empowerment - of underserved and under-represented communities in resource-constrained regions across the world.