We Are All Well: A Social History of Public Information Infrastructures after Disasters

May 8, 2019 || 3:30 – 5 p.m. CMU 126

The Department of Communication is excited to present a colloquium featuring Professor Megan Finn from the University of Washington Information School. When an earthquake strikes California today, residents may look to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for online maps that show the quake’s epicenter, turn to Twitter for government bulletins and the latest news, check Facebook for updates from friends and family, and count on help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

One hundred and fifty years ago, however, FEMA and other government agencies did not exist, and information came by telegraph and newspaper. In her new book, “Documenting Aftermath,” Professor Finn explores post-earthquake information and communication practices amidst infrastructure breakdown in three Northern California earthquakes: the 1868 Hayward Fault earthquake, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

In this talk, she will discuss how people produce and circulate information in earthquake publics using a comparative historical lens. She analyzes the institutions, policies, and technologies that shape today’s post-disaster information landscape, paying close attention to not only the circulation of knowledge, but also to the production of ignorance.


Speaker biography:
Megan Finn is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Information School. In 2018, “Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters,” Finn’s first monograph, was published by MIT Press. Her latest work includes an NSF-funded project on ethical practice in computer security research and a transnational investigation of new personal data management policies.