Rifka Sibarani is currently working on a PhD at Charles Darwin University, Australia. Prior to this, she completed a Master of Public Policy at the University of Tasmania, and a Bachelor of Political Science, majoring in Communication Studies at Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia. She has worked with communities and local NGOs in Indonesia to develop disaster risk communication campaigns.
Her PhD research project focuses on exploring social media users' experience with risk communication in the changing new media environment. It aims to provide policy recommendations for local stakeholders for ways to improve engagement with local communities, especially in this period of endemic misinformation on social media.
Risk communication in the changing new media landscape: lessons learned from two Australian regions
Emergency information about risks associated with potential disasters can save lives. Many regional Australians are worried that they will not get the information they need to face disasters as many local news companies have shut down their business or moved to online paid services (Birch, 2020). These concerns are generally heightened after the mega bushfire of 2019 and 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19 on the Australian soil. Many regional Australians—particularly the elderly—are concerned about future impacts of disasters on their communities if all local media is digitised and physical news services disappear (Lovari & Bowen, 2020).
This research project aims to capture the lived experience of local communities in the Northern Territory and Northern Tasmania, dealing with the changing media landscape in their regions. It will also investigate the consequences of the emergence of digital media (e.g. websites, social media, mobile phone apps) as popular platforms for risk information which are slowly replacing the roles of local media for disaster news and information that are essential in regional Australia.
This study uses the phenomenological approach to investigate participants’ lived experience navigating the media landscape. The data collection process will involve Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with members of the public, in-depth interviews with semi-structured questions with key experts, and an examination of government documents related to risk and crisis communication strategies for large scale disasters (e.g natural disasters and disease outbreaks). The findings are expected to contribute in providing recommendations for local risk communication strategies in the two research locations based on the findings.