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Dynamics of convergence behaviour in social media crisis communication – a complexity perspective

Milad Mirbabaie (University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany)
Stefan Stieglitz (University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany)
Felix Brünker (University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 8 January 2021

Issue publication date: 17 January 2022




The purpose of this study is to investigate communication on Twitter during two unpredicted crises (the Manchester bombings and the Munich shooting) and one natural disaster (Hurricane Harvey). The study contributes to understanding the dynamics of convergence behaviour archetypes during crises.


The authors collected Twitter data and analysed approximately 7.5 million relevant cases. The communication was examined using social network analysis techniques and manual content analysis to identify convergence behaviour archetypes (CBAs). The dynamics and development of CBAs over time in crisis communication were also investigated.


The results revealed the dynamics of influential CBAs emerging in specific stages of a crisis situation. The authors derived a conceptual visualisation of convergence behaviour in social media crisis communication and introduced the terms hidden and visible network-layer to further understanding of the complexity of crisis communication.

Research limitations/implications

The results emphasise the importance of well-prepared emergency management agencies and support the following recommendations: (1) continuous and (2) transparent communication during the crisis event as well as (3) informing the public about central information distributors from the start of the crisis are vital.


The study uncovered the dynamics of crisis-affected behaviour on social media during three cases. It provides a novel perspective that broadens our understanding of complex crisis communication on social media and contributes to existing knowledge of the complexity of crisis communication as well as convergence behaviour.



Funding: This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska- Curie grant agreement No 823866.


Mirbabaie, M., Stieglitz, S. and Brünker, F. (2022), "Dynamics of convergence behaviour in social media crisis communication – a complexity perspective", Information Technology & People, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 232-258.



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