AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction


Large-scale societal crises require individuals and organizations to make sense of ambiguous situations. Nowadays, users use social media such as Twitter to seek and contribute crisis-related information. However, contradictory cues such as rumors increasingly break up their sense- and decision-making processes. We examine how sense-breaking (i.e., rumor-supporting and -correction messages) impact rumor spreading and how different user archetypes contribute to this process. Against the theory of connective action as a backdrop, we conducted a case study on the German Chemnitz 2018 riots and associated Twitter communication. With an analysis combining semi-automated content analysis and social network analysis, we identified five rumor-spreading networks. Characteristic user behavior and deduced user archetypes revealed that impeded connective action negatively impacted rumor correction. From those findings, we theoretically derive a concept that we call “connective sense-breaking”; that is, connective efforts by involved user archetypes and their supporting and correction behavior to achieve information consensus. This new perspective on rumor spreading provides IS researchers with an expedient lens for future work and helps crisis communication stakeholders such as emergency management agencies to define their role in rumor spreading and, consequently, improve their ad hoc decision-making.





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