In the min­utes after the Marathon bomb­ings, phones began to ring and buzz as people checked on family mem­bers, friends, and dis­tant rela­tions in Boston. R U OK?, they texted. What hap­pened, they asked.

Researchers at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity are asking res­i­dents and vis­i­tors who used their cell­phones to keep in touch with their social net­work after the bomb­ings to down­load a smart­phone app to help them under­stand how, exactly, we com­mu­ni­cated in the after­math of the tragedy. Did we call the people we are in touch with most fre­quently, or were we flooded with voice­mails and mes­sages from people we haven’t spoken to in weeks or years?

When people open the app, they will be asked to answer a survey and pro­vide infor­ma­tion from their cell­phones’ text and call logs. Researchers also plan to look at how infor­ma­tion rip­pled out­ward on social media sites such as Face­book and Twitter.

From an emer­gency response point of view, you want to know how infor­ma­tion dis­sem­i­nates among the pop­u­la­tion,” said David Lazer, a North­eastern polit­ical sci­ence pro­fessor who is heading up the research. From a more soci­o­log­ical per­spec­tive, com­mu­ni­ca­tion pat­terns may reveal some­thing about the tex­ture of human life.

Read the article at The Boston Globe →