Technology and Social Work: Odd Bedfellows No More

The first Global Health and Well-Being Conference hosted by NYU’s Silver School of Social Work took place last week, where I attended a session entitled “Trauma and Technology”. Both presenters gave excellent examples of how social work can use technology in research methods, proving that social work and technology don’t have to be odd bedfellows.

Current sampling methods in crisis environments tend to use cluster sampling methods (most notably Les Robert’s approach of cluster sampling to determine the civilian mortality rate in Iraq after the US invasion). Building upon these sampling techniques, which certainly have a risk of inflated numbers, Professor Royce Hutson from Boise State University presented his work on random grid sampling, which uses statistical properties of estimators to determine population density and randomly select a particular building within that population. This results in a bigger sample size leading to better estimates.

Marion Lok from University of Melbourne presented her doctoral research on use of crisis informatics in social work. She used technology to actually determine how people use technology is disaster. She found that people not directly affected by particular natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand had higher perceived risk than those who were directly affected. This may be because those who were directly affected did not have access to the internet. Lok’s presentation made me wonder, what are the implications for media creating more problems during emergencies?

So, I really like the idea of integrating technology into social work, especially through research methods. In fact, I tried to do this with my use of GPS with Palestinian children and families. I think this is a promising direction for social work research. What do others think?

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