Preparing for the challenges of paracrisis in an online world: A case study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis is a qualitative case study that explores the emerging concept of paracrisis; a phenomenon where organisations are increasingly facing and addressing a crisis-inclined, crisis-prone, crisis-like, dormant state where reputationally damaging events, triggered or fostered through online platforms like social media, are more common and prevalent. This research explores the unique features of paracrisis and reveals important understandings and considerations for professional communicators who are designing strategies and utilising online platforms to communicate.

The thesis draws on three elements, beginning with an integrative literature review, followed by a nested case study using discourse analysis and, finally, an analysis of interviews undertaken with a small group of pro-immunisation strategists.

The findings of this case study research are not generalisable, but they do provide insights into the nature of paracrisis as an important and emerging concept. Paracrisis describes a propensity and orientation towards reputationally damaging crisis events that was first articulated by crisis scholars Timothy Coombs and Sherry Holladay in 2012. Paracrisis events are epitomised by a crisis-like vulnerability courtesy of fast-moving, highly visible, revivable and easily accessible digital and social media platforms, which can be used as tools or weapons, to express the views of anyone with access to a computer or smart phone.

The thesis’ overarching research question is: How are organisations adapting to the risk of crisis events in an online society?

A case study has been chosen as the methodological approach for this research to allow a minute, focused and rich investigation of a real-world, paracrisis-oriented and controversial topic: pro-immunisation messages and communication.

An integrative literature review was chosen to generate a greater understanding of the emerging paracrisis concept through the analysis and synthesis of the literature to date, exploring online-generated or online-facilitated crisis scenarios.

This is followed by a nested case study using discourse analysis to investigate the pro-immunisation Facebook site, Light for Riley, to provide insights into the critical viewpoints of the people posting online about a controversial topic.

The thesis also employs phenomenological analysis and representation to analyse interview data from a small group of pro-immunisation strategists in order to build an understanding of the background and personal orientations of those tasked with promoting the immunisation message. A Paracrisis Model has been developed and is also offered to assist professional communicators in designing strategies and navigating the challenging environment of online communication.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Communication
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Fell, Bruce, Principal Supervisor
  • Taylor, Jill, Co-Supervisor
Award date27 Oct 2020
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020


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