Triggering Action: Participatory Surveillance and Event Detection in Public Emergency Management

Martin French and Baki Cakici

Big Data, Surveillance and Crisis Management, 2017.

Contemporary developments in public health monitoring and crisis management—particularly those that are meant to leverage big data and social-media infrastructures for participatory surveillance—have less to do with monitoring and making up populations, and more to do with monitoring and making up events. These developments are important not just for the way they configure public health problems, but also for the kinds of governance they imagine and call into being.

In this chapter, we provide a background discussion of global health security and the millennial preoccupation—in the global north—with emerging infectious disease. We also offer a preliminary consideration of emergent modes of public health monitoring and event detection. We use an analytic framework developed in French and Mykhalovskiy (2013) to present an overview of select touchstones for research into event-oriented public health monitoring and crisis management. We focus on the event as a key, active concept, and consider the forms of knowledge, diverse informants, and organizational initiatives that this discursive configuration of public health crises presupposes. We conclude with a discussion of the wider implications of the rise of event detection in public health monitoring, and suggest that big data-enabled modes of participatory public health event detection are a key site for future surveillance studies scholarship.

Full text