Awareness of vulnerability to terrorism in urban areas: Social network and mobility effects in Boston, MA

2009 2009

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Abstract (summary)

U.S. cities are predicted to remain likely targets of terrorism, yet little is known about how urban residents prepare for and respond to terrorist events. This dissertation examined how individuals' social contacts and mobility shaped the way they perceived their vulnerability to terrorism, and how they acted upon these perceptions. Since gender affects both social interactions and mobility, the affect of gender on vulnerability awareness was also explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with high-, middle-, and low-income householders in the Boston Metropolitan Area and a qualitative coding scheme was used to analyze the data. The results show that respondents engaged their social contacts on the topic of terrorism over concerns about particular places that they visited and when they sought information about the hazard. Women generally probed terrorism preparedness issues in more detail than did men, their networks carried more information, and they were more likely than men to observe behaviors from their network members in response to terrorism and to present their own behaviors out to their network in response. Women were much more likely than men to undertake a preparedness activity if they had heard about it from network members. At the same time, the respondents' mobility affected their awareness of vulnerability to terrorism. Respondents thought differently about vulnerability when they conceptualized themselves within the transportation environment and when they considered the vulnerability of the transportation system abstractly. Mobility itself increased awareness, while discussions about perceptions of vulnerability varied with mode (the car caused the most discussion). The assumption that mobility would be available during a terrorist attack, however, hindered the initiation of preparedness activities for both men and women. There are two main conclusions from this dissertation: (1) respondents' gendered social networks affected the type and quality of the information they were likely to have about terrorism: women had more and better information than men; (2) respondents' unrealistic assumptions about transportation availability during and after terrorism hindered their vulnerability awareness and preparedness activities. However, mobility itself raised their awareness signaling the complicated role mobility plays in shaping vulnerability awareness and ultimately urban hazard resilience.

Indexing (details)

Transportation planning;
Urban planning
0366: Geography
0709: Transportation planning
0999: Urban planning
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Boston; Gender; Massachusetts; Mobility; Qualitative methods; Social networks; Terrorism; Urban communities
Awareness of vulnerability to terrorism in urban areas: Social network and mobility effects in Boston, MA
Keenan, Kevin
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Hanson, Susan
Clark University
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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