Friday, December 12, 2014

Office for Learning and Teaching Grant Success

I am delighted to announce that our group has secured a $50,000 grant from the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching to develop a concept for a disaster resilience system simulator.

The project, entitled 'Modelling disaster resilience: enhancing student learning through trans-disciplinary simulation of wicked scenarios (RES-SIM)​', will be carried out by a project team led by Dr von Meding, supported by Dr Giggins and Dr Kanjanabootra from UoN and Dr Vanessa Cooper from RMIT.

This project has already attracted some media interest, with the ABC running a story online and on local radio

The project team are very pleased to be able to work on this project and look forward to getting up and running in early 2015! I have included a summary below. 

Project Summary:

The RES-SIM project is a collaboration between the University of Newcastle and RMIT University that proposes to develop the conceptual model for a virtually distributed computer-based teaching and learning tool that enables students within and across disciplines (e.g. engineering, architecture, logistics), both on and off campus, to collaboratively acquire essential decision-making skills through immersion in a dynamic disaster system simulation. The concept stems from game theory, competition theory and system theory. Societal systems and subsystems (e.g. health systems, transport systems, political systems) are vulnerable to a range of destabilising variables, from the immediate impacts of disasters (natural or man-made) on various system components to the subsequent responses of decision-makers. In many fields, including disaster response, simulations generally rely upon face-to-face, resource intensive scenarios or involve ‘event-based’ simulations, which fail to fully engage the systems of society that are impacted by shocks and hazards. Students are emerging from higher education with theoretical knowledge of complex systems but little in the way of tangible experience. Phase 2 of the RES-SIM project (beyond the scope of this project) will create a simulation tool that recognises these dynamics, while allowing the ‘game’ controller the flexibility to manipulate the conditions during the simulation itself to mimic the chaotic nature of disaster scenarios. This will create an environment that yields rich participatory experiences for students and embedded conceptual learning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Disaster resilience in L'Aquila (Italy)

On 6th April 2009, an earthquake hit the Italian city of L’Aquila and definitively compromised its pre-existing social and physical structures. In disaster studies, L’Aquila has represented the litmus of “traditional” top-down and clientelistic practices by Italian government and the strong politicization of post-disaster emergency, reconstruction and recovery. The new sprawling city resulting by institutional strategies ignored the social and spatial peculiarities of L’Aquila and trivialized the centuries-old relations between the historical centre of the city and its surrounding neighbourhoods, with current and long-term consequences for the everyday life of the inhabitants.

Several scholars have explored the multiple and complex dimensions of post-disaster L’Aquila: from psychological consequences to changes in the built environment, from social transformations to urban networks and connectivity issues, from social movements to cultural heritage damages. Recently, I have published two papers aiming to investigate the resilience process enacted by emergent grassroots groups in the reconstruction of L’Aquila. These groups are spontaneous and autonomous, and proposed and enacted own ideas and initiatives in reconstructing the city.

The first paper is co-authored with Francesca Fois; it analyses in-depth the functioning of the EVA ecovillage community in developing its own resilience process and in exploiting the window of opportunity, opened by the earthquake, through sustainable practices of everyday life. The second paper analyses and describes the disaster resilience by some emergent groups in L’Aquila, considered as a shared and bottom-up process, rather than a top-down and paternalistic outcome. The paper asserts the integration of the disaster resilience process into institutional strategies would have more successful targeted the needs of local communities during the reconstruction process. Both papers shed light on a qualitative dimension of resilience, that requires more investigation and debate in literature to clearly depict the social and political context in which disasters and related resilience take place.  

If you are interested in my papers, you can find here the first and here the second, and both on my Academia profile.

Any comment is welcome.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

December Group Updates

2015 International Conference on Building Resilience

Thank you to all who have submitted abstracts for the 2015 International Building Resilience Conference from 15-17 July 2015. We look forward to welcoming a diverse group of international delegates to Newcastle and we are pleased to announce that our keynote speakers will be Professor Kevin Hall (Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Professor Makarand Hastak (Head of Construction Engineering and Management, Purdue University) and Dr Louise Brooke-Smith (Global President, RICS). The abstract deadline has now been extended until 5th January so there is still time to get involved! Click here to find out more.

REACT Network

Delegates from the University of Newcastle and Beijing Normal University are currently in Taipei for the second REACT Network event. There is a full schedule planned, including research collaboration meetings, studio-based consultations with students, formal seminars and community resilience field visits. Ming Chuan University will kindly host the visit.

5th World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sendai

Dr von Meding and Dr Gajendran will be attending the 5th World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in March as official delegates of the CIB (International Council for Building). CIB W120 Disasters and the Built Environment, the University of Newcastle and Loughborough University will host and facilitate a special public 'Built Environment DRR Research Forum'. The Forum will showcase research from around the globe that has supported the goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action over the past decade, informing the post-2015 framework with empirical and theoretical advances. A panel of international speakers will share a wealth of evidence spanning hundreds of research projects over the past decade.

Successful CAESIE Grant

A team from the group, led by Dr Gajendran, were recently successful with a proposal to fund collaborative meetings with a UK SME (Ostick & Williams Architects, Belfast). The meetings, hosted in Newcastle, will explore whether the development of a technological tool and operational framework for evaluating built environment resilience to flood events is possible within a digital environment. The staff from O&W will visit Australia in March 2015.