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Creating Interdependencies: Managing Incidents in Large Organizational Environments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Paul Luff, Christian Heath, Menisha Patel, Dirk Vom Lehn, Andrew Highfield

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)544-584
JournalHUMAN COMPUTER INTERACTION
Volume33
Issue number5-6
Early online date18 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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Abstract

In recent years, we have witnessed the emergence of large-scale centers of command and control that bring together a range of personnel from various services responsible for the management of day-to-day incidents and events. These multicenter control rooms stand in marked contrast to what Suchman termed ‘centers of coordination’ (Suchman 1997), which have typically formed the focus of much research within HCI and Computer supported co-operative work (CSCW). In this paper, we explore the practices and technical resources within one of these very large multicenter control rooms. Staff in this control room do collaborate with colleagues who are copresent, but there is little reliance on the subtle interactional practices found in earlier studies. However, one information system is critical for collaboration and managing incidents that arise: the information system that is used to record incidents. Unlike in previous settings where records were made after an incident had taken place, these records are used for the concurrent management of activities. We consider the practices through which staff assemble these records to serve the demands of different individuals, with differing responsibilities in various organizations within the control room. We consider instances of copresent collaboration and suggest that these are often to ameliorate problems with the records rather than supporting real-time colocated activities. Although staff may be copresent in these multicenter control rooms, they have different kinds of technological resources available to them, and a different ‘division of labor.’ This can undermine the integration of these resources within forms of work. We conclude by discussing the implications for our understanding of copresent work and also for the methods and approaches we can draw upon for understanding these contemporary workplaces.

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