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Overflow and Containment in the Aftermath of Disaster



In reflecting on Hurricane Katrina, so soon after it struck the Gulf Coast, I want to consider what one might expect from the public inquiries and official investigations of the disaster. Prediction, whether of meteorological or social phenomena, is a risky business, but by now the field of science and technology studies (STS) has produced a substantial literature on the investigations and official inquiries that follow in the wake of notable disasters, accidents, technological failures, and other breakdowns of sociotechnical order. This literature is diffuse and the interests and theoretical perspectives of various authors differ, but the relevant work includes studies of knowledge-making in the aftermath of such failures as the Windscale nuclear accident, the Bhopal disaster, the Challenger explosion, the bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE) episode, and the debacle of the Florida vote in the 2000 US Presidential election.To summarize (very briefly and admittedly inadequately) some major themes of this rich literature, I will list seven points. In the final section, I relate them to the Katrina case, and advance several tentative predictions.
Social Studies of Science
DOI: 10.1177/0306312706069439
2007; 37; 153 Social Studies of Science
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Overflow and Containment in
the Aftermath of Disaster
Stephen Hilgartner
Keywords accidents, Hurricane Katrina, politics, public inquiries, risk, risk society,
In reflecting on Hurricane Katrina, so soon after it struck the Gulf Coast,
I want to consider what one might expect from the public inquiries and
official investigations of the disaster. Prediction, whether of meteorological
or social phenomena, is a risky business, but by now the field of science
and technology studies (STS) has produced a substantial literature on the
investigations and official inquiries that follow in the wake of notable dis-
asters, accidents, technological failures, and other breakdowns of socio-
technical order. This literature is diffuse and the interests and theoretical
perspectives of various authors differ, but the relevant work includes stud-
ies of knowledge-making in the aftermath of such failures as the Windscale
nuclear accident, the Bhopal disaster, the Challenger explosion, the bovine
spongiform encephalitis (BSE) episode, and the debacle of the Florida vote
in the 2000 US Presidential election.1To summarize (very briefly and
admittedly inadequately) some major themes of this rich literature, I will
list seven points. In the final section, I relate them to the Katrina case, and
advance several tentative predictions.
1. There are no natural disasters, only sociotechnical ones, in advanced techno-
logical societies, such as the USA. Disasters are typically perceived as abnor-
mal, deviant events, but in many ways they are ‘normal’ occurrences that
stem from the particular vulnerabilities that social institutions and
actions build into the heterogeneous networks of technological systems
and infrastructures (Perrow, 1984; Jasanoff, 1994). Thus, even disasters
widely classified as ‘natural’ will inevitably implicate human artifacts,
organizations, and choices. Moreover, the sociotechnical networks
intended to monitor, manipulate, and manage risk have reached a level
of density where today any disaster – whether attributed to the agency of
natural or unnatural forces – will fall under the jurisdiction of some set
of technical experts and organizations (e.g., Beck, 1992). All major dis-
asters therefore demand a social accounting.
Social Studies of Science 37/1 (February 2007) 153–158
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2. The vision of orderly, manageable sociotechnical systems is critical to political
legitimacy in the contemporary world. The organizations that operate com-
plex technologies tend to present them publicly as orderly, rule-governed
systems that achieve acceptable levels of safety by virtue of the rational-
ity of their design. Legitimacy depends in no small part on the mainte-
nance of a cosmology in which people can expect the institutions that
operate and govern technological systems, especially the state, to pre-
dict, prevent, or at least partially mitigate any number of hazards (Wynne,
1982). The political stakes in accounting for disasters are therefore
extremely high.
3. Disasters and accidents create profoundly disturbing collective experiences that
challenge the managerial vision of orderly systems. Disasters evoke horror
not only because they make chaos and suffering visible but also because
they reveal shocking disorder in sociotechnical systems. Tangled com-
munications, failures to act on available knowledge, and socially struc-
tured ignorance make the crisp linearity of the organizational chart seem
like a naive fantasy.2The messy, ‘unruly’ character of technology is dra-
matically displayed, revealing ad hoc judgments, informal practices, and
other deviations from the formal procedures that supposedly guide
action (Wynne, 1988). Similarly, disasters often suggest that social order
in general depends on more fragile machinery, such as the fallible sys-
tems that distribute electrical or police power, than many might like to
believe.3Amid such dramatic displays of vulnerability, people find it
easy to imagine disorder of an even greater magnitude, with problems
overflowing their boundaries and spreading into new domains.
4. Officials and citizens alike typically perceive reestablishing order to be a cen-
tral priority, but accomplishing this depends not merely on containing the dis-
aster on the ground (regaining control, rescuing people, rebuilding systems),
but also on containing it discursively. Public authorities must address the
meaning of a disaster as well as the materiality of it. Reclaiming a sense
of normalcy may depend on placing the episode securely within a narra-
tive frame that restores confidence in the capacity of social institutions,
especially the state, to protect the citizenry. Moreover, when state insti-
tutions fail to reassure, people may experience profound anxiety, leading
them to experience a sense of ‘civic dislocation’ as they look to other
institutions as sources of reassurance (Jasanoff, 1997).
5. Public inquiries often play an important role in efforts to contain disasters within
a reassuring storyline, although their capacity to reassure is potentially problem-
atic. Disasters typically precipitate a public process of inquiry and investi-
gation aimed at assessing cause and blame, defining specific entities (for
example, artifacts, individuals, organizations) as deviant, identifying pre-
ventive strategies, punishing wrongdoers, and aiding or compensating
victims. The process of public investigation typically begins with media
coverage when disaster first strikes. Later, much of the action usually
moves to official inquiries or public commissions set up by the state.
Public inquiries serve as a device for managing the disorder and discord
that disasters produce, and at an abstract level the inquiry process follows
154 Social Studies of Science 37/1
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a general structure of ‘social drama’ described in the processual anthro-
pology of Victor Turner (1974). In Turner’s scheme, a social drama begins
with a normative ‘breach’ that produces a ‘schism’ in the community and
proceeds through a period of ‘crisis’, a phase of ‘redress’, and finally to
‘reintegration’ if the redress is successful, or to continued schism if it is not
(Turner, 1974; Wynne, 1982; Hilgartner, 2000).
Public inquiries thus offer a ritualized process for collectively ‘moving
on’, but they do not have a guaranteed capacity to reassure. On the one
hand, public inquiries have the potential to contain disasters within durable
narrative frames, recreating the collective experience of a manageable
world by fixing cause, focusing blame, meting out justice, taking strong
action. On the other hand, the process of investigation has the potential to
produce cascades of revelations that display additional layers of messiness,
thus undermining further the managerial imaginary and leading the sense
of breakdown to overflow its extant boundaries. These contradictory
potentials generate a dynamic tension between overflow and containment
that in principle can produce varying mixtures of reassurance and anxiety.
6. The inquiry process typically features a contest to control how causal and moral
responsibility for the disaster is framed. Public inquiries aim to establish what
caused disaster, who is to blame, and what should be done about it. But
responsibility can be allocated and distributed in many ways among the
nodes of a sociotechnical network. Following an accident, investigations
may transform the heterogeneous links that hold together a technological
system into ‘traps hooking people and things together in a network of cause
and blame and guilt’ (Gieryn & Figert, 1990: 87). However, actors often
strenuously resist being implicated, seeking to deflect attention to other
network components. As competing factions seek to fix responsibility on
different entities, opposing parties work to emplot the history of the disas-
ter in incompatible ways, presenting varied casts of characters (for exam-
ple, heroes, victims, villains) and offering a variety of strategies for redress.4
7. The most important moves in aftermath struggles are those that influence the
kinds of questions the inquiry process considers and the evidence available to
it. Among the most important moves are those that contain the inquiry
itself, blocking or channeling investigation, or that open the floodgates
to new lines of questioning. As they struggle to control how the disaster
will be framed, actors deploy a wide range of discursive, legal, and infor-
mation control techniques aimed at shaping the scope of the inquiry
and the evidentiary record it relies on. Efforts to shape the documentary
record of a disaster and the response to it often begin long before the
official inquiries do. Indeed, because actors can anticipate lines of
inquiry that investigators might pursue in the future, they frequently
create documents (such as the ubiquitous ‘cover-your-ass memo’ or
even the false chronologies of the Iran-Contra affair) specifically designed
to influence future efforts to discover what really happened. Such strate-
gically informed moves quite literally constitute the documentary record,
which consequently cannot itself be understood as independent of the
struggles to interpret it (Lynch & Bogen, 1996).
Hilgartner: Overflow and Containment 155
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Katrina and its Future
In its immediate aftermath, the Katrina case conformed to many elements
of this general description of knowledge-making in the aftermath of disas-
ters. The destruction was instantly perceived as having organizational and
technological causes as well as natural ones, and efforts to assign and evade
responsibility began at once. Managerial visions of adequate flood control
infrastructure, effective evacuation planning, and reliable police power were
swept away by waves of evidence of breakdowns. Political damage was also
immediate (Mukerji, 2007). The failure of the federal government to respond
effectively outraged many Americans, and President George W. Bush’s
slow reaction and initial public statements seemed to display a shocking
aloofness or an incapacity to grasp the scope of what was happening. State
and local governments also proved incapable of providing protection.
News coverage and media investigations implicated a growing number of
individuals, organizations, artifacts, and decisions. The plight of victims,
who were disproportionately African American, cast a spotlight on inequal-
ity in American society, bringing often neglected issues of race and class to
center stage and focusing rare attention on the politics of infrastructural
investment (Star, 2005). Officials struggled to deflect blame or to assign it
to agencies beyond their control. Before long, multiple official inquiries
were initiated, for example, by the Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers,
the National Research Council, and other agencies. Prominent in these
inquiries were struggles over claims of executive confidentiality, conflicts
over the scope of investigations, and other procedural moves.
At present, the public inquiry process remains fully in play. However, it
is already possible to offer a few modest predictions about how this process
will turn out. First, given the scale of the disaster and the many actors
involved, we can expect a prolonged period of inquiry, featuring a series of
investigations and counter-investigations that allocate responsibility differ-
ently. Moreover, redressive measures – which will be costly, controversial,
messy, and often deemed inadequate – are likely to continue producing
second-order overflows, as failures to find clean solutions to the daunting
tasks of aiding victims and rebuilding infrastructures generate additional
media coverage, litigation, and investigations. The wave of scrutiny and blame
that Katrina unleashed will prove impossible to contain quickly or neatly.
Even so, it already seems safe to predict that Katrina will not inspire a
durable increase in attention to the politics of infrastructure or other struc-
tural inequalities in American society. Instead, as this wave of attention to
these issues sloshes through the arenas of public discourse, it is likely to
grow increasingly diffuse. Its residue will largely be absorbed into the insti-
tutionalized modes of action that have long contained concerns about
poverty and inequality in the USA. The cascades of overflows in the after-
math of Katrina will disperse responsibility over many actors. But although
some officials will pay a political price, ultimately, the disaster will be dis-
cursively contained within conventional narratives about ‘bad manage-
ment’ and ‘government inefficiency’.
156 Social Studies of Science 37/1
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1. See Wynne (1982) on Windscale; Jasanoff (1988, 1994) and Fortun (2000) on Bhopal;
Gieryn & Figert (1990) and Vaughan (1996) on the Challenger; Jasanoff (1997) on
BSE; Miller (2004), Lynch et al. (2005), and the special section in the June 2001 issue
of this journal on the 2000 election. Studies of breakdowns of social technologies, such
as science advisory systems (Hilgartner, 2000), can also be understood in this light.
Such work on risk as Beck (1988), Perrow (1984), and Douglas & Wildavsky (1982)
are also centrally relevant, as are studies of public inquiries, such as Lynch & Bogen’s
(1996) analysis of the Iran-Contra hearings.
2. See Jasanoff (1988) on politics of ignorance at Bhopal.
3. Miller (2004); Sims (2007); see also Shrum’s (2007) comments on crime, rumor, and
media coverage.
4. On the fixation of cause, see Gieryn & Figert (1990); see also Gusfield (1981) and
Hilgartner (1992).
Beck, Ulrich (1992) Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage Publications).
Douglas, Mary & Aaron Wildavsky (1982) Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of
Technological and Environmental Dangers (Berkeley, CA: University of California
Fortun, Kim (2000) ‘Remembering Bhopal, Re-Figuring Liability’, Interventions
Gieryn, Thomas F. & Anne E. Figert (1990) ‘Ingredients for a Theory of Science in
Society’, in Susan E. Cozzens & Thomas F. Gieryn (eds), Theories of Science and
Society (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press): 67–97.
Gusfield, Joseph R. (1981) The Culture of Public Problems: Drinking-Driving and the Symbolic
Order (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Hilgartner, Stephen (1992) ‘The Social Construction of Risk Objects: or, How to Pry Open
Networks of Risk’, in James F. Short & Lee Clarke (eds), Organizations, Uncertainties,
and Risk (Boulder, CO: Westview Press).
Hilgartner, Stephen (2000) Science on Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama (Stanford,
CA: Stanford University Press).
Jasanoff, Sheila (1988) ‘The Bhopal Disaster and the Right to Know’, Social Science and
Medicine 27(10): 1113–23.
Jasanoff, Sheila (ed.) (1994) Learning From Disaster: Risk Management after Bhopal
(Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press).
Jasanoff, Sheila (1997) ‘Civilization and Madness: The Great BSE Scare of 1996’, Public
Understanding of Science 6:221–32.
Lynch, Michael & David Bogen (1996) The Spectacle of History: Speech, Text, and Memory at
the Iran-Contra Hearings (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
Lynch, Michael, Stephen Hilgartner & Carin Berkowitz (2005) ‘Voting Machinery,
Counting and Public Proofs in the 2000 US Presidential Election’, in B. Latour & P.
Wiebel (eds), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (MIT Press, 2005):
Miller, Clark (2004) ‘Interrogating the Civic Epistemology of American Democracy:
Stability and Instability in the 2000 US Presidential Election’, Social Studies of Science
Mukerji, Chandra (2007) ‘Stewardship Politics and the Control of Wild Weather: Levees,
Seawalls, and State Building in 17th-Century France’, Social Studies of Science 37(1):
Perrow, Charles (1984) Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies (New York:
Basic Books).
Shrum, Wesley (2007) ‘Hurricane Stories, from Within’, Social Studies of Science 37(1):
Hilgartner: Overflow and Containment 157
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at GEORGE MASON UNIV on March 6, 2007 http://sss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Sims, Benjamin (2007) ‘“The Day After the Hurricane”: Infrastructure, Order, and the
New Orleans Police Department’s Response to Hurricane Katrina’, Social Studies of
Science 37(1):111–18.
Star, Susan Leigh (2005) ‘Whose Infrastructure is it Anyway?’ presented at the Society for
Social Studies of Science (45) Annual Meeting, Pasedena, CA (20 October).
Turner, Victor (1974) Dilemmas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human
Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).
Vaughan, Diane (1996) The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and
Deviance at NASA (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Wynne, Brian (1982) Rationality and Ritual: The Winscale Inquiry and Nuclear Decisions in
Britain (Chalfont St Giles: British Society for the History of Science).
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Public Understanding’, Social Studies of Science 18: 147–67.
Stephen Hilgartner is Associate Professor in the Department of Science &
Technology Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of Science on
Stage: Expert Advice as Public Drama (Stanford, 2000), which won the
Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science. He is
currently completing a book on ownership regimes in genome research.
Address: Department of Science and Technology Studies, 304 Rockefeller
Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA; email
158 Social Studies of Science 37/1
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... A tono con lo anterior, Hilgartner (2007) asegura que uno de los ámbitos que más se debe cuidar en la comprensión de un desastre es el discursivo, lo que necesariamente nos lleva a pensar en los actores y espacios en los que tiene lugar su construcción, como los medios de comunicación. En este caso particular es de interés la llamada esfera pública abstracta de Habermas, y que autores como Lins Ribeiro (2003) han retomado para problemas como los espacios públicos virtuales. ...
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En este artículo se presenta el resultado del análisis de la participación y la interacción de usuarios y organizaciones en Twitter en el contexto de un desastre. El estudio se realiza en el centro de la ciudad de Salgar (Colombia), que tuvo lugar en mayo de 2015, el cual fue ampliamente reconocido en los medios de comunicación. A partir de la actividad en Twitter de los distintos actores, se trata de una obra de la construcción colectiva del evento, y se rastrea la posición se asume se los usuarios de la red social se abren las cuentas y el siniestro en general, se trata La imagen se realiza. Es privilegiada y qué posición fue asumida ante la desgracia del prójimo a través de la mediación digital.
... For this reason, industrial accidents can be analyzed through the predictive logics of state security and disaster preparedness (Lakoff 2007). They can, moreover, spark forward-looking modes of global political advocacy (Fortun 2001) as well as retrospective modes of false closure provided by state accident inquiries (Hilgartner 2007). In the case of nuclear waste, this technopolitics can be stretched into the distant future (Ialenti 2020a). ...
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In April 2018 four drums of depleted uranium sludge burst open at a US Department of Energy facility at Idaho National Laboratory. This echoed a previous incident in 2014, when a drum erupted with fire and spewed radionuclides at a nuclear waste repository in New Mexico. Such “drum breach” accidents have been characterized in official reports as “isolated events,” and as “self‐initiated” and “spontaneous.” Yet these descriptions misrepresent a temporal tension at the heart of their causation: during the Cold War, nuclear weapons production created latent socioecological hazards that, decades later, too often manifest during waste cleanup. This tends to result from 21st‐century scheduling pressures, fraught labor relationships, and neoliberal subcontracting arrangements. Thus, if we examine the temporal form taken by US nuclear technopolitics, we can recast drum breach accidents not as stand‐alone events, but as outcomes of systemic incentives to speed up waste‐cleanup projects beyond their organizational capacity without commensurately expanding their safety or oversight mechanisms. [nuclear waste, technopolitics, accidents, neoliberalism, temporality, security, Idaho, United States]
... Subsequently, Beck advocated sub-politics outside the established realms of state politics as a necessary expansion of the political sphere in late modernity. Beck's discussion was well-received by STS researchers, who found conventional understandings of "science" separated from "politics" to be ineffective in elucidating the co-production of technoscience and policies around the (mis)management of disasters such as nuclear accidents and epidemic outbreaks (Callon, Lascoumes, and Barthe 2009;Hilgartner 2007). Technoscientific objects are noted to either produce political effects or turn such locations as laboratories and businesses which are largely independent of the state into a site of politics (Brown 2015). ...
In 2008, the South Korean government decided to resume importing beef from the United States, which had been stopped since 2003. The government’s attempt to reassure citizens with scientific claims met severe resistance, resulting in a whirlwind of political and technoscientific controversies over risks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). This article examines memories of protests in 2008 with two objectives; first, to discuss how sub-politics evolves when matters of concern become matters of fact and second, to better understand the aftermath of Korean BSE controversies. Thirty-eight semi-structured interviews with proponents and opponents of the BSE protests were conducted in 2019 and analyzed. Focusing on the complicated discursive struggles over science, society, and their relations, we demonstrated that, along with what people widely accept as the “facts” about US beef, a modern imaginary of science and politics as two separate spheres was reconstructed in Korea.
The Special Investigation Commission on the 4/16 Sewol Ferry Disaster offers a case in which the process of disaster investigation becomes a part, even a continuation, of the disaster for which it is created to bring closure. Placing the investigation in a longer temporality reveals obscured historical factors that shaped the investigation and its aftermath in surprising and crucial ways. Throughout the highly politicized process of deciding to investigate, what and whom to investigate, and how, disaster investigations can exacerbate the complexity of the disaster and the suffering of the victims and their families. What seems at first a technical and straightforward problem often turns out to be historically rooted and deeply contentious. In the case of the Sewol Ferry Disaster investigations, the process of creating an independent commission in a polarized political milieu unexpectedly formed a venue for evoking, drawing on, and re-experiencing state violence across generations. The Sewol Commission was modeled after earlier truth and reconciliation commissions in Korea, whose focus on individual ‘cases’ of political violence shaped how the Sewol investigation was conceptualized. As it turned out, the closure of the Sewol Commission closed nothing but the commission itself; the tragedy of the Sewol lingered.
How are disasters made into routine, even banal parts of everyday life? In Mexico City the spatiality and temporality of disasters have become an object of dynamic governmental manipulation. The city's water engineers use a vast drainage tunnel system to strategically transform what would otherwise be catastrophic flooding of the city center into a slow‐moving, spatially diffuse, and ultimately routine environmental problem for the poor on the urban periphery. Furthermore, to prevent unrest, the engineers deliberately modulate flooding within the thresholds of what populations can perceive and bear. This technopolitical work, which I call calibration, has emerged as a crucial means of governing beyond capacity, of maintaining social control even amid the unfolding of a disaster that has exceeded a government's capacity to prepare for or prevent. [disaster, government, engineering, infrastructure, flooding, water, space, temporality, Mexico] Cómo se convierten los desastres en partes rutinarias, incluso banales, de la vida cotidiana? En la Ciudad de México, la espacialidad y la temporalidad de los desastres se han convertido en un objeto de la dinámica manipulación gubernamental. Los ingenieros hidráulicos de la Ciudad de México utilizan un vasto sistema de túneles de drenaje para transformar estratégicamente, lo que podría ser una inundación catastrófica en el centro de la ciudad, en un problema ambiental que ocurre de forma lenta, espacialmente difusa y, en última instancia, rutinaria para los pobres de la periferia urbana. Además, para prevenir agitación social, los ingenieros modulan deliberadamente las inundaciones dentro de los umbrales de lo que las poblaciones pueden percibir y soportar. Este trabajo tecnopolítico, al que llamo “calibración”, ha surgido como un medio crucial para gobernar más allá de la capacidad, para mantener el control social incluso durante el transcurso de un desastre que ha superado las capacidades de un gobierno para prepararse o prevenir. [desastre, gobierno, ingeniería, infraestructura, inundaciones, agua, espacio, temporalidad, México]
Early on in the COVID-19 crisis, it became clear that health systems were not prepared to cope with the anticipated demand for acute services. Faced with the need to ration care, guidelines were issued by national bodies, and clinicians encouraged patients to exercise their right of control over their lives, and possible death. Yet unlike in previous crises disquiet and challenges to these directions began to emerge early on in the pandemic. Examined through the lens of Mbembe’s framework of necropolitics, which analyses the state’s right to decide who may live and who must die, these decisions and guidelines can be seen in a very different light to the more usual neoliberal agenda of choice and autonomy. We utilise and extend Mbembe’s concept to examine persistent inequalities and inequities in morbidity and mortality, and their variation during states of crisis, and the consequences for those people structured as not simply vulnerable but, ultimately, as surplus to requirements.
La thèse revisite la catastrophe de la tempête de Xynthia de 2010 et le procès public qui a suivi en 2014 pour explorer i) les conditions spécifiques de vulnérabilité au risque d'inondation côtière dans la commune de La Faute-sur-Mer (côte Atlantique de la France) et ii) le processus d'attribution de la responsabilité des conséquences de la catastrophe. Une analyse d'études de cas explore les relations entre les composantes dynamiques de la vulnérabilité identifiées et caractérisées comme provenant de divers dispositifs sociaux et institutionnels au sein d'une structure de gouvernance des risques décentralisée en France. L'analyse se concentre sur les faiblesses de gouvernance dans les décisions d'aménagement et développement du territoire dans une zone à risque, les défis de la mise en œuvre des politiques de gestion des risques d'inondation au niveau local, le rôle de la communauté (sensibilisation, culture du risque et participation à des modèles de gouvernance inclusifs ) et des incitations liées au régime français d'assurance-réassurance "Cat Nat" pour les risques de catastrophes. Dans le même temps, cette première analyse fournit une base importante pour explorer le deuxième thème de recherche sur l'attribution de la responsabilité des conséquences de la catastrophe, en particulier concernant les pertes humaines. Cette analyse se concentre sur le procès public qui a eu lieu en 2014, où les autorités locales ont été accusées d'homicide involontaire pour la mort des 29 habitants qui se sont noyés chez eux à La Faute-sur-Mer pendant la nuit de la tempête. Sur la base du déroulement du procès et de l'évolution de ce cas d'étude entre 2014 à 2017, l'analyse explore l'ensemble des enjeux pour définir et attribuer aux individus la responsabilité des conséquences des catastrophes déclenchées par un aléa naturel. Ces deux thèmes de recherche sur (i) la vulnérabilité associée aux faiblesses de gouvernance des risques et (ii) l'attribution de la responsabilité des conséquences des catastrophes, ceux-ci sont enrichis par un cadre analytique sur les processus institutionnels et organisationnels qui façonnent la vulnérabilité et les relations responsabilités-risques, qui est présenté dans une revue de la littérature. Enfin, la thèse présente des opportunités de recherches basées sur les résultats, telles que l'apprentissage des tendances de vulnérabilité du passé au présent pour informer la planification de la réduction des risques à long terme à travers la méthodologie des "adaptation pathways" et l'importance d'intégrer l'attritubtion du risque et l'alignement des responsabilités dans ces outils de planification.
The aim of this paper is to examine emergency employees’ perception of the possibilities and challenges of the implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in their daily processes. Therefore, interviews with eight emergency services employees from differing organizational and positional backgrounds were conducted over the course of two separate research projects. These semi-structured personal and group interviews were subsequently transcribed, and analysed using Grounded Theory. The authors come to the conclusion, that changing perspectives on technology in emergency processes could help enable better cooperation between emergency employees and technology. The raising of employee awareness, and the provision of sufficient training, is vital to both further the understanding of technology as non-human actor and to focus on their interconnectedness. This enhanced interaction between human emergency employees and non-human technological systems could lead to the improved exploitation of socio-technical opportunities to increase the overall security of our society. This research paper seeks to draw out lessons for ICT-implementation within emergency services by examining the opinions and perspectives of employees from different emergency organizations. In so far, the findings and recommendations of the article will support efforts made by emergency organizations to integrate Information and Communication Technologies into their existing processes.
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We trace the pragmatic turn in regulatory governance from the level of the state and civil society to the coalface of the regulated organization. Since the 1980s, an array of new regulatory models has emerged. These models, while distinct, are unified in two related tendencies. First, they support the devolution of responsibility for standard setting, program design, and enforcement to the regulated organization. This delegation of governance to the organization itself has catalyzed the creation of accountability infrastructures within organizations, a network of offices, roles, programs, and procedures dedicated to aligning the organization's operations with external standards, codes of conduct, ethical and normative expectations, and regulations. Second, the diverse regulatory models depend, often implicitly, on organizational accountability infrastructures that incorporate the tenets of pragmatist philosophy: inquiry through narration, adaptation to context, and problem-solving through experimentation. Reviewing the empirical literature on organizational compliance, we find ample evidence of inquiry through narration at the organizational coalface. However, we find limited evidence of narrating plurality in the organization and narrating experimentation as problem-solving, as these activities create tensions with internal and external parties who expect singular, stable representations of governance. These tensions reveal an important incongruity between pragmatic governance across organizations and pragmatic governance within organizations. We contribute to the regulatory governance literature by documenting this important shift in the locus of governance to the organizational coalface and by charting a new research agenda. We argue that examinations of regulatory governance should be retraced in three ways. First, attention should shift to the organizational coalface, recognizing and analyzing accountability infrastructures as the central contemporary mechanism of governance. Second, the long-standing focus in regulatory studies on why parties comply should shift to understanding how regulated parties manage themselves to achieve compliance. Third, analyses of compliance should examine the tensions in narrating adaptation and experimentation, and the implications of such tensions for the achievement of prosocial outcomes.
Dramatic components: construction of personae / character / self-presentation narrative structure created by protagonists stage management - controlling what is publicly displayed/concealed backstage and frontstage controlling what is seen creation of non-audiences (who has access)
During the UK's BSE crisis of 1996, citizens and their public institutions experienced an unprecedented breakdown of communication that I call `civic dislocation'—a mismatch between what governmental institutions were supposed to do for the public, and what they actually did. Trust in government vanished, and people looked elsewhere for information and advice. In the UK, public confidence in governmental advisers rests on the reliability of persons rather than (primarily) the rationality of their views; in the USA, on the other hand, trust rests in formal processes and styles of reasoning that ensure the transparency and objectivity of governmental decisions. UK policy institutions require a set of conditions—among them a shared, unambiguous problem definition, relative certainty about `objective facts' and identifiable expert knowledge—which in the BSE case simply did not exist. Given the pervasive uncertainties, the distance between citizens and experts was greatly reduced, and the lay public was almost as well positioned as the experts to make sensible decisions about how to avoid the risk of BSE. This reading of civic dislocation in the UK should make us wary of recent proposals to create pockets of insulated expertise within the US risk management system to neutralize unfounded public fears through rationality, expertise, insulation and authority. A programme that values rationality and efficiency most highly leaves little room or reason for lay inputs; and, by putting too little faith in people and too much in the objectivity of formal analysis, may also carry the seeds of civic dislocation.