Science and Technology

Communication and the elemental: Capacities, force and excess in emergency information sharing

Recently debates have emerged concerning how atmospheric objects referred to collectively as ‘elemental’ become entangled in the operation of communication infrastructure. The paper extends these debates through research into UK emergency responders’ information sharing during emergencies. Harnessing textual analysis and an interview, the paper unpacks the protocols established to organise information sharing and explores how such protocols interweave an assemblage of technologies to share information as emergencies unfold. The evidence presented demonstrates different ways that the elemental forces physically constitutive of emergencies are incorporated into information sharing. However, it also details cases wherein these elemental forces disrupt the information sharing practices they otherwise enable and outlines the effects this disruption has on emergency response provision. Considering the case, I make three arguments to establish a distinctive approach for conceptualising the entanglement of the elements within information sharing. First, I extend understandings of the capacities that elements actualise to enable information sharing. Second, I elaborate on the notion of excess to explain how elemental forces disrupt information sharing. Accounting for its political ramifications, I demonstrate thirdly, how, by disrupting information sharing, elemental forces obstruct government attempts to comprehend the emergencies they attend and, in turn, provide resources to ensure adequate response.

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Volume 37 Issue 1