In the age of disaster that characterizes today’s globalized society, resilience becomes an important idea embraced by scholars and policy-makers in many parts of the world. Resilience refers to the ability of systems and communities to recover from disturbances, failures and catastrophes as well as adapt to these upheavals. Due to the rapid changes in technology and large-scale technological disasters, the need for resilience has surfaced to the forefront and clamors for immediate attention in order to enable a safe, sustainable and livable future. The United Nations’ recent Sendai Framework has emphasized resilience as a priority to reduce disaster risk throughout the world.
While the study of resilience is rapidly growing in engineering and social sciences fields, there is a lacuna in this field when it comes to the understanding of how physical and technical infrastructures are intertwined with social and institutional structures in the development of resilience. To ensure successful resilient behavior, human activity in sociotechnical systems requires an intertwined study relating institutions, communities and infrastructures to capture the essence of spatial and temporal scales, hidden interdependencies, unanticipated vulnerabilities and sources of risk. Resilience should be addressed as a systemic concept observable at the holistic level with interactions at the intersubsystem along with the intra-component levels. This conceptualization of sociotechnical system resilience requires a movement beyond the currently accepted epistemic concepts of two separate entities—social and technical. In other words, resilience in sociotechnical systems requires a conceptualization of hybrid nature of sociotechnical entities using a multiperspectival approach. Thus, emphasizing the need to address the structures, practices and epistemologies related to resilience in sociotechnical systems.
The current literature pertaining to resilience has been growing rapidly; however, resilience is yet to be addressed in terms of sustained transdisciplinary concepts – linking both the social and technical. For example, from the human factors literature researchers have emphasized safety; sustainability researchers have conceptualized socialecological systems; among others. While these various facets capture certain aspects of sociotechnical resilience, there is a need for a comprehensive development of concepts taking into account the technological infrastructure, community organization and institutional setup to facilitate resilience thinking for these modern day systems. Currently, a few researchers have addressed certain facets that highlight the possible steps towards transdisciplinary convergence of resilience in sociotechnical systems. These include supporting various societal segments during catastrophes; resilient communities; critical examination of vulnerability in techno-scientific “risk societies”; critical infrastructures as interdependent systems; disasters and vulnerabilities in a historical context; systemic accidents as consequence of the high-risk nature of the domain; emphasis on social capital and networks; multitude of issues pertaining to resilience and management of extreme events; organizational resilience; combating terrorism and risk with resilience; urban resilience, among many others. All these researchers present multiple ways in which sociotechnical system can be engaged along with highlighting possible challenges that could lead to the framing of a unified concept of sociotechnical resilience.
In summary, while there are multiple perspectives linked to resilience, there is still a need for understanding the structures, practices and epistemologies related to resilience in sociotechnical systems as a unified concept. Construction of this conceptual understanding will require a movement away from the silothinking of present academia and a convergence of transdisciplinary research for engaging the concepts for successfully engaging sociotechnical resilience.
The aim of the workshop is to gain a multiperspectival understanding of sociotechnical resilience as a generic concept as well as understanding it in terms of specific notions geared towards Singapore. By inviting resilience researchers from a wide range of disciplines, the workshop seeks to examine three critical aspects that constitute of sociotechnical resilience: informational relations, sociomaterial structures, and anticipatory practices. The papers presented in the workshop will explore each of these domains that are situated in different empirical settings and contexts.