Reflexive Resilience: Probing the socio-technicality of disaster management

Katrina Petersen

Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, UK

Monika Buscher

Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University, UK

Information and communication technology (ICT) is often hailed as a means to enhance resilience to disasters. Examples include celebrations of how the cloud supported informational and communicative resilience after the 3/11 Japan earthquake or how ICT brought together a crowd of digital humanitarians, the Haitian diaspora, and (some) emergency agencies after the Haiti earthquake. However, ICT can also undermine the resilience of critical human practices and values like freedom of movement and expression, liberty and autonomy through an ever-creeping state of exception requiring increasing informational interoperabilities.

This paper probes beyond this dichotomy that assumes a necessary trade-off between security and freedom to examine the socio-technicality of resilience. As part of a transdisciplinary design project, we examine and experiment with the design and appropriation of new ICT for spatially and culturally distributed disaster management. The aim is to see how the emergence of new collaborative sociotechnical forms of data-sharing might shape not only the configurations of everyday life but also how risks, vulnerabilities, responsibilities, and resilience emerge.

Bringing together epistemological and methodological resources from STS and mobilities studies, we explore resilience as acts of active participation in situated meaning-making. We adapt the concept of reflexive resilience to ask: if risks come from within the complex interactions that make a given society what it is, then what are the implications for resilience if such interactions are increasingly based in data, technology, and movement over national, cultural, and political borders? These answers highlight the ambiguous and dynamic focuses of resilience: public safety, data security, community practices, national politics, and individual bodies. These different scales of action, justice, and value foreground different risks, different ways of classifying those facing those risks, and different necessary proficiencies with which to define and address risks.

1. Makoto Takahashi
2. Kurniawan Adi Saputro