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Communication and the elemental: Capacities, force and excess in emergencyinformation sharing

O'Grady, Nat


Nat O'Grady


© The Author(s) 2018. 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.


O'Grady, N. (2019). Communication and the elemental: Capacities, force and excess in emergencyinformation sharing. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 37(1), 158-176.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 31, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 7, 2018
Publication Date Feb 1, 2019
Deposit Date Aug 2, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 4, 2018
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 1
Pages 158-176
Keywords governance, elemental, infrastructure, atmosphere, emergency
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : © 2019. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications


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