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The organisation of technology and the technology of organisation: the Vehicle Mounted Data System and the provision of UK fire services

By Martin Patrick Brigham


Social and organisation theorists have become increasingly interested in studying information and communication technologies over the last two decades. This thesis examines how information and communication technologies are organised, and what is organised by information and communication technologies. The thesis contributes to the interest in detailed studies of information and communication technology through an analysis of the implementation and deployment of a mobile data system-the Vehicle Mounted Data System (VMDS)-by firefighters, fire crews and officers at a United Kingdom fire brigade. This thesis examines what becomes of the Vehicle Mounted Data System when it is introduced into a UK fire brigade. This includes an exposition of how recurring issues including the boundaries of the brigade, what is meant by standardisation and risk, what counts as information, and what is understood by devolved incident management is reordered as the VMDS becomes a constitutive part of the problematic fire service provision. The VMDS is bound up with reality constituting effects and this means that what is meant by technology and organisation becomes an important topic of scholarly study.\ud This thesis develops a non-essentialist ontology of technology and organisation-an ontological turn in organisation theory. It is argued that the VMDS is a relational effect that is aligned with existing boundaries and assumptions at Hereford and Worcester Fire Brigade, that the VMDS is a multiple object that is a mutable mobile and is deployed not only to manage safety at incidents but also for managing performance and organisational flexibility, and that the instabilities of the VMDS are responded to ambivalently by various actors as they are enrolled in the collective upkeep of the VMDS. In analysing the Vehicle Mounted Data System a range of analytical resources are drawn upon, including, most significantly, actor-network theory, but also the writings of Deleuze and Guattari. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the politics of theory and suggests that researchers would remain faithful to their intellectual tradition and a sense of critical and creative purpose if they engaged with and helped to construct the heterogeneous ways in which technological devices such as the Vehicle Mounted Data System transform what organisation theorists understand by organisation

Topics: QA76, TH
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