Archimedes Apronti from Royal Holloway will present research co-authored with Neil Pollock into The interplay of human and technological agencies in IT incident sensemaking and response. Read the summary below.
IT infrastructures are complex technological systems that consist of multiple technologies with different configurations. In this presentation, I will highlight that whilst such infrastructures enable the delivery of business critical IT services across different industries, they are nonetheless susceptible to unexpected failures, much like all complex operational systems. I will take this as my point of departure and argue that because of this inevitability of failure, it is important to study how IT operational engineers make collective sense of such incidents in order to mount effective responses. The focus on collective sensemaking is premised on previous understandings that groups of knowledgeable people are more capable of dealing with complex incidents and design choices since, unlike individuals, they command a more richer and broader range of expertise, knowledge and experiences. However, considering the scale and complexity of modern IT infrastructures, I will advance that it is almost impossible for IT incident response teams to exclusively rely on these human centered abilities or repertoire of skills to troubleshoot and respond to infrastructure incidents. This opens a leeway for technological tools like automated monitoring and diagnostic interfaces with their own inbuilt scripts to also contribute to incident sensemaking. From this perspective, I will argue that sensemaking is not a purely socio-cognitive process that is the preserve of humans, but rather it is a sociomaterial process. This challenges the historical grounding of sensemaking as a sociological process that is oriented towards social construction.