Over time, when professional, commercial and researcher communities have been talking about crisis and the many different strategies, policies, methods and tools to prevent and mitigate crisis, I start to wonder what do we mean when we say crisis.
The terms, accident, emergency, disaster and crisis do not address the same phenomena but on different scales. They have fundamental differences but are at the same time somewhat related. I would like to see some theoretical work trying to make the differences of these concepts explicit and clear. Especially if we are truly interested in developing IS/IT-artifacts that will have even a remote chance of actually provide agency. There are some seminal work on this topic by researchers in disaster sociology, but perhaps we are in need for some re-modeled versions for the IS/IT field.
Too often a large scale accident is talked about in terms of a crisis. Too often these large scale accidents are just very simple events but on a large scale. The casual relationships between actions and effects are clear. These accidents are solved by the use of standard operating procedures and efficient resource management. Large scale accidents are per se not a crisis. However, a poorly managed large-scale accident could develop into a crisis, not in terms of the physical dimensions of the accident, but the political dimensions.
A definition of crisis, should according to my view cover these critical dimenions:
* the temporal ambiguity
* the cascading dynamics
* the unclear causalities
* the boundary-spanning effects
I hope that the ISCRAM 2012 conference in the US will be the place where these important aspects are discussed and where the ISCRAM-community trigger discussions about crisis theory so we can start to make descriptive, predictive and normative models of how crisis grow, spread, and change form.
So before you submit to ISCRAM 2012, the deadline is approach fast, have a look in the book “What is a Disaster? – new answers to old questions” edited by Ronald W. Perry & E.L. Quarentelli (2005), and make an honest attempt to clarify your position. Chapter 11 by Arjen Boin is very valuable.