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Först på plats: Gränsdragningar, positioneringar och emergens i berättelser från olycksplatsen
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Social Sciences. (RCR)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9527-989X
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

When accidents occur, citizens often are the real first responders. This has been acknowledged and studied from an international perspective, particularly in relation to large crises and disasters, but remains relatively unstudied from a Swedish perspective. This thesis takes its point of departure from people who have been emergency callers or witnesses to traffic accidents, studying their actions and interactions at the scene of an accident in terms of boundaries, positioning and emergence. The aim of this thesis is to study how people’s actions in a specific situation are affected by their interactions with both real and imagined others and how their actions are affected by the spatial context. The thesis consists of four individual studies that relate differently to the main aim of the thesis. The first study focuses on first responders’ options to act in a place that simultaneously is the workplace of emergency personnel: the incident site. This study shows how first responders’ options to act are governed in large part by their interaction with emergency personnel and their boundary practices at the incident site. In this study, we apply theories of boundary practices from Nippert-Eng and the concept of boundary work from Gieryn to explain how emergency personnel control their place of work through boundary practices and through that process control those first responders who are present at the site. In other words, people’s actions at the incident site are affected by both the social and the spatial context. The second study focuses on a limited selection of first responders: those who have placed emergency calls. Through interviews with callers and transcriptions of their emergency calls, this study explores how the callers frame their decision to stop and place the call through different presentations of self. These presentations are constructed through moral positioning, in which the callers position themselves and their actions in relation to both real and imagined others. Thus, the callers also construct normative accounts of what is considered a “preferable” and “non-preferable” way to act at the scene of an accident. The third study takes its point of departure from theories and previous research on emergence because they have been used by disaster sociologists to explain how citizens are the real first responders to crises and disasters. Through the concepts of emergent behavior and emergent norms, papers in this research field have argued that people in these situations act according to “new and not-yet-institutionalized behavior guidelines”. In this study, I argue that emergence, in other words, citizens as the real first responders, is also present in everyday emergencies. Through the narratives of citizen first responders, I explore how they frame their actions through different normative narratives. These normative narratives are not necessarily emergent, however. Rather, the interviewees use past experience and presentations of self to justify their actions at the scene of an accident. The fourth study is an ethnographic reflection of the researcher’s place-bounded identity in a field study that revolves around several different places. Rather than focusing on a story of first responders, this study focuses on the researcher’s, i.e., my own, story from the scene of an accident, the fire truck and the fire station. What I have been able to study through these different studies are stories of actions rather than “actual” actions or behaviors. In these stories, it becomes clear that first responders relate to both a social and spatial context as they provide accounts of their actions at the scene of an accident. They relate to a social context because they frame their actions through their interactions with different actors and position themselves in relation to those actors—and in relation to a spatial context. That is, they perform their actions in a place that is someone else’s place of work, with jurisdictional claims of both legitimacy and control. In summary, this thesis contributes a deeper knowledge of how citizen first responders interpret, understand and tell the story of their actions at the scene of an accident. The contribution considers the fact that citizen first responders are something of a “blind spot”, not only in the field of emergency research but also for emergency personnel who do not always acknowledge the experience of first responders at the scene of accidents.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mid Sweden University , 2015. , 103 p.
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 216
Keyword [sv]
traffic accidents, emergency callers, witnesses, emergence, boundaries, positioning, norms
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-24831ISBN: 978-91-88025-07-4OAI: diva2:805841
Public defence
2015-05-08, L216, Östersund, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-15 Last updated: 2015-04-17Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Boundary practices at incident sites: Making distinctions between emergency personnel and the public
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Boundary practices at incident sites: Making distinctions between emergency personnel and the public
2014 (English)In: International Journal of Emergency Services, ISSN 2047-0894, Vol. 3, no 1, 65-76 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – Incident sites can be described as the joint work site of the emergency services, where one of their challenges is to interact with the public. The purpose of this paper is to study how this interaction is structured by the emergency personnel's jurisdictional claims.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper rests upon qualitative method and in-depth interviews. In total, 28 people have been interviewed, out of which 13 are emergency personnel and 15 are unaffiliated volunteers. The interview material has been analysed qualitatively and thematically by the authors.

Findings – The findings show that the interaction between emergency personnel and unaffiliated volunteers can be described in terms of three different boundary practices: cordoning off, division of labour and conversation, varying in degrees of inclusion and exclusion. The result shows that the emergency personnel's relationship to volunteers is ambivalent, as they are both seen as an uncertain element at the incident site in need of control and as a valuable source of information.

Originality/value – While most other studies have been focusing on the interaction between emergency organizations, the authors have investigated the interaction between emergency organizations and a group previously unstudied: unaffiliated volunteers. While sociologists in the field of boundary work normally describe boundary practices in terms of negotiation, sympathizing with the concept of negotiated order, the results point to the fact that boundaries are not necessarily a subject for negotiation.

Emergency services, Boundary work, Incident sites, Occupational jurisdictions, Traffic accidents, Unaffiliated volunteers
National Category
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-21765 (URN)10.1108/IJES-01-2013-0002 (DOI)2-s2.0-84927635912 (ScopusID)
Samverkan under räddningsinsatser: ett komplext möte mellan olika aktörer
Available from: 2014-04-14 Created: 2014-04-14 Last updated: 2015-08-13Bibliographically approved
2. En forskare i räddningsjacka: Om forskarrollens platsbundenhet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>En forskare i räddningsjacka: Om forskarrollens platsbundenhet
2010 (Swedish)In: Kulturella perspektiv - Svensk etnologisk tidskrift, ISSN 1102-7908, no 2, 35-45 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Föreningen Kulturella Perspektiv, 2010
fire and rescue service, inclusion, impression management, participation, Räddningstjänst, Räddningspersonal, Brandmän, Forskare, Forskarroll, Skadeplats
National Category
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-11990 (URN)
Available from: 2010-09-20 Created: 2010-09-20 Last updated: 2015-04-17Bibliographically approved

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