Technology-mediated social arrangements to resolve breakdowns in infrastructure during ongoing disruption

Bryan Semaan, Gloria Mark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


When societies experience disruption as caused by natural disasters, various official government agencies, relief organizations, and emergent citizen groups engage in activities that aid in the recovery effort-the process that leads to the resumption of normal life. In war environments however, societal trust can be affected and people may develop distrust of the institutions and associated individuals that provide and resolve breakdowns in infrastructure. This article reports on an ethnographic study of the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by citizens experiencing ongoing disruption in a conflict zone. We conducted 90 semistructured interviews with Iraqi civilians who experienced the 2 nd Gulf War beginning in March 2003. We show how citizens used ICTs to continuously resolve breakdowns in infrastructure during ongoing disruption caused by the conflict, by creating new, reliable technology-mediated social arrangements that enabled people to maintain daily routines for travel, education, and obtaining information. We then discuss new ways to think about infrastructure and implications for the disaster relief effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Collaboration
  • Crisis informatics
  • Disrupted environments
  • Empirical study
  • Human infrastructure
  • Infrastructure
  • Ontological security
  • Recovery
  • Routines
  • Trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human-Computer Interaction


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