The Social Organization of Dispatch Operations – the “Brains” of Emergency Medical Services

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 6C P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Michael CORMAN, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland
Most sociological research that investigates the work of those in Dispatch Centres uses ethnomethodology’s conversational analysis (CA) to explore the “joint interactional work” (Cromdal, Persson-Thunqvist, & Osvaldsson, 2012, p. 200) or “talk-in-interaction” between call-takers and callers and how this interactional work is coordinated vis-à-vis talk for the purposes of dispatching or not dispatching emergency services (e.g. police and ambulance services) (Whalen & Zimmerman, 1990, p. 467). Understanding how talk is coordinated between callers and call-takers at Dispatch Centres and describing how technologies shape the work of callers is important because there is much at stake during this interactional event, such as the appropriate coordination of emergency services. However, Smith (2005) explains, “Ethnomethodology’s conversational analysis can be understood as investigating how people’s ordinary talk is coordinated” (p. 60). As such, conversational analysis “cuts out pieces” of social relations for scrutiny, without a focus on the social organization that coordinates such interactional events. By focusing on isolated units of talk for analysis, “ethnomethodology and, more specifically conversational analysis, differentiates talk from what becomes its context, relegating the latter to a region that its methods do not embrace” (p. 67).

This presentation draws on an institutional ethnographic inquiry into the work of paramedics and the institutional setting that organizes and coordinates their work processes. Drawing on over 200 hours of observations and over 100 interviews with paramedics and other emergency medical personnel, I explore the work of people at the Dispatch Centre and the highly organized and coordinated environment in which they work. In doing so, I explore “what people are doing or what they can tell us about what they and others do . . . to find out how the forms of coordinating of their activities ‘produce’ institutional processes, as they actually work” (Smith, 2005, p. 60).