Collaboration and control - Crisis management and multimedia technology in London Underground Line Control Rooms

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Despite technical advances over the past few years in the area of systems support for cooperative work there is still relatively little understanding of the organisation of collaborative activity in real world, technologically supported, work environments. Indeed, it has been suggested that the failure of various technological applications may derive from their relative insensitivity to ordinary work practice and situated conduct. In this paper we discuss the possibility of utilising recent developments within sociology, in particular the naturalistic analysis of organisational conduct and social interaction, as a basis for the design and development of tools and technologies to support collaborative work. Focussing on the Line Control Rooms in London Underground, a complex multimedia environment in transition, we begin to explicate the tacit work practices and procedures whereby personnel systematically communicate information to each other and coordinate a disparate collection of tasks and activities. The design implications of these empirical observations, both for Line Control Room and technologies to support cooperative work, are briefly discussed.