This article explores the nature of sociotechnical work in safety-critical operations as itunfolds in settings that are characterised by multidisciplinary interpretative work in high-techenvironments, where direct access to the phenomena of interest is restricted and the dependence onsensor data and model support is high.
The type of work that is described in the article—labelled‘Integrated Operations’ in the petroleum industry—has some characteristic features that it shareswith many other work settings which are becoming increasingly typical for managing complicated,sociotechnical work in our times. Sensework denotes a type of sociotechnical work in safety-criticaloperations where groups of professionals try to put together pieces of information to create acoherent picture to give meaning to familiar and unfamiliar situations.
Although related to,sensework should not be confused with sensemaking; sensework is described as both somethingmore and something less than sensemaking. Sensework is described as unfolding along three axes:a cognitive axis, a strategic axis and an organisational axis. Furthermore, through its ﬂuctuationalong these axes, sensework points towards two different views of work: work as imagined andwork as done. Epistemologically, these dimensions may be understood as rationalist andconstructivist dimensions of safe operations.
Future research on sensework will hopefully challengeand develop both the empirical scope and the conceptual descriptions in this paper. The delimitationto safety-critical work in this article and the way in which sensework is conceptualised should notbe seen as categorical constraints; these are starting points, not end points.