Windmills or deepwater drills?: Normative Roles of Technology in Norwegian Resource Extraction Policy - Université de Lille Accéder directement au contenu
Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2013

Windmills or deepwater drills?: Normative Roles of Technology in Norwegian Resource Extraction Policy


After discovering oil in the North and Norwegian Seas in the late 1960s, Norway is now one of the largest oil exporters and wealthiest nations in the world. Norwegians are some of the healthiest and happiest people on the planet, enjoying cradle-to-grave welfare and a national savings fund well into the billions. Yet despite its transformational power in this society, oil is a complex and highly debated topic among Norwegian policy makers and everyday citizens. In the wake of a global fossil fuel crisis, countries worldwide are racing to stake their claim in the Arctic, a new frontier estimated to hold staggering amounts of the world's usable oil and gas reserves. For Norway, this means increased exploration and drilling efforts in the Barents Sea, but also the challenges of harsh weather, darkness, and ice. It also brings attention to an area steeped in cultural significance; the Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja coastal regions are known for breathtaking beauty and a historic fishing industry, two staples of Norwegian heritage. Whether offshore in treacherous conditions, or close to the shorelines with thriving ecosystems, oil spills in the Barents Sea could be disastrous. On the other hand, losing competitive ground at this critical time could have longstanding implications for Norway's role in the global economy. Organizational SensemakingAlthough social science research on the past and future of Norwegian oil is plentiful, few studies have focused on the role of organizational sensemaking in constructing and implementing these policies. As a process of organizing, sensemaking involves the retrospective creation of identification and meaning. In other words, sensemaking is the social process by which "situations, organizations, and environments are talked into existence" (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005, p. 409). The central focus is communication - events, organizations, and environment can actually be created by the stories people tell about them. Within the Norwegian policy making system, many different organizations function to build and enact public policies about resource extraction. These policies are calls to action based on research and rational decision-making. However, different organizations view what is rational differently. Although it would be overly simplistic to reduce this political environment to two sides, those for and against Arctic petroleum exploration and extraction, organizations disagree on one main issue: should Norway keep drilling? The Present StudySome organizations, such as Statoil and the Foreign Ministry, claim that Norway has "the best" technology in the world to manage extreme environmental conditions and potential oil spill cleanups. Others like WWF Norway and the Socialist Left Party maintain that no technology can guarantee safety to the waters and people of Northern Norway. Instead, they argue, the Norwegians should invest in developing alternative energy technologies, such as windmills and hydropower. Therefore, this project examines the how organizations within the Norwegian policy system use sensemaking to understand and enact decisions about petroleum extraction. Specifically, the present study explores how organizational actors make sense of the role technology plays in their understanding, as well as the normative structures that are created and reified by this sensemaking. Using grounded theory methodology and data from one-on-one interviews with Norwegian policy makers, the following research questions are posed. First, what does "technology" mean to different organizations within this system? Second, what do different organizations consider as positive or negative uses of technology in this system? Third, what can norms of technology tell us about power and agency within this policy-making system? In other words, how do different interpretations of technological norms translate to power or disadvantage within the structures of arguing about Norwegian oil and gas? Fourth, what are the temporal implications of technological norms on this organizational system? That is, do individuals think that the future of technology will bring a solution to the problems of continued extraction? Overall, these questions focus on the key components of sensemaking as a process, according to Weick (1995): identity construction, retrospective, enactive, social, ongoing, relies on extractive cues, and driven by plausibility. This is a complex and fluid system of actors and information with high levels of uncertainty and risk, making it difficult for researchers to study in a meaningful context (Weick, 1990). Using a sensemaking framework, the present study builds a working model of how different organizations function within the Norwegian resource extraction policy environment. By examining the role of technology in creating and reproducing organizational sensemaking, this research sheds new light on the intersections of global energy policy and organizational theory.
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Dates et versions

hal-00825892 , version 1 (24-05-2013)
hal-00825892 , version 2 (22-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00825892 , version 2


Elisabeth Goins. Windmills or deepwater drills?: Normative Roles of Technology in Norwegian Resource Extraction Policy. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. pp.92. ⟨hal-00825892v2⟩


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