Organizing for Crowd Safety

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskningpeer review


The inability to redirect the ongoing sensemaking of groups is not uncommon when safety is at stake. Consider the Mann Gulch disaster (Weick, 1993) where the crew leader could not convince his subordinates about the appropriateness of litting escape fires, which could save their lives, or the study of wildland fire management, in which Barton & Sutcliffe (2009) showed that individuals and groups often fail to redirect their actions, because they are not stimulated to stop and incorporate noticed cues into a new understanding of the unfolding situation in which they are embedded, or the dragon boat accident on Præstø Fjord (Vendelø, 2016) where nobody asked if it was safe to go sailing on a cold and windy day in the month of February. In these examples the research context focused on groups with a small or limited number of individuals. However, scholars of organizations have started to pay attention to the management of the relationship between organizations and large groups of externals, for example, in the form of social movements (Den Hond & Bakker, 2007). Concert crowds constitute another type of such groups, and crowd safety organizations assigned to guide them, may face difficulties in doing so. In part because the members of crowds typically outnumber the members of crowd safety organizations, but also because the members of crowds may enact the power to not follow the guidance received from the crowd safety organizations. Hence, a natural authority relation between crowds and crowd safety organizations does not exist, and can be hard to establish and maintain. Consider the fatal crowd crush on the 2021 Astroworld Festival during a concert with the American rapper Travis Scott, where a total of ten festival guests died. In this case the festival had faced crowd control issues several hours before the concert started, as many festival guests behaved unruly while entering the festival site. Furthermore, the festival crowd safety organization had not been able to influence them to change their behavior.
The aim of the proposed paper is to contribute with new insights about how different ways of organizing facilitate or inhibit the ability of crowd safety organizations to guide members of crowds to behave appropriately. In simple terms the paper attempts to answer the following question: In what ways may the few organize in order to influence the behavior of the many?
For the purpose of addressing the research question, the paper examines the literature on power in relation to sensemaking/giving, as well as the literature on the power of crowds. Thereafter, it presents a case study of two different approaches to crowd handling pursued by a large Nordic music festival, and finally, it analyzes how these different ways of organizing result in different abilities to influence/guide members of crowds to behave appropriately.
Antal sider31
StatusUdgivet - 2023
BegivenhedSCANCOR 2023 Organization Theory Workshop - Dragvoll Campus, Trondheim, Norge
Varighed: 15 nov. 202316 nov. 2023


WorkshopSCANCOR 2023 Organization Theory Workshop
LokationDragvoll Campus