Date of Award

Summer 2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management

Committee Director

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

Charles B. Keating

Committee Member

Robert R. Safford

Committee Member

Timothy G. Kotnour


The purpose of this research is to develop and partially validate a theoretical framework describing distributed cognition phenomena occurring in organizational control centers functioning in crisis environments. Using a systems approach, the work synthesizes existing constructs relating to distributed cognition then supplements this knowledge with review of crisis management literature. The goal of this effort is the development of a framework for understanding the impact of crisis conditions on such phenomena occurring within the specified setting. An exploratory case study approach was used to partially validate and refine the framework by gauging its ability to interpret the impact of crisis conditions on control center performance.

The researcher identifies a gap in crisis management literature relating to the study of distributed cognition within organizational control centers. The prevalence of and importance of institutionalized control centers to large organizations expecting to experience environments requiring more rapid processing of information and expedient reaction than usual is recognized within crisis management literature. A primary purpose of such control centers is to facilitate distributed cognition. Frameworks describing such phenomena in more general organizational settings can be found within distributed cognition literature; organizational learning literature, and in military science. In some cases the specific setting of control centers is addressed but not to the extent of conceptually framing or applying a framework to the more specific setting.

The basic research, questions explored are: (1) what are the key constructs and interrelationships that structurally frame distributed cognition phenomena within control centers? and (2) what are the structural impacts of crisis conditions on the phenomena in such settings?

Results of this research could, (1) aid in the implementation of new strategies, designs, training plans, methodologies, and technologies in crisis control centers for complex, technically oriented organizations, (2) improve the systemic design of and confidence in the assessment of mechanisms and subsystems designed to facilitate distributed cognition within organizations, (3) improve the general understanding of how distributed cognition takes place within organizational control centers, and (4) lead to a better understanding of the systemic effects crisis conditions have on the structures within control centers designed to facilitate distributed cognition.