SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen

A04 - Normal Interruptions of Service. Structure and Change of Public Infrastructures


Principal Investigators:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Potthast


Dr. Michael Hubrich

Associated Researchers:

       Dr. Tobias Röhl

       Dr. Siri Lamoureaux

Dr. Stefan Laser


Using public transport as an exemplary case, the project investigates media and modes of cooperation in situations of infrastructural breakdown. Analyzing technical breakdowns reveals how infrastructures and publics are related. In doing so, a plurality of normative orders and their mediation by and for different actors is made visible.

While the first phase focused on the operational practices of dealing with disruptions, the second phase traces the temporal extension of transportation management. Making use of digital data practices transportation management is increasingly temporally extended to the prelude and aftermath of disruptions. Accordingly, three temporal modes of transportation management will be analyzed in the second phase: before, during and after the breakdown. Before disruptions occur, we find anticipating sensory media allowing to detect disruptions at an ever earlier time. During disruptions passengers are informed about delays almost instantaneously via apps on their smartphones. The time after the disruption is prolonged even further by new digital means of customer complaint and automated collection of data allowing organizations to evaluate and readjust their own practices. The project investigates the interplay of these different modes of dealing with disruptions scrutinizing the heterogeneity of normative orders.


Project Abstract (german)





Public transport disruptions are nerve-wracking. But where do you complain when the train is cancelled? To the staff on the spot or directly to the company? An ethnographic look at the disruption management of public transport companies shows: Neither strategy is helpful on its own. Drawing on research on accountability and technical infrastructures, the organizational ethnographic study traces how questions of accountability are technically mediated and shifted back and forth between different actors. This "distributed accountability" cannot be located in single individuals, but is found in the interplay of different actors, in the processes and practices of incident management.

Tobias Röhl, 2022. Verteilte Zurechenbarkeit. Die Bearbeitung von Störungen im Öffentlichen Verkehr. Frankfurt; New York: Campus.

FAZ Interview von Uwe Ebbinghaus mit Tobias Röhl (01.08.2022) "Wir bitten, dies zu entschuldigen..."
zum Artikel

WDR 5 Interview von Thomas Koch mit Tobias Röhl (29.08.2022) "Die Entschuldigungen der Deutschen Bahn" 
zum Beitrag



Gießmann, Sebastian, Tobias Röhl, und Ronja Trischler, Hrsg. 2019. Materialität der Kooperation. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.



Potthast, Jörg. 2025. “Mobilitätskrisen und Große Technische Systeme”. In Handbuch Sozialwissenschaftliche Verkehrs- und Mobilitätsforschung, edited by Weert Canzler, Juliane Haus, Andreas Knie, and Lisa Ruhrort. Wiesbaden: VS Springer.
Potthast, Jörg. 2024. “Lost and Found, Followed by a Discussion On Critique With Deutsche Bahn”. In A Book of Exercises in STS. On Futures and Designs of Collective Life, edited by Sung-Joon Park and Richard Rottenburg. Manchester: Mattering Press.
Potthast, Jörg. 2024. “Innovation and Desaster”. In Handbook on Innovation Research, edited by Birgit Blättel-Mink and Ingo und Windeler Schulz-Schaeffer. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.


Laser, Stefan. 2023. “Verschwendung handhaben. Über Energie, Ressourceneinsatz und infrastrukturelles Erfahrungswissen in der Recycling- und Schienenindustrie”. In Nachhaltig(e) Werte schaffen. Arbeit und Technik in der sozial-ökologischen Transformation, edited by Thomas Barth, Melanie Jaeger-Erben, Georg Jochum, and Stephan Lorenz, 156-79. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa. http://www.beltz.de/de/nc/verlagsgruppe-beltz/gesamtprogramm.html?isbn=978-3-7799-7007-1.
Potthast, Jörg. 2023. “Socio-Material Practices in Irritating Situations”. In Materiality of Cooperation, edited by Sebastian Gießmann, Tobias Röhl, and Ronja Trischler, 287-306. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-39468-4_13.


Tobias Röhl. 2022. Verteilte Zurechenbarkeit Die Bearbeitung von Störungen im Öffentlichen Verkehr. Frankfurt; New York: Campus. https://www.campus.de/buecher-campus-verlag/wissenschaft/soziologie/verteilte_zurechenbarkeit-17097.html.


Potthast, Jörg. 2021. “Lost and Found: Transforming Assistance at Digital Deutsche Bahn”. Working Paper Series Collaborative Research Centre 1187 Media of Cooperation, no. No. 19. https://www.mediacoop.uni-siegen.de/publikationen/.
Potthast, Jörg. 2021. “Innovation und Katastrophe”. In Handbuch Innovationsforschung, edited by Birgit Blättel-Mink, Ingo Schulz-Schaeffer, and Arnold Windeler. Wiesbaden: VS Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-17671-6_27-1.


Coletta, Claudio, Tobias Röhl, and Susann Wagenknecht. 2020. “On time: temporal and normative orderings of mobilities”. In Mobilities, 15:635-46. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2020.1805958.
Coletta, Claudio, Tobias Röhl, and Susann Wagenknecht. 2020. “On Time”. Special Issue, Mobilities 15 (5). https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rmob20/15/5.
Röhl, Tobias. 2020. “From structure to infrastructuring? On transport infrastructures and socio-material ordering”. In Material Mobilities, edited by Ole B. Jensen, Claus Lassen, and Ida Lange, 16-31. New York: Routledge.


Gießmann, Sebastian, Tobias Röhl, and Ronja Trischler, eds. 2019. Materialität der Kooperation. Medien der Kooperation. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20805-9.
Korn, Matthias, Wolfgang Reißmann, Tobias Röhl, and David Sittler. 2019. “Infrastructuring Publics: A Research Perspective”. In Infrastructuring Publics, edited by Matthias Korn, Wolfgang Reißmann, Tobias Röhl, and David Sittler, 11-47. Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20725-0_2.
Korn, Matthias, Wolfgang Reißmann, Tobias Röhl, and David Sittler. 2019. Publics of Infrastructures – Infrastructures of Publics. Media of Cooperation. Wiesbaden: Springer. https://www.springer.com/de/book/9783658207243.
Potthast, Jörg. 2019. “Fehlermeldung und Elitenversagen am Beispiel des Öffentlichen Verkehrs”. In Diagonal, 40:221-43. https://doi.org/10.14220/9783737009980.221. 2019_Fehlermeldung.pdf.
Potthast, Jörg. 2019. “Medienpraktiken in irritierenden Situationen”. In Materialität der Kooperation, edited by Sebastian Gießmann, Tobias Röhl, and Ronja Trischler. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20805-9_14.
Röhl, Tobias. 2019. “Making failure public. Communicating breakdowns of public infrastructures”. In Infrastructuring Publics, edited by Matthias Korn, Wolfgang Reißmann, Tobias Röhl, and David Sittler. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20725-0_10.


Potthast, Jörg. 2017. “Reflexionen zur Ökologie sichtbarer und unsichtbarer Arbeit”. In Susan Leigh Star. Grenzobjekte und Medienforschung, edited by Sebastian Gießmann and Nadine Taha, 313-22. Bielefeld: transcript. https://doi.org/10.14361/9783839431269-013.
Potthast, Jörg. 2017. “The sociology of conventions and testing”. In Social Theory Now, edited by Claudio Benzecry, Monika Krause, and Isaac Ariail Reed, 337-60. Chicago: UP. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7208/9780226475318-013/html.
Röhl, Tobias. 2017. “Auf Der Suche Nach Störungen Im System”. Bahn-Manager 6: 116-17.