A resources model for distributed sensemaking

Simon Attfield, Bob Fields*, Chris Baber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In the field of naturalistic decision making, the data–frame model (DFM) has proven to be a popular and useful way of thinking about sensemaking. DFM provides a parsimonious account of how ‘sensemakers’ interact with the data in their environment to make sense of what is happening. In this paper, however, we argue that it is useful to elaborate DFM in several ways. We begin by arguing for the idea of sensemaking as a quest for coherence, an idea that we see as consistent with the DFM. We then present some examples of sensemaking studies and use these to motivate a ‘distributed resources’ model of sensemaking. This model uses the notion of resources for action, as resources that can be flexibly drawn upon in both choosing courses of action and accounting for the actions of oneself and of others (as opposed to prescriptions or mechanisms that determine behaviour in any strict way). The model describes resources involved in sensemaking in terms of three domains: knowledge and beliefs, values and goals, and action. Knowledge and beliefs are concerned with how things are, values and goals are concerned with how things are desired to be and action provides the means for redressing the gap. Central to the model is the idea that these resources can be distributed across a cognitive work system including actors and representational media. Hence, the model aims to provide a framework for analysing sensemaking as distributed cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-664
Number of pages14
JournalCognition, Technology and Work
Issue number4
Early online date28 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Data–frame model
  • Distributed cognition
  • Sensemaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications


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