Airborne cognitive systems in search of an appropriate context: Studies of the introduction of new technology in aviation using a cognitive systems engineering approach

Detta är en avhandling från Department of Design Sciences

Sammanfattning: Abstract Technology is always designed for an assumed user in an assumed context. In commercial aviation, these design assumptions are clearly spelt out in that both crew and equipment are certificated for a specific operation as stated in the aircraft flight manual. Despite this well defined user context, the designed-for and the real contexts often differ enough so that adaptations of working procedures or technology are necessary or even unavoidable in order to meet the local constraints and demands that rule in the real context of normal operations. Previous research has demonstrated that technology often results in qualitative changes at work, such as in the ways practitioners view their jobs and organisational changes. A special instantiation of new technology is the automation of tasks previously performed by humans. Automation tends to produce adaptation in a system by changing the very task it was designed to replace, thereby forcing the humans in the system to take on new roles. But it is not only the roles that change; practitioners also adapt the technology to fit their specific needs. Predicting human performance by allocating functions either to human or to machine agents in a system according to a fixed scheme is thus not useful for system design. Work practice is best studied in the context in which the work takes place. To investigate how the operational context shapes the practical use of RNAV, HUD and datalink, these technologies were studied during their launching phase with a European air operator using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. A fourth quantitative study was conducted on how pilots adapted procedure requirements to verbalise the aircraft's flight guidance automation modes (FMA callouts) to balance them against other competing cockpit tasks. The findings from the operationally formulated research questions were related to predictions of adaptations using a theoretical framework of cognitive systems engineering. By observing the humans involved and their technology as complementary units in a joint cognitive system, it was possible to study how pilots and air traffic controllers worked to maintain control over a joint process. It also made it possible to concentrate on the performance of the system as a whole. Adaptation of work procedures was observed to occur spontaneously in the launching phase, in spite of the highly regulated work environment in an aircraft cockpit. System adaptation took different forms, depending on the introduced technology. A common observation in all these studies was that practitioners sought to reduce complexity in their work environments by (1) minimising the available choices and/or by (2) increasing the predictability of system outcome by updating all agents to a common understanding of the situation. In some instances, these strategies were supported by redesigning the standard operating procedures to capitalise on human perceptual strengths such as pattern-matching for monitoring. Technology redesign was observed with RNAV to simplify pilot monitoring of system performance. The adaptive strategy of reducing cognitive load by visualising the controlling constraints yielded better than expected system performance with HUD and RNAV approaches. In no instance was new automation added to the system without changes in procedures or practices.

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