Mind design : steps to an ecology of human-machine systems
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We have, within the last years, witnessed horrifying tragedies within the transportation domain. Planes fall down, trains crash, boats sink, and car accidents are one of the most frequent causes of death throughout the world. What is more, technology seems also to fail in settings that are more mundane. In his book "the trouble with computers: Usefulness, usability, and productivity", T.K. Landauer shows that the productivity has, within the western world, decreased by about 50% from the period 1950-1973 to the period from 1973 to 1993, and claims that this effect is mostly due to the introduction of technology. Even closer to home, technology is still anxiety provoking for most people. One of many everyday observations to support this fact can be seen at the airports. Have you wondered why most people line up, even for hours, without daring to go near the automatic check-in machines? What has become of the grandiose promises from the heydays of artificial intelligence? What happened to the mind-machines of Newell and Simon? Where is HAL 9000? The distance between the massive technology positivism observed in the west, and the contemporary role of technology in the society, is, I believe, one of the largest paradoxes of our time. What is particularly interesting to note, is that the parody of the AI of the 60s, seems to be recycled every now and again, both within entertainment, the financial world, and within academia. At the turn of the century, we have seen the popularity of movies like The Matrix, we have seen high hopes become sober reality at NASDAQ, and the reductionism of Newell and Simon is alive and well, in disguise of the magic buzzword connectionism. Universities around the world are now buying MRI – scanners on the thousands. We are, yet again (!), on the verge of discovering the mysteries of the mind. The slogan "Vorsprung Durch Technic" used by Audi displays something that lies deep within the western mind, namely the tendency to define ourselves and our culture in terms the inherent qualities of technology; precision, logic, rationality, reliability, punctuality, determination and power. Technology is, in many respects, the totem of the western culture. Maybe this thesis should have been about Techno-Totemism. But it is not. This thesis, on the other hand, attempts to explore what technology might have looked like, had it not been for techno-totemism, i.e. the prevailing idea within western culture and sciences, that humans are literally machines. This notion makes engineers design technological products as if humans actually were machines, or worse imperfect machines. The imperfect machine metaphor leads directly to the notion of "human error", which is often used in a particularly stupid fashion. In this work I lean, on the contrary, on aspects of human cognition that are not machine-like whatsoever, and advocate a change in design focus, from an emphasis on technology to an emphasis on ecology. I have attempted to present my programme positively; that is, to give indications on how, in practical, real life settings, such an approach might be carried out. At certain points, however, it has been necessary to point out the difference of my approach from the traditional cognitive-based Human Factors tradition, to make my points explicit. I apologize to cognitivists and human factors specialists for occasionally making a straw man of their theory. There are many excellent contributions made by these traditions, which are not reflected in this thesis.
Has partsHoff, T; Alsaker, M; Bjørkli, CA. Effects of Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) in In-Vehicle Information Systems. Proceedings of the Nordic Ergonomics Society's 34th Annual Congress on Humans in a Complex Environment, 2002.
Hoff, T; Øritsland, TA; Bjørkli, CA. Ecological Interaction Properties. .