Cognitive Work Analysis: Toward Safe, Productive, and Healthy Computer-Based Work

By Kim J. Vicente | Go to book overview
FIG. 4.2. The task-artifact cycle (adapted from Carroll et al., 1991).

introduction of a new design results in new practices that, more often than not, are not fully or well supported by the new device. The result is a new set of unforeseen problems (see Vicente & Williges, 1988, for an example). We have already encountered the tip of this iceberg in chapter 3 when we discussed the regress caused by the device-dependence of instruction-based approaches to task analysis.

This interdependence between current practice and the design of a device has been concisely captured in Carroll et al.'s ( 1991) task-artifact cycle, illustrated in Fig. 4.2. The circular nature of technological intervention is clearly shown. If we conduct a descriptive work analysis to understand workers' current tasks, we will identify requirements that could be used to design a new artifact. However, once this artifact is introduced into the workplace, new possibilities for work practices are created, thereby shaping workers' practices. In the words of Carroll et al.: "A task implicitly sets requirements for the development of artifacts to support it; an artifact suggests possibilities and introduces constraints that often radically redefine the task for which the artifact was originally developed" (p. 79). Thus, by basing new designs on work analyses of current practice, designers will always be one step behind their interventions.


Summary

In this section, we have tried to show why descriptive approaches to work analysis are valuable but limited in their ability to inform the design of computer-based information systems. Current practice reflects inadequacies and limitations in the existing device and, at the same time, hides potentially valuable but unexplored ways of working. These problems have been recognized by some researchers. Moreover, the difficulties in going from descriptive analysis to design implications have been encountered by a number of distinct research traditions that use descriptive methods for work analysis, including social sciences, activity theory, Francophone ergonomics, and traditional human factors. The root cause of these difficulties lies in the regress imposed by human adaptation, and described by the task-artifact cycle.

Our understanding of this problem suggests that work analysis techniques should seek to identify the set of intrinsic work constraints rather than just the set of current

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Cognitive Work Analysis: Toward Safe, Productive, and Healthy Computer-Based Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xviii
  • Introduction- I 1
  • What''s in a Word? (Glossary) 3
  • 1- What''s the Problem? Scope and Criteria for Success 33
  • Why Work Analysis? an Ecological Perspective 2 47
  • Summary 57
  • Conclusion 58
  • II- Three Approaches to Work Analysis 59
  • 3- Normative Approaches to Work Analysis. "The One Best Way?" 61
  • Conclusions 86
  • 4- Descriptive Approaches So to Work Analysis 101
  • 5- Toward a Formative Approach to Work Analysis 136
  • III- Cognitive Work Analysis in Action 137
  • 6- Case Study- Process Control 147
  • 7- Phase I- Work Domain Analysis 155
  • Phase 2- Control Task Analysis 8 181
  • 9- Phase 3- Strategies Analysis 215
  • 10- Phase 4 245
  • 11- Phase 5 296
  • 12- Implications for Design and Research 303
  • Summary 334
  • Final Words IV 335
  • 13- Designing for Adaptation 337
  • Appendix- Historical Addendum 361
  • References 367
  • Author Index 383
  • Subject Index 389
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