Local Applications of the Ecological Approach to Human-Machine Systems

By Peter Hancock; John Flach et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
Designing Team Workstations: The Choreography of Teamwork

Leon D. Segal

Western Aerospace Laboratories


13.0 Introduction

When I started my research work at NASA-Ames Research Center, I was shown around the building and introduced to the people with whom I would be working. Some of my new colleagues had read, or heard about, my work: "Oh, you're the one who does that nonverbal stuff." It was then that I first became aware of the trap I had meticulously constructed then proceeded to fall into: Through the process of building an argument for the importance of including nonverbal behavior in the study of human communication and team workstation design, I had been put into a category that, taken out of context, has no functional meaning. Yes, I am indeed interested in "that nonverbal stuff," but that is only one facet of the complex design problems that stimulate my thinking and direct my work.

The parsing of communication into the dichotomy of "verbal" and "nonverbal" is an artifact of the human attempt to scientifically study the flow of information between two or more organisms. Although it does represent one of many classification schemes for describing human behavior, we must not confuse its usefulness with the fact that it is merely a tool for representing events, rather than the actual structure of events in "reality." I believe, and have tried to convey this in the past, that the study of communication is the study of a context created by the communicators and the environment upon which they act and within which they interact. I also believe that all investigations should have a

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