The conference began with Professor Chris Baber from the University of Birmingham delivering the Donald Broadbent lecture. The Donald Broadbent is one of two lectures (the other is the Institute lecture) which are delivered as prestigious recognitions of people who have made a long term contribution to ergonomics and human factors research and practice.
Chris focussed on systems, a much-discussed topic within the E/HF community. He made an excellent point about the proliferation of ‘boxology’ in diagrams that represent systems in E/HF – perhaps our desire to represent concepts in a diagrammatic form actually influences the way that we think about those concepts. Chris noted for example that diagrams of E/HF systems tend to have ‘about 6’ boxes – but is this an artefact of the size of a laptop screen, the magic number 7 (+/- 2) or the true number of entities that tend to be of concern in systems?
Chris also had us all tapping our fingers on our thighs in a quest to think about control, and this led me to think about expertise. Now that we are able to collect so much detailed information about human performance using advanced sensors, what information should we use to analyse performance, and what should we feed back to users?
Jon Berman’s talk focussed around the notion of learning organisations, and the importance of learning within organisations for the support of reslience and safety. This is now a well accepted notion within E/HF, but presents the same challenge as Safety II (which was covered in a workshop led by Steve Shorrock and Mark Young later on in the day) – how do we come up with really good case studies that demonstrate the value of a learning organisation? (similarly, how do we come up with the equivalent of an ‘incident’ that resonates with managers and encourages investment in E/HF).
The final session on Automotive included two excellent presentations from Ayse Eren from the University of Nottingham, and Lauren Weston from Plymouth University. They presented two very coherent studies – Ayse looking at gesture control with scratch pads in vehicles (and possibly the first presentation at EHF ever to use finger painting as a method!) and Lauren discussing risky behaviour in young drivers. Both presentations were followed by a lively series of questions and it was excellent to see so many members of the audience participating in the discussion.