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A Structured Reasoning Space for Design of Complex, Socio-Technical Systems

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Final rept. Sep 2004-Jul 2006

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This research project was undertaken to develop a concept for representing the products of a Cognitive Work Analysis CWA in a comprehensive, integrated fashion that would better support the application of Cognitive Systems Engineering practice within the traditional Systems Engineering process. CWA takes a more structured approach to representation than is common within Cognitive Systems Engineering. It is a multi-phase analytic process that develops representations for functional structure, tasks, strategies, collaboration and individual cognitive performance. Currently, its representations are difficult to interpret and do not serve well as design artifacts. The specific issue addressed is representation of the work domain and the activity within it in a form such that all involved in a developmental project can understand the domain well enough to design solutions for the cognitive challenges faced by the human operators of the envisioned system. The concept of an information environment to support system design is introduced, and leads into a vision for an information structure--reasoning space. A reasoning space supports the natural information-seeking strategies used in human problem resolution by encouraging an opportunistic trajectory through a comprehensive and global information space. The reasoning space described here lays out information at different levels of abstraction and degrees of decomposition in a structure that reveals the significance of interdependencies between specific details while taking account of global constraints. It uses a pictorially rich format that facilitates an intuitive grasp of subtle and complex concepts. The purpose of this reasoning space is to help a design team identify forms of functional reorganization or work support that may assist workflow in a complex, sociotechnical system.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Human Factors Engineering and Man Machine Systems

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