Integrating human factors into systems engineering through a distributed cognition notation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

External organisations

  • Human Interface Technologies Team


This paper presents an analysis of command and control (C2) processes during emergency responses within UK Police operations. Access was given to conduct interviews and observations with police officers and support staff within West Midlands Police (WMP) C2 facilities and to collect communications data from emergency incidents. The paper applies a process-tracing analysis to the incidents in order to explore how information is captured, transformed and communicated via the various stages of the activity and the different agents involved. In particular, the paper shows how the manner in which information is collected and transformed can have a bearing on decision-making and responses that the system deems appropriate. The work is presented using the distributed cognition framework, and shows how a semi-formal ergonomics methodology can be used to capture data that is pertinent to the looser approaches of sociologically inspired theory. Specifically, the study shows how analysis of C2 activity in terms of 'resources-for-action' provides micro-analysis of decision points which can become 'automatic' (i.e., made without the opportunity for reflection) during routine incidents. It is particularly important to note that we are assuming that it is the 'system' as a whole that gathers information and performs a response (as opposed to specific individuals); this is a central theme of the distributed cognition approach and is explored further in this paper.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIEE and MOD HFI DTC Symposium on People and Systems - Who are we Designing for
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005
EventIEE and MOD HFI DTC Symposium on People and Systems - Who are we Designing for - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Nov 200517 Nov 2005

Publication series

NameIET Seminar Digest


ConferenceIEE and MOD HFI DTC Symposium on People and Systems - Who are we Designing for
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • Command and control, Distributed cognition, Human factors integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas