Technological developments for the digital environment
8. Tools/Technologies/artifacts transform reality
"Is paper safer? The role of paper flight strips in air traffic control" (Tsandilas, T. and Mackay)
"Air traffic control is a complex, safety-critical activity, with well-established and successful work practices. Yet many attempts to automate the existing system have failed because controllers remain attached to a key work artifact: the paper flight strip. This article describes a four-month intensive study of a team of Paris en-route controllers in order to understand their use of paper flight strips. The article also describes a comparison study of eight different control rooms in France and the Netherlands. Our observations have convinced us that we do not know enough to simply get rid of paper strips, nor can we easily replace the physical interaction between controllers and paper strips.These observationshighlight the benefits of strips, including qualities difficult to quantify and replicate in new computer systems. Current thinking offers two basic alternatives: maintaining the existing strips without computer support and bearing the financial cost of limiting the air traffic, or replacing the strips with automated versions, which offer potential benefits in terms of increased efficiency through automation, but unknown risks through radical change of work practices. We conclude with a suggestion for a third alternative: to maintain the physical strips, but turn them into the interface to the computer. This would allow controllers to build directly upon their existing, safe work practices with paper strips, while offering them a gradual path for incorporating new computer-based functions. Augmented paper flight strips allow us to take advantage of uniquely human skills in the physical world, and allows us to leave the user interface and its subsequent evolution in the hands of the people most responsible, the air traffic controllers themselves."
Paper in additoinal contexts: Music and biology.
Tsandilas, T. and Mackay, W. (2010) Knotty Gestures: Subtle Traces to Support Interactive Use of Paper. In Proceedings of ACM AVI 2010 Advanced Visual Interfaces, Rome, Italy, pp. 147-154.
Concept Integration Note article:
"The Covington Scissor"
Want to learn more?
Cathy O'Neil. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Crown Publishing, 2016.