Human Factors at The Fringe: Every Brilliant Thing

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s done something stupid. She finds it hard to be happy. You make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything worth living for. 1. Ice Cream 2. Kung Fu Movies 3. Burning Things 4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose 5. Construction cranes 6. Me A play about depression and the lengths we go to for those we love. “Heart-wrenching, hilarious… possibly one of the funniest plays you will ever see” **** The Guardian

 Every Brilliant Thing, by Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe/Paines Plough, 28 August, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh


There are a few words you wouldn’t associate with depression, such as ‘funny’, ‘heartwarming’ and ‘inspiring’. But these are words that would apply to this one-man play about a seven year old boy’s reaction to his mother’s depression and suicide attempt. Johnny decides to create for his mother a list of every brilliant thing in his life, such as ice cream, the colour yellow, chocolate, rollercoasters and being allowed to stay up late. He hopes that his list will cheer up his mother, maybe even help her realise that life is worth living.

But as he grows older, he continues the list, and the brilliant things expand enormously. It reminds him of why life is worth living, despite his own struggles in life, including depression. The brilliant things, more than the experience that prompted him to write them down, seem to define his life. It’s not that everything is brilliant: as Johnny says, “if you got all the way through life without ever being heart crushingly depressed, you probably haven’t been paying attention”. It’s just that there are usually many more brilliant things than bleak things, if we really do pay attention.

This play is about a boy and a family, but the premise clearly applies more widely, to communities and organisations. Even when bad things happen or are happening, it is usually the case that there are many more good things. But so often we don’t pay attention to them. What is good about this community or organisation? What gives life? What brings joy? Very often, we don’t really know because we have never turned our attention to the question. Instead we tend to focus on deficits – things that are wrong or missing – and associated needs. Anyone who does groupwork with organisations will know that deficit-based discussions can be rather downbeat and dispiriting. The opposite is true in asset-based discussions. And this is reflected in Every Brilliant Thing. As the play progresses, audience members read out items from Johnny’s list of brilliant things in response to calls of various numbers from the actor. Audience members also play out various characters in Jonny’s life. Everyone seemed to do so joyfully.

Perhaps we should be more like Johnny, understanding deficits and attending to associated needs, but first understanding the assets that we value. If an organisation is relatively safe, why is this? What is going on that makes it a safe organisation? For sure there will be problems and risks and threats to safety, but unless we understand first what we have – what makes it safe (or healthy, or fun, or meaningful) we won’t know what to protect, nourish, and grow. How many organisations and communities make an inventory of every brilliant thing? I have recently paid much more attention to this question, inspired by asset-based approaches and Safety-II. When asked, people list all sorts of things, but they most often concern people and their skills, knowledge, values, relationships. What they also say is this: “No-one has asked that before“.

Every Brilliant Thing shows how joy can exist despite bleak situations. By attending to the brilliant things that keep us going – as individuals, families, communities and organisations – we find that the things that we had taken for granted, or not even noticed, really do need to be cherished.

See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

Human Factors at The Fringe: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

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Human Factors at The Fringe: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Walrus’ award-winning show returns to Edinburgh in Paines Plough’s Roundabout. ‘Let’s just talk until it goes.’ The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit? Oliver and Bernadette are about to find out. This two-person show imagines a world where we’re forced to say less. It’s about what we say and how we say it; about the things we can only hear in the silence; about dead cats, activism, eye contact and lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons. ‘About as promising as debuts get.’ (Time Out).

By Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, by Sam Steiner, 28 August, Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh


What if we had a daily limit on the number of words we could speak? This is the premise of this experimental political fantasy focusing on the relationship of Bernadette (a lawyer) and Oliver (a musician) in the context of a new ‘hush law’. The law is introduced by the government to ration citizens to 140 words each per day. Oliver campaigns against the law while Bernadette seems not to believe it will actually be voted into effect. Ultimately, for unexplained reasons, it is.

The play is essentially about the dynamics of Bernadette and Oliver’s relationship and how the prospect and reality of the hush law affects their communication. It skips between the couple’s conversations in the past, when they could speak freely, and the present, when they are restricted.

The couple struggle to manage their lexical allowances. On the first day of the hush law, Bernadatte wastes nearly half of her allowance ordering a smoothie. Inconsistent use of the quota between the pair causes tension and raises questions on the importance of the other and the relationship. When Oliver uses his daily limit before returning home, Bernadette is frustrated and comes up with a bunch of random words to spend rest of her allowance, using up her last five with “lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons, lemons”. With varying degrees of success, they learn to monitor how they use their word quota over the course of each day, greeting one another with a number reflecting their available words. We are left to consider a number of questions. What words would we use and leave out, when every word counts? Who would we save our words for? How might we learn to communicate without words?

But the backstory is a restriction of freedom of speech and the social and political implications. The law has some strange effects in society. Songs gradually lose their words because it takes more than a day for the artists or listeners to sing a song. Perhaps most intriguing to me was when Oliver exclaimed that the law is inherently discriminatory because, even if everyone has the same limit, those with less power need more words, while those in positions of power already have the influence they need. They have less need for words. This was a thought that lingered after the play.

In organisations, and society, words are already funnelled and filtered. The ‘140’ limit is obviously borrowed from twitter, which has today excluded quoted tweets, photos, GIFs, videos and poll from its famous 140-character limit. And between the various strata of organisations and society, the possibility to communicate upwards diminishes with altitude. A front-line worker usually has little or no direct access to the Board, for instance. If they want to express anything they may have a small quota of words to do so, if they are lucky. On matters of safety, individuals may indeed have a limit of around 140 words to pass a concern to senior management, perhaps through a reporting scheme.

When we cannot speak out adequately in organisations and society, the concerns and messages do not go away. They take on new forms: learned helplessness, revolt, or anything in between. In Lemons, the characters learn new workarounds: more efficient words, blends and portmanteaus, rudimentary morse code (as with twitter, where people use images of many more words, or use a series of tweets). Some of this is probably not what the lawmakers imagined. In organisations and societies, competing means of communication emerge in response to limits on communication, including behaviours (e.g., facial expressions, postures, whistleblowing, demonstrations, strikes, riots) or other outcomes (e.g., accidents). As I often say to people in positions of power in organisations, people’s concerns and needs remain whether or not we listen to them. But by spending more time listening – allowing time for more words – everyone’s needs can be met, to some extent at least, before it is too late.


See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

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Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

Nuclear Family is a gripping piece of interactive theatre which follows Joe and Ellen, nuclear plant workers and siblings, faced with an imminent disaster. Audience members will be privy to what could possibly be their last hours as they struggle with the biggest decisions of their lives. In a heated round table discussion, the audience will experience the pressure of making life and death decisions.

Nuclear Family, 3-29 Aug, Assembly, Edinburgh


To have any chance at understanding why people do the things they do, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Nuclear Family is immersive, interactive theatre that requires you to do just that. The play begins with an introduction by a suited convenor, who explains that you are part of a board of inquiry into an explosion at the Ashtown nuclear power plant in 1996. For the next hour, your decisions are linked to those of two security guards and siblings Joe and Ellen Lynum, who work in the plant. Audience members are seated around the cast and the set – a grim, bunker-esque security office with a desk, some 1990s PCs, telephones, and other peripherals. Joe and Ellen are at the sharp end of the unfolding disaster and the focus is on their decisions, which happen to be yours.

The audience members were taken ‘inside the tunnel’ as events unfolded, watching the ‘video footage’ – the acted scenes. After each superbly acted scene leading up to a critical decision point, we were given short audio recordings of interviews and some documentation, such as police and employment records. We had two minutes to make a binary choice decision: what would be a reasonable or appropriate thing to do next, given the information available and the desired outcome? As an audience, we had to vote on a collective decision. These decisions – four or five in all – were moral dilemmas. Questions of rule-breaking, relationships and competence arose, and each decision had implications, for liberty and loss of life, for instance. Each decision contributed to an unfolding disaster, but the decisions were set against poor management – under-resourcing and reported problems that had never been acted on.

As the audience made each decision, we could not know the consequences until they arose. It was clear that were various routes through the mess and because of this we probably forgot that the ending was actually certain: an explosion. It became a chose-your-own-disaster, but one where we were fooled into counter-factually thinking we could mitigate the outcome and maybe prevent it. We felt the regret and anger for each decision in real time as the next scene unfolded.

This is innovate theatre that teaches the audience about local rationality. The audience, like Joe and Ellen, do what seems reasonable at that time. In hindsight, each decision seems like a bad decision, but at the time each decision is just that: a decision. The decisions seemed reasonable to most people, though there was minority dissent for some decisions, which was not explored. Interestingly, the minority could feel some anger that their preferred option was not taken: even though the consequences of neither option were known at the time, the unknown consequences of the unmade decision seemed better.

The division of the storyline into decision points was reminiscent of the method within Sidney Dekker’s Field Guide to Understanding ‘Human Error’, which suggests breaking down a detailed timeline into critical junctures. But there are crucial differences between an accident investigation, Nuclear Family, and real-time operations. In an accident investigation, you have much of the information and you have knowledge of the final outcome and the outcomes of each decision. You construct the critical junctures (based on the knowledge you now have) and you have many hours or days available to analyse them. In Nuclear Family, you have a some background information and you have knowledge of the final outcome but not the outcome of each decision. You are told the critical junctures and you can pause for a couple of minutes while you make a decision. In real-time operations – in control rooms, cockpits, operating theatres – you don’t have all the information and you don’t know the final outcome, nor for sure the outcome of the decision you are about to take. You may not know in advance that a juncture or decision point is critical and you can’t necessarily pause for long to make a decision.

Understanding local rationality demands a level of empathy, and Nuclear Family cultivated both background empathy (or person empathy) into the characters, and process empathy for their moment-to-moment experience – cognitive, emotional, and social. It is hard to think of a better medium through which to experience this so efficiently than interactive theatre.

See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

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Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

Written and directed by Matthew Wilkinson. A thrilling modern tragedy about a Russian architect driven to revenge after losing his family in a plane crash. Cal MacAninch and Thusitha Jayasundera give electrifying performances in this searing new play about the human impulse to strike back. Inspired by real events. Nominated for three Off West End Theatre Awards.

My Eyes Went Dark by Matthew Wilkinson, 28 Aug, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh


(See Human Factors at The Fringe for an introduction to this post.)

In 2002 a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev passenger jet en route to Barcelona collided with a DHL Boeing 757 cargo jet over Überlingen, southern Germany, while under air traffic control. Seventy one people died, 52 of which were children. The controller on duty instructed the Russian jet to descend, after noticing that the planes were on a collision course. Unbeknown to him, the onboard collision-avoidance systems (TCAS) on the aircraft issued instructions that contradicted the controller’s own instruction. The Russian pilots acted on the controller’s instruction, while the DHL pilots acted on that of TCAS (see here for a description of the accident and the aftermath).

This play is essentially a tragedy, inspired by real events, and concerns the aftermath of that accident. It takes place over the course of five years in Switzerland, Germany, and Ossetia. ‘Nikolai Koslov’ lost his two children and his wife in the accident. Koslov was a Russian architect working in France on a major new hotel build.

Koslov is consumed with grief, seething with a quiet anger at how such an accident could have occurred. He runs through the possible causes with a search team co-ordinator on the night of the accident, at the scene. He asks about the age and condition of the plane, about who was responsible for maintenance. He wonders about terrorism. But the coordinator offers a mundane reason for the accident.

CO-ORDINATOR: (Gentle) My opinion is, and I know how stupid this must sound, but it could well have been a … a simple mistake.

KOSLOV: A mistake? But who made the mistake?

Koslov interrogates the perpetrator of the mistake. With no answer, he turns to the mistake itself.

KOSLOV: But what mistake? What sort of mistake?

CO-ORDINATOR: I don’t know, really.

KOSLOV: Then why do you say that?

CO-ORDINATOR: Because – isn’t that usually the reason?

Koslov is incredulous.

KOSLOV: … You cannot put people up there, in aeroplanes, high up there, and then make simple mistakes… it’s completely unheard of.

Koslov’s late wife’s sister comes to a granite memorial to find him. He’s been there for days. While Koslov is full of anger for Olsen, Lizka has compassion.

LIZKA: I heard him interviewed. He was crying. He said it was his duty and responsibility to prevent such accidents happening. I remember that clearly. He sounded at a total loss. He sounded terrible.

Koslov is angry and yet numb to the world, turning to ultra-dark chocolate to get a sense of something external.

While Koslov cannot understand how a ‘simple mistake’ could happen, Lizka cannot understand how the context for it could exist. Koslov focuses on the actions of the controller. Lizka focuses on the context of work. She starts to recount the ‘second story’.

LIZKA: He said he was left all alone on duty that night. I just can’t understand that. He was all by himself, flitting between two screens. … Why would they allow that? He said he wasn’t even aware that the Russian plane’s warning system had told it to go up. When clearly it should have gone up. Just kept on going. If it had kept on going everything would have been OK. The other plane would have missed it completely.


LIZKA: But they’re saying all his phone lines were down. So no one could call anyone. Then, then maintenance men came in as well…

KOSLOV: I know, I heard his describing it.

LIZKA: It sounds horrific … like some crazy soap opera … like they were there to fix the telly!

KOSLOV:  know.

LIZKA: I mean he couldn’t know what was going on! And he had another plane to land in Germany at the same time! Five minutes before. It was complete confusion! My God, his colleague was outside in the hall fast asleep!

KOSLOV: Lizka –

LIZKA: He was all by himself…

KOSLOV: Lizka –

LIZKA: No. No. I don’t understand.

KOSLOV: Lizka –

LIZKA: You don’t let people fall asleep in halls when there are planes flying around do you? Do you? What for? It doesn’t make sense…

KOSLOV: It was common policy.

LIZKA: To sleep in halls?

KOSLOV: To take it in turns. When traffic was slow.

LIZKA: Really? Was it? Really? But traffic wasn’t slow!


From her outside perspective, the conditions of work don’t seem reasonable.

But Koslov cannot escape the feeling that Olsen is culpable. In a phone call he talks about the statements given to the German and Swiss accident investigation authorities.

KOSLOV: It’s an inescapable fact he did do it. Im not saying he wasn’t put in a dreadful position. I’m saying he did it. … He commanded those pilots to dive. To ignore their screens and fly into each other. Yes? OK? Whatever the reasons. …

Koslov believes that someone must be held accountable but Thomas Olsen is acquitted by the courts. A representative of Skyways is in court:

WEITNER: In hindsight, you always ask yourself, could I have done more> More to anticipate, more to prepare, more to … mitigate. More.

Two officials received suspended sentences, and a fine of twelve thousand Euros. Koslov is offered compensation for his wife and children ($60,000, and $50,000, respectively). For Koslov, this defiles the name of his family. For him, justice has not been done. What justice can there be?

WEITNER: From the trial, did you really think someone was going to be prosecuted? Sent to prison? For an accident? Nobody was going to prison. It’s not how it works. Can you imagine? Private employees, in public service, sent to prison – for making mistakes? Who would be willing to take their place?

WEITNER: I know how difficult this must be for you.

KOSLOV: You can’t even say sorry.

Koslov tracks Olsen down in his family home, and murders him. He is sent to prison.

In his region of Russia, blood feuds were traditionally an accepted means of justice . His counsellor proposes that this might explain his actions.

GEISINGER: We know it wasn’t so long ago, perhaps only fifty years or so, that feuds in your country were decided in this way

… You belong to a history, a cultural history, of resolving trauma this way.

Koslov he denies this, and denies planning to kill Olsen, even remembering what happened.

Koslov is released part way through his sentence. On return to Russia, he receives a hero’s welcome. He is given an official post for architecture and construction and designs an Olympic-standard ski resort in Ossetia.

The play ends with Olsen’s daughter, Helena, arriving unexpectedly at a party for Koslov, seeking answers on why he did what he did, and restorative justice for her mother, who has made multiple requests to speak with Koslov. He has never responded.

HELENA: Speak to her. Please. It must mean something to you. It must do. You were a father. You had children.

KOSLOV: And your father murdered them.

HELENA: No! No! My father was a man, a good man! Who made a mistake!

KOSLOV: He is a murderer.

HELENA: (Screams) You are a murderer!!

My Eyes Went Dark raises questions about causation, culpability, justice, revenge and forgiveness. The first story of ‘human error’ and individual responsibility are set out alongside the second story of system conditions and collective and corporate responsibility. Human error, “a simple mistake” (famously cited as being the ’cause’ of 70% or so of accidents) is the first assumption of the co-ordinator. But a mistake is not innocent in the eyes of Koslov (nor in the eyes of many judicial systems around the world). The system as a whole is the focus for Lizka. She describes how degraded modes of operation stack on top of one another and become accepted as normal as an organisation drifts into failure. She feels compassion for the controller who was put in this position, and who ultimately lost his own life.

A mistake and an individual perpetrator gives Koslov a clear reason for the event and an identifiable target for his anger. As recalled by Lizka, the controller said it was his “duty and responsibility to prevent such accidents happening”. An organisation does not provide a clear reason for the event, nor a clearly identifiable target for Koslov’s anger

How would we react to such an event? Would a progressive understanding of human factors and system safety help or hinder forgiveness? Would an understanding of complexity actually make it easier or harder for us to channel our grief, and to get restorative justice? Would our understanding of ‘just culture’ save us from our darkest urges? We hope we’ll never know.


Script: Wilkinson, M. (2015). My eyes went dark. Oberon Books.



See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

Human Factors at the Fringe: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Posted in Human Factors/Ergonomics, Safety, systems thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Polly is a professional, a high achiever and an addict. Her drug of choice is a grade A, top of the range smart phone. She clicks and scrolls for minutes, hours and days at a time. When Polly discovers an app that uses algorithms to create brand new music by long-dead musicians, the line between human and computer begins to blur, and the downloads become increasingly dangerous. A play about networks, nerve endings and Nirvana.

The Girl in the Machine by Stef Smith, 19, 24 & 28 Aug, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

(See Human Factors at The Fringe for an introduction to this post.)

This script-in-hand, rehearsed-only-once play for early risers at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre was one of a series on the same theme: “Tech will tear us apart (?)” The play features a corporate IP lawyer – Polly – and her tech designer husband – Owen. Polly is addicted to her device, and will spend hours clicking and swiping through apps and the internet. Out of the blue, a new app appears that can create new music by dead artists based on aspects of their existing body of work. This is a problem, because – in her new position – it is Polly’s job to prevent and now deal with this legal quagmire.

The app is downloaded by legions of users, and it has a much darker hidden feature. The app includes an aural code via by which – it is promised – users can leave their bodies and upload their consciousness to the internet, sending messages to those on the other side. Hundreds of lives are lost as people seek to escape the stress of a hyper-connected, information-overloaded life, ironically putting their faith in everlasting life in a high-tech heaven, as pure information. Polly is blamed for the viral suicide and is sacked for failing to spot the emerging threat. She spirals into depression.

As the pair sit, Polly is consumed by her phone much like so many of us today. They grow further apart – physically and emotionally – and the phone becomes a love/hate object in the marriage. Society breaks down as attempts are made to stop the cultish phenomenon. Polly uses the last of her battery to upload her consciousness to the net, or so she thinks.

This sad but riveting play sheds light on our addition to technology while playing on our fears. It also exposes our faith in technological solutions to socio-technical and even spiritual problems. “When did life get so complicated?” Polly asks. “When we tried to make it simple”, Owen responds.

Does technology simplify life, or make it even more intractable?


See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe

Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

Human Factors at the Fringe: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Posted in Human Factors/Ergonomics, Humanistic Psychology | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Human Factors at The Fringe


There have been many debates in human factors about its status as science or art or both, and the scientific literature has recorded some of the issues spanning back over 50 years (e.g., de Moraes, 2000; Moray, 1994; Wilson, 2000; Sharples and Buckle, 2015; Spielrein, 1968). Human factors (or ergonomics) is formally defined by the International Ergonomics Association as  a “scientific discipline“, and we use scientific communication to try to get our message across, even in practitioner reports and outputs: Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, Conclusion. This has become the de facto method of communication, though other mediums, such as natural storytelling, can be found in some talks (e.g. TED and TEDx), and a number of books (such as Stephen Casey’s Set Phasers on Stun).

There are several problems with our default approach to communication in human factors and other disciplines. These problems apply especially to disciplines that are not just the preserve of a small number of scientists, but that concern a wide range of stakeholders: citizens, front-line or shop-floor workers, specialists of many kinds (designers, HR, occupational health, safety, etc), managers, CEOs, regulators and policy makers… A first problem is this: More evidence, more proof, more detail, does not necessarily convince or trigger a change in thinking. In fact, it can backfire. Deeply held convictions can be strengthened further by contradictory evidence: the so-called backfire effect (observers of the Brexit debate may have noted the group polarisation that ramped up as the campaigns progressed, leading some – rather politically – to invent phrases such as “war on truth” and “post-truth politics”). A second problem, for which I have only the evidence of my own and others’ reported experiences, is that people in industry just don’t like reading reports, let alone scientific journal articles (which are almost completely ignored in some sectors outside of a minuscule number of stakeholders, i.e., researchers). Too many articles, too much contradiction, too technical, too boring, too time-consuming, too overwhelming. I remember a comment made by a UX practitioner in a survey about scientific journal articles that I conducted with Amy Chung: “I think over time I’ve just learned to ignore them”  (the work was reported in a scientific journal article [Chung and Shorrock, 2011]). The comment struck me. A third problem is that scientific communication, and its variants, tend not to connect with, for want of a better word, ‘feeling’. By this I mean an emotional connection, an internal reaction, a realisation or change of opinion, insight. Scientific communication uses a story approach, but a formal, stilted, exclusionary story format that pushes most people away. We should really be drawing people in, especially those who make decisions about work, products and services, and those who are affected by their decisions.

Art may not bring ‘scientific evidence’ and ‘proof’, but it does tend to connect with feeling. It can bring about an instant insight or dawning realisation that is hard to put into words. I experience this every summer at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. I’ve found that theatre – in particular – gives me insights into work and life that I don’t get from scientific articles. The productions I have seen have had no input from human factors specialists, and most have have no direct input from any scientific discipline (with some exceptions, e.g. The Happiness Project, which featured scientists from a variety of disciplines). And yet I have found that one theatrical production can be worth far more to me than a day (or a week) at a conference. The message from a play can stick with us for years, even if we did not think much of it at the time.

Perhaps theatre, and other art forms, present an opportunity for conveying and discussing themes in human factors (and related disciplines). Imagine an industry conference that included a powerful play on the themes of just culture and ethics, or hindsight and local rationality, or automation and technological solutionism. Or imagine more involvement from researchers and practitioners to help bring about new productions. In 2016, Edinburgh Fringe featured over 50,000 productions of over 3,000 shows in nearly 300 venues. What an audience. In the posts that follow I’ll reflect on five productions from Edinburgh Fringe 2016 that somehow relate to human relationships with technology and with others, and that connected with me. Perhaps by paying more attention to the fringe, we can move out of the fringe as a discipline.


Casey, S.M. 1998. Set phasers on stun. And other true tales of design, technology and human error (2 ed). Aegean Publishing Company.

Chung, A.Z.Q., and Shorrock, S.T. 2011. The research-practice relationship in ergonomics and human factors – surveying and bridging the gap. Ergonomics. 54(5), 413-429.

de Moraes, A. 2000. Theoretical aspects of ergonomics: art, science or technology – substantive or operative. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting. July 2000, 44 (33), 264-267.

Moray, N. 1994. ‘De maximis non curat lex’ or how context reduces science to art in the practice of human factors. In: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 38th annual meeting, 24–28 October 1994, Stouffer Nashville, Nashville, Tennessee. Santa Monica, CA: HFES, 526–530.

Sharples, S. and Buckle P. 2015. Ergonomics/human factors – art, craft or science? A workshop and debate inspired by the thinking of Professor John Wilson. In: Sharples, S., Shorrock, S. and P. Waterson, P. eds. Contemporary ergonomics and human factors 2015. London: Taylor & Francis, 132–132.

Spielrein, R.E. 1968. Ergonomics: an art or a science. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. 15(2), 19-21.

Wilson, J.R. 2000. Fundamentals of ergonomics in theory and practice. Applied Ergonomics. 31(6), 557-567.

Image: Steven Shorrock CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


See also:

Human Factors at The Fringe: The Girl in the Machine

Human Factors at The Fringe: My Eyes Went Dark

Human Factors at The Fringe: Nuclear Family

Human Factors at the Fringe: Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons

Posted in Culture, Human Factors/Ergonomics, Humanistic Psychology, Safety, systems thinking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Adjusting to a Messy World: Donald Broadbent Lecture 2016

Just posted at Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice: Adjusting to a Messy World: Donald Broadbent Lecture 2016 with Claire Williams at CIEHF Ergonomics and Human Factors 2016.

Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice

On 21 April 2016, we co-presented the Donald Broadbent lecture at Ergonomics and Human Factors 2016 (Daventry, UK) summarising some of the themes in ‘Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice’. In this post, we summarise aspects of the book, slide by slide, with a grateful acknowledgement to every author who collaborated.

Slide 1 – Welcome

This lecture is about the messy world in which we live, and how this affects human factors and ergonomics in practice. The lecture material is derived from a book that we have edited called Ergonomics and Human Factors in Practice: Improving Performance and Wellbeing in the Real World.


Slide 2 – How do practitioners really work?

We met about ten years ago, at this conference, when we were presenting papers on issues of practice. We had both been practitioners for about ten years at that time, and were beginning to realise HF/E professionals did not talk…

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