Beyond Ecological Interface Design: Lessons From Concerns and Misconceptions

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The ecological interface design (EID) paradigm was introduced in the process control domain 25 years ago by Kim Vicente and Jens Rasmussen, as a way to help operators cope with system complexity and events unanticipated in the design of automated control systems. Since that time, this perspective has sparked interest in other safety-critical sociotechnical domains where humans cooperate with computerized systems to ensure safe and efficient system behavior. Many of our own, but also other explorations have, however, resulted in several usability concerns and misconceptions about the EID perspective as a viable design approach. This paper discusses some of these concerns and misconceptions, where the final goal is to get past the EID label and to consider the general lessons relative to the demands and opportunities that advanced information technologies offer and complex systems require. This paper concludes with a preliminary outlook for the future of EID, where it is anticipated that the adjective “ecological” will become increasingly redundant, as the focus on supporting “productive thinking” becomes the dominant paradigm for engineering representations.



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