Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Air Traffic Control Couldn't resist linking to this The Social Life of Paper (though its Stephen Dulaney that brought it to my attention Digital Dashboards). Gladwell talks about the paradox of air-traffic control using bits of paper all the time. It reminded me of some cognitive psychologists doing research on just this area - situated cognition they called it. They spent weeks observing ATC operators and began to build up a picture of what they did. But one thing puzzled them - ocassionally the controller would ask the pilot to make an unexpected change in flight path. "Why", they asked, "did the pilot need to divert his course?". "Well", explained the controllers "When 2 planes are stacked up at different altitudes we can't read their labels on the screen, so we make the fly apart to reveal the code underneath".

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