Publication 1809

Scott B. (1997) Inadvertent pathologies of communication in human systems. Kybernetes 26(6/7): 824–836. Fulltext at http://cepa.info/1809
In a complex sociotechnical organization, which is what many of us are part of much of the time, the human operator receives informative signals of many different types from many different parts of the organization. Typically many of the procedures for effective control and communication are proceduralized as tasks that may be carried out by automata, by machines or by humans acting as machines. Indeed, it is increasingly the case these days that operations that have been proceduralized are carried out by machines. The human operator may play only a small part in such systems. However, there are many cases where, even if operations have been proceduralized, human operators do play a key part in the system of control and communication. In other cases, where there is an element of discretion in deciding on what operations should be carried out, the role of the human operator is critically important. Indeed, the set of permissible operations may be open ended in some way and not fullydefined beforehand. This paper discusses the inadvertent pathologies of communication that may arise when both sender and receiver are human operators.

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