C46. Rice, R. E.
& Stohl, C. (2006). Communication and human factors. In G.
Salvendy (Ed.), Handbook of human
factors and ergonomics (3rd ed.) (pp. 150-176). NY: Wiley.
Human factors is the study of the interaction of humans with
systems, products, and the environment. Human factors research is
traditionally found at the intersection of engineering, computer
science, management, and psychology. In recent years
communication scholars have joined in the interdisciplinary study of
human factor design particularly in the aviation and knowledge
management industries. This relatively new and evolving partnership is
not surprising. As a science of human performance concerned with the
physical, cognitive, and social abilities and limitations of people and
a user-focused engineering discipline concerned with the design of
interdependent systems for efficiency, safety, and quality, human
factors involves communication within and among participants and
technologies as a necessary yet complex condition for effectiveness.
Indeed, a Google search in August 2004, using the terms
(“communication” or “communications”) and (“human factors”), returned
over 400,000 web pages. In general, communication processes are
fundamental to what is designed (hardware and software), how it is
designed (the relations among designers and stakeholders, typically
conceived of as users), how it is used (the optimization of the
interaction between the human and the physical component), and how the
designed system influences subsequent communication among users of the
system. A communication perspective goes beyond the psychological
and physiological, to the social. Making sense of the intentions and
suggestions of fellow designers, a system, its features, its uses, and
its consequences requires social interaction and a heightened
sensitivity to language and the ways in which communicative choices
shape the perception and definition of situations.
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