INTELLIGENT GROUP INTERFACES: ENVISIONED DESIGNS FOR EXPLORING TEAM COGNITION IN EMERGENCY CRISIS MANAGEMENT

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INTELLIGENT GROUP INTERFACES: ENVISIONED DESIGNS FOR EXPLORING TEAM COGNITION IN EMERGENCY CRISIS MANAGEMENT

ABSTRACT

This dissertation advances the intelligent group interface (IGI) as a cognitive tool to support teams dealing with acute, ill-defined problems like those experienced by emergency crisis management teams.  The IGI uses concepts from team cognition and intelligent user interface (IUI) research and integrates them to create a new type of interface designed specifically for these types of teams.  Following a cognitive systems engineering approach, this research (1) designed and implemented three candidate IGI designs based on IUI and team cognition principles; (2) guided the development of a synthetic task environment, NeoCITIES, to explore the efficacy of the IGI designs in an empirical setting; and (3) conducted a user-based experiment that tested the candidate designs in an empirical study of team performance and team mental model formation.  The study also served as an initial testbed for the NeoCITIES synthetic task environment.  The results of this study revealed that team performance is affected by the presence of an adaptation strategy and the number of times a team is exposed to the task environment.  The experimental results also showed that team mental model formation, as measured by team member schema similarity, was affected by adaptation strategy, but not by the number of exposures to which a team was subjected.

CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

Catastrophic events such as the September 11 attacks, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the Gulf Coast hurricanes have increased attention on the role of cognition as it pertains to the performance of emergency management teams in their daily activities and extreme circumstances.   A consequence of this attention is a renewed focus on designing technological aids to support teams in these types of emergent situations.  The process of developing new tools based on team cognition can ultimately prove valuable, yet poses many challenges to researchers.  This dissertation advances the intelligent group interface (IGI) as a cognitive tool to support teams dealing with acute, ill-defined problems like those experienced in emergency crisis management (ECM).  The IGI takes concepts from team cognition and intelligent user interface (IUI) research and integrates them to create a new type of interface designed specifically for these types of teams.  This chapter examines the rationale for the use of a multidisciplinary approach to study teamwork and design a cognitive tool for teams working in an ECM context.

 

Problem Space

 

Emergency response efforts and general preparedness for crisis situations experienced a revival in the United States after the events of September 11, 2001.  The reactions (or lack thereof) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the disasters caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita further intensified national interest in emergency crisis management.  This renewed emphasis overshadows the fact that the areas of homeland defense, emergency response, crisis management, and counterterrorism have all been strong foci since the creation of the Office of Emergency Preparedness during World War II (Turoff, 2002).  Notably, efforts across the academic research community have shifted over the years from immediate lethal responses (e.g., weaponry) to subjects with modern applicability like cryptography (Mann, 2002) and the psychology of terrorism (see Borum, 2004).  According to researchers in the human factors community (e.g., Mackenzie et al., 2005; Sanquist, Thurman, & Mahy, 2005), the recent crises mentioned above demonstrate a clear and obvious need for behavioral sciences research to be applied to issues in ECM and national security.  As a consequence, salient issues are now being examined using novel interdisciplinary approaches, such as applying human-computer interaction (HCI) principles to study computer security (see West, 2006).  While many different concerns drive research efforts in ECM and related topics, this research argues that supporting the work of decision-making teams through technology remains a critical need in this domain.

McNeese (2003) remarked that many of today’s complex problems that involve teams – such as those experienced often in ECM – are best understood through team cognition.  Similarly, recent studies in crisis management (Crichton, Lauche, & Flin, 2005; McLennan, Holgate, Omodei, & Wearing, 2006) have reiterated the importance of team cognition in understanding and supporting the operations of incident management teams.  Team cognition is defined to occur when cognition is constructed through distributed and emergent activities within or across teams.  Understanding the nature of teamwork and the impact of technology on team-based activities through this perspective provides a foundation upon which successful tools may be designed and implemented.  Similarly, opportunities for innovative solutions may be lost without the benefit of understanding how users interact and work with these technologies.

The practice of providing technological support for team cognition in this manner is often referred to as cognitive systems engineering (CSE; Hollnagel & Woods, 1999).  Researchers have explored a range of team cognition elements using CSE and examined how assorted tools may be adapted to support collaborative activities in multiple domains (see Eggleston, 2002 for treatment), but much of that work has only just begun to “identify the cognitive underpinnings of effective teamwork,” (Smith-Jentsch, Campbell, Milanovich, & Reynolds, 2001, p. 179).  McNeese (2002) noted that in many instances, CSE melds together multiple specialties such as cognitive psychology, systems design, and engineering to form an interdisciplinary endeavor that seeks to generate designs that improve worker effectiveness and well-being.  Furthermore, CSE supports a humancentered, rather than technology-centered, approach to systems design with a strong understanding of the role of artifacts (e.g., machines, tools, computers) and the requirements of system purpose as well as the context of use (Taylor et al., 2002).

Emergency crisis management represents an ideal domain for advances in CSE research that provide solutions to improve team effectiveness.  This domain also provides excellent opportunities for studying the practical constraints and benefits of team cognition since it involves not only teams, but also teams of teams, interacting through varying levels of technological sophistication under certain degrees of stress and emotion.  Few modern studies have brought team cognition to bear on technology support within the ECM domain through the use of CSE.  Current work by the geospatial information systems (GIS) community exemplifies the pursuit of valid support tools for teams involved in ECM using CSE and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) principles (e.g., Brewer, 2002; Cai, MacEachren, & Bolelli, 2004; Fuhrmann, MacEachren, Dou, Wang, & Cox, 2005).  While these studies represent initial successes to integrating CSE concepts into the domain, there appears to be limited research involving the cognitive factors that affect team performance in the context of ECM.

 

Research Goals

 

The primary goal of this research is to present an innovative technological solution for teamwork in emergent situations by intersecting principles from IUI research with team cognition concepts using a cognitive systems engineering approach.  This dissertation reviews literature from these two fields and advances a new type of interface designed specifically for teams in the context of ECM.  Three interface designs are provided as examples of how ideas, methods, and theories from IUI and team cognition research can be applied to study the practical constraints and benefits of teamwork.

The conclusion of this work describes the results of an empirical study of team performance and team mental model (TMM) formation using the IGI designs and the NeoCITIES emergency crisis management simulation.  This research will aid in understanding which interface adaptation strategy best supports teams involved in crisis management situations.  This study also serves as an initial testbed for NeoCITIES.  This work represents one of only two studies to utilize this simulation for empirical research (see also Jones, forthcoming).  As a consequence, this dissertation also serves as an evaluation of the NeoCITIES simulation as an actualized task environment.    Based on the results of the empirical study, the present study will suggest directions for future work on the integration of adaptation strategies with interfaces and the NeoCITIES simulation.

It is anticipated that this dissertation will serve as a reference to researchers seeking innovative support methods for teams through the use of interface technologies in combination with team cognition principles.  The IGI designs contained in this dissertation can be used as templates for future work on adaptive interface research.  Similarly, the use and evaluation of the NeoCITIES simulation in this work provides guidance to investigators that wish to use the task environment in the future.

 

Structure

 

Chapter 2 examines previous work on intelligent user interfaces and related topics.  Chapter 3 reviews relevant research on teamwork, team cognition, and team performance with a specific emphasis placed on discussions of team mental models and team member schema similarity.  Chapter 4 introduces the present study in terms of the simulation task and associated interface manipulations.  Detailed descriptions of the NeoCITIES emergency crisis simulation and IGI designs created for this dissertation are provided in this chapter.  Chapter 5 discusses the research methodology, including the research design, experimental procedure, and outcome measures.  Chapter 6 provides the results of an empirical study involving the IGI designs and NeoCITIES task environment.  Chapter 7 presents a discussion of the results, their impact, and the limitations of the current study.  Conclusions are also drawn in this chapter, along with an assessment of this work’s contributions to the research community and recommendations for future research based on the present study.

INTELLIGENT GROUP INTERFACES: ENVISIONED DESIGNS FOR EXPLORING TEAM COGNITION IN EMERGENCY CRISIS MANAGEMENT

 

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