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Speaking of human factors: Emergent meanings in interviews with professional accident investigators
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Digital Media. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8862-7331
2010 (English)In: Safety Science, ISSN 0925-7535, Vol. 48, no 2, 157-165 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper presents a qualitative analysis of the human factor concept, more specifically what it means and includes in everyday professional discourse. It is founded on 10 extensive interviews with professional investigators within the road, maritime and rail administration concerning their practical investigative work. General and specific results are generated of interview contributions using a pragmatic communicative approach and discourse analysis.

Results show that human factors is an expression tied to individual professional experience, sparks dissatisfaction and demands specification due to recurring indexicality problems. It tends to be used for negative matters. The specific results, listing eight different meanings, indicate that there is no such thing as a professional usage of the human factor but a spectrum of meanings. The study concludes that the meanings of the human factor (a) always evolve in the dynamic process of producing and understanding language, (b) are context-dependent, and (c) emerge through talk, as one type of discourse. Contrary to ordinary conceptions, there is no simple matter as a human factor that may be used in a routine manner. A non-specific use of the notion may even obscure a course of events and prevent necessary investigation, for example, if the human factor simply replaces a factor such as ‘fatigue’. Although contemporary interdisciplinary research focuses peripheral factors, the idea of individual humans and their erroneous acts has survived – and lives – in the practical world of professional investigators. Empirically deduced meanings need to be continuously highlighted and problematised if theory is to approach everyday professional practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier , 2010. Vol. 48, no 2, 157-165 p.
Keyword [en]
Human factors; Context; Communication; Discourse
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-52023DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2009.07.004OAI: diva2:278860
Available from: 2009-11-30 Created: 2009-11-30 Last updated: 2013-09-13Bibliographically approved

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Korolija, NataschaLundberg, Jonas
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