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Educated in Cognitive Psychology, I call myself Cognitive
Ergonomist because I work in the area of Human-Computer Interaction
(HCI). Cognitive Ergonomics trying to adapt Information Technology to the
capabilities and limitations of human users and to find ways to make computer
systems functional, easy to use, easy to learn, and
pleasant to work with.
An example of Cognitive Ergonomics is the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). ATM's are build according to numerous design specifications, but only after their introduction to the general public, it turned out that many people forgot their pin-card when the machines returned the cash first and the card later. The problem was eventually solved by reprogramming the machines to return the cards before providing the money. This exemplifies that technical specifications are not sufficient to create machines for human use: we also need task-based specifications that describe designs from the point of view of the user.
Extended Task-Action Grammar (ETAG) is a formal language to specify interfaces in terms of the knowledge that users must have about the Objects, Attributes and Tasks of the computer system, thereby stimulating designers to keep user interfaces as simple as possible. ETAG-based User Interface Design is meant to replace the technical and software-oriented approaches to user interface design by a task-based and user-oriented approach. ETAG and ETAG-Based Design are described in: ETAG, a formal model of competence knowledge for user interface design on which I got my PhD in October 2000 at the Free University Amsterdam.
Tools like ETAG should not only do what they are supposed to do but they also have to fit the work situation and organization in which they will be used. While graduating, I worked at the system management department of a commercial company on the Design of an Information Infrastructure for Service Delivery. In organizations, the quality and usability of the tools may actually be less important for the success of design projects then business procedures and organizational policies.
Specification tools - including ETAG - assume that we are able to know in advance how computer systems will be used by real people. At IPO, the TU Eindhoven Center for User-System Interaction, I was involved in the usability evaluation in the EC/ESPRIT COMRIS project, developping an intelligent wearable personal assistant for conference visitors. A main lesson-learned from COMRIS is that user requirements may only become clear when a (prototype) system is actually used by real people for real work. This stresses the need for user participation and structured design iteration in order to create humanly usable systems.
Also at IPO I took part in the IOP/MMI projects Token2000, about the accessibility of information in museum-collections, and Presence, about working together with other people over a distance by means of networked computers.
At the department of Digital Culture of the former Maastricht McLuhan Institute, I was involved as MMI's "user interfacer" in the EC/IST FP5 i-Mass project aiming to create a Virtual Reference Room or a Virtual Museum to improve the accessibility of cultural heritage information in museums and libraries, utilizing a multi-agent system and dynamic user modelling.
At the Man-Machine Interaction group of the Delft University of Technology, I worked as a Postdoc on a temporary assignment on intelligent applications, ambient intelligence and ubiquitous computing. In the IOP/MMI SuperAssist project investigated the interaction between people (physicians, technicians and patients) and their personal assistants (agents) in the context of healthcare at home, focussing as a starting point on self-treatment of diabetes II.
Two years I have been intensely involved with my now spouse in the care of a mentally ill friend who dwelled somewhere at the intersection of severe depression, memory loss and dementia. From a Cognitive Ergonomist stance, the inability to learn and pay focussed attention into things makes it very difficult to support patients like my friend by (cf. computerised) cognitive prostheses.
After recovering from the evils of caring, I turned my attention to eduction. Briefly teaching ICT and statistics at a private (UK: public) school (HBO Nederland), I was employed as a (senior) lecturer and researcher Human Centered ICT / Media Technology at the School of Communication, Media and Information Technology of Rotterdam University of App. Sciences, until a collegue decided to present my research, visionary and educational work as his own in order to get a promotion; I reported his plagiarism to the management of the institute with the result that, eventually, I was kindly requested to leave. I utilised the opportunity to transform our house into a low-energy home (in Dutch: een duurzaam huis).
At present, I am active as a researcher in HCI, Ubiquitous Computing and Internet of Things and I am involved in Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences, an international English-speaking Business University, where I teach ICT-related courses such as database systems, statistics and information management.