THE ROLE OF ERGONOMICS IN THE DESIGN
OF FUTURE CITIES
Andree Woodcock
Coventry University, UK
Recruiting students onto ergonomics courses continues to be difficult
despite clear business cases being presented for the importance of
ergonomics as a driver in organisational effectiveness and safety and
its crucial role in securing inclusivity and usability in product design.
Growth requires concerted efforts to make our discipline relevant
to contemporary society. One way of achieving this is presented,
through linking ergonomics to citizen centred design of future cities.
Introduction
This paper stems from the assertion that collectively, and with adequate resources
humankind has the ability to solve many of the wicked problems (Rittel, 1973) or
grand challenges faced at local, national and international levels. Whilst research
and development investment has addressed piecemeal solutions, insufficient atten-
tion has been given to the inclusive implementation of these. Ergonomics/human
factors can address this gap by extending the principles of user centred and partici-
patory design to the creation of inclusive cities and by ensuring that all citizens are
included in changes (transitions).
Current global ‘grand challenges’ include ageing, sustainability, digital and eco-
nomic divisions. Common across these is the need for substantial individual and
collective behavioural change. Governments and international agencies create and
agree international targets, which drive cycles of research and development. In
these, a shared vision is created with the expectation that (frequently technological)
solutions will be created which fulfill the requirements of, or lead to, the envisioned
future. However, in reality, R and D funding streams favour short term solutions,
are heavily technology led, have limited opportunities for fundamental research,
user centred design, long term evaluation and do not produce integrated systems.
Using transport as an example, in 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change
reported that an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions was needed from developed
countries in order to reduce their impact on global warming. In order for the UK
to achieve this target by 2050, the transport sector, currently responsible for a
third of carbon dioxide emissions, will need to make significant reductions in
transport emissions (RAE, 2010). This may be achieved through a combination of
technologicaland behavioural solutions supported by policy making which changes
the nature of mobility and the driving task. In this sector, automotive ergonomics is
http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/b13826-47
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204 A. Woodcock
Figure 1. Transitional societies (1a, 1b and 1c).
valued in terms of making vehicles safer, more comfortable, usable and inclusive
and predicting the behavioural demands of autonomous vehicles etc.
Such solution led approaches may not achieve the level of changes demanded for a
fundamental, step change. Ergonomics can appear to be limited (and unattractive
to potential students) if it services technological innovation. Taking a user centred
approach, which puts the citizen and their needs first (Maslow, 1943) can be used
to drive the necessary societal innovation and restructuring. The unrecognised,
crosscutting challenge is how can all sectors of society move from ‘the here’, to
the shared vision of ‘there’. Figure 1a represents the ‘ideal path’. In Figure 1b, the
shared vision of the future state becomes more complicated as it is recognised that
proposed solutions only partly fulfil requirements and the notional future state is
changed (in the light of evolving knowledge and understanding). Bridging the gap
requires the development of inclusive implementation strategies which will ensure
that citizens are able to transit in the direction needed, are supported in this and are
not disadvantaged by their (in)actions.
Figure 1c, recognizes that the initial conceptualization of the present state may have
been erroneous and that there is no plan to move from ‘here’to ‘there’. Ergonomics
can provide a richer understanding of the here (i.e. through understanding of peo-
ple’s characteristics and motivations), primarily applied to the design of products
and systems which contribute to the ‘there’. Grand challenges require that soci-
eties (and their embodiment in cities), not just products, be redesigned. With
its focus on UCD, (particularly macro and participatory ergonomics e.g. Haines
et al, 2002) health and well being, user centred design principles and standards,
ergonomics could make a significant contribution to the development of inclusive,
transgenerational societies from the bottom up. As a discipline, the problem for
us is whether we would be welcomed by those already engaged in re-engineering
the future, where we can add value, and our willingness to work in cross disci-
plinary teams, e.g. with the design community through the Living Lab Network
(http://www.openlivinglabs.eu/).
The transition gap to be addressed and its implications
The transition gap will always be problematic and as such non inclusive; not all
people share the same goal, are willing or able to move at the same rate; solutions

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