Design of a Data-Driven Micro-Display for Situation Awareness in Bursty Environments (When Not Much Is Happening Most of the Time)
Operation of a complex system places high task demands on the human operator, who must maintain an intricate mental model highly aligned with the changing system state. Because this continuously-operating system consists of numerous interconnected components with feedback separated in time and space, the expert operator must maintain situation awareness to be able to provide reliable real-time monitor and control of the system. One instance of this complex environment is the Deep Space Network, a sophisticated worldwide network of telecommunication equipment used by NASA. Operators integrate distributed system information in real time, where operational failure can harm personnel, equipment, mission-critical data, and/or spacecraft, resulting in an operational challenge of situation awareness. In-depth research in operability led to the characterization of the operators' ``bursty'' work environment in which long periods of low cognitive demand were punctuated by bursts of high activity. To address situation awareness in the bursty environment, I applied user-centered and participatory design techniques to elicit information requirements and build a data-driven micro-display called the Postage Stamp, paying specific attention to enabling effective transition between low and high levels of workload. In the field, operators grasped the Postage Stamp's function and utility, and memorized it for future use. Based on the experiences, the contributions of this dissertation are a new type of display, driven by data and designed for the operator's situation awareness needs; and design guidelines for building a display to increase situation awareness in bursty environments.