ing Theory and Practice through the Living Laboratory

The Intersection of User-Centered Design and Agile Software Development

D. Benjamin Hellar


In the context of government work, one of the current buzzwords in the industry is Big Data. Big data is a general term used to describe the set of problems that arise when humans try to perform sense-making and decision making on vast quantities of data (Van Dijck, 2014). In addition to the basic throughput and performance problems of system engineering, what makes Big Data such a ripe problem for human factors is determining the critical insight that is necessary for decision makers to achieve situational awareness in their domain.

In the domain of intelligence community, the problems of Big Data are exacerbated by two factors. First, the collection of intelligence is constantly growing—data are collected continuously from a variety of disparate sources and methods. Second the requirements for solutions are tightly coupled to their missions, which are, by their nature, highly specific with custom parameters (Hall & McMullen, 2004). Together these factors mean that building a solution for Big Data problems, requires an approach that is both agile to the changing technologies and methods of data collection, and tailored to the specific needs of the problem domain.

This chapter explains how the living laboratory framework can be used as a cognitive systems engineering approach to solving Big Data problems and how it works in tandem with agile software development methodologies. This chapter will show how the living laboratory framework enables cognitive system engineers to define, bound and decompose problems in order to develop innovative solutions. These solutions aim to provide the critical insight that enables decision makers to view the most salient aspects of a situation. Mastery of this domain results in the ability to provide a timely, actionable picture to users helping them to do their job faster, and to the best of their ability. In the domain of the intelligence community, this can mean the difference between life and death.

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