An organizational study into the concept of “automation policy” in a safety critical socio-technical system.
Although automation has been introduced in all areas of public life, what seems to be missing is a reflection at the organizational or societal level about a policy of automation. By this we intend appropriate declarations made at the level of rationale, future plans and strategies to achieve intended goals and most importantly how those achievements will impact on various aspects of societal life, from legal responsibilities to moral and socio economic issues. Implicit in this is what is expected of both the human and technical system actors. In some public spheres these issues are becoming quite controversial because automation opens up possibilities of profound structural re-organization; however, we lack a discussion across and within different work domains to help us review methods or even methodological principles needed to gather and organize knowledge towards the construction of automation policies. This paper uses the UK Air Navigation Service Provider in the Air Traffic Management Domain known as NATS, as a case study to illustrate an example of an organization currently undertaking critical self-reflection about automation policy or the lack of such, along with the illustration of some unresolved deep concerns raised by the development, introduction, and continued use of automation.