Reference: David Wastell, Sue White, Sue Peckover et al., Microworld simulation in childcare social work: investigating risk, blame and performance management. In: Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford e-Research 08:OeR08.Citable link to this page:
Abstract: The authors are currently engaged in a study of error and blame in local authority children's services funded under the ESRC, Public Services Programme. The study focuses on the impact of various forms of ICT-enabled performance management on day to day practice and involves the development of a computer based interactive simulation of decision-making loci. Thus, this paper thus engages with the conference themes in two ways: (1) It examines the impact of ICT based systems of recording, audit and surveillance on everyday practice, including HCI (2) It uses ICTs to simulate and gather data about the practical reasoning employed by social workers when making decisions in a high risk, high blame environment. Simulations have a long standing place in the science of decision-making. Here we deploy the simulation to a different end - as a generative device for stimulating human behaviour in order to study its properties. In particular, we are concerned with the post hoc reasoning whereby emergent errors are rationalised. If errors are hard to observe in the "blooming, buzzing confusion" of real work, it is nonetheless possible to contrive errors within a designed 'reality'. Computer-based simulations, known as "micro-worlds", have been extensively used in technical domains, such as industrial process control, ship's bridge operation, or firefighting and increasingly in medicine. They enable the performance of human decisionmakers to be studied in ecologically realistic but controllable conditions, where independent variables can be manipulated and their impact observed. In this paper, we describe in detail the methods we developed to design and populate the micro-world with material derived from our ethnographic work. We will also present findings from the ethnographic and experimental phases of the project to address issues of intelligence and accountability and how these interact with the pressing problematics of 'the day job' in child welfare.
|Publication status:||Not Published|
|Peer Review status:||Not peer reviewed|
|Copyright Holder:||The authors|