Simulators derailed: Technology compatibility and social systems

Tibbits, Gregory (2013). Simulators derailed: Technology compatibility and social systems PhD Thesis, School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Tibbits, Gregory
Thesis Title Simulators derailed: Technology compatibility and social systems
School, Centre or Institute School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Lydia Kavanagh
Liza O'Moore
Lesley Jolly
Total pages 186
Total colour pages 8
Total black and white pages 178
Language eng
Subjects 1608 Sociology
0915 Interdisciplinary Engineering
Formatted abstract
Simulator technology is used for training purposes in a number of industries, including the rail industry. The technology is well received and much used in many industries, particularly the aviation industry, but in the rail industry it is not well accepted by its primary users, train drivers, and is not used to its full potential. The use and acceptance of the technology within the rail industry is the case of this thesis. The academic contribution of this thesis is the practical application of the concepts of capital, field and habitus to understanding the diffusion of technologies and the creation of a novel technique for visually demonstrating those concepts.

The diffusion of innovations framework as developed by Rogers’ is useful in understanding why technologies are used in different settings. Of key importance to this study is the perception of compatibility “the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters” (Rogers 2003, 15). Examination of compatibility can be problematic; it requires an understanding of perception, values, experiences and needs, which necessitate a cultural analysis. A theoretical framework to analyse culture proposed by Pierre Bourdieu was used in this study and in particular his concepts of capital, field and habitus are used to explain the compatibility and the use of the simulator.

Using Bourdieu’s concepts to address the diffusion of a technology and compatibility is novel research. Ethnography, including interviews and observations of the rail industry including train drivers, guards, instructors, and managers was performed to gather data. These data were analysed using the concepts of capital, field and habitus and from these interacting concepts, explanations for compatibility with simulator technology were developed. A modification and simplification of Bourdieu’s culture map concept was developed during this research, so that a robust Capital x Capital y culture map can be created using ranking survey data. This is a novel graphical representation of culture and a contribution to Bourdieu’s theory and its application.

The main finding of this study is that the rail industry is incompatible with simulator technology for training. In particular, the value and attitudes associated with training can explain much of the observed use and acceptance of simulator technology. A major academic contribution of the thesis is demonstration of the effectiveness of the Capital x Capital y (CxCy) culture map in describing and predicting technological compatibility.
Keyword Rail industry

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Created: Fri, 13 Dec 2013, 13:43:01 EST by Gregory Tibbits on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service