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Abstract

There are many challenges in developing information systems to support information intensive collaborative work such as weather forecasting. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has instituted the forecast streamlining and enhancement project (FSEP) for its next generation of meteorological information systems (MetIS) and significantly, has recognized the critical importance of grounding new MetIS in a thorough understanding of the weather forecasting process. This poses a major challenge for researchers due to the forecasters’ very busy 24/7 deadline-driven working environment and from the fact that critical information requirements arise from the situated, embodied and distributed nature of cognitive interactions between forecasters. This paper explores the utility of distributed cognition (Dcog) theory as one approach to overcome these research challenges and generate insights for the design of the Bureau’s next generation of MetIS. At the theoretical level, Dcog theory allows for the capture and validation of design insights through observing cognitive behavior viewed as a system of individuals interacting within their material environment. At the methodological level, the data collection techniques deployed captures the complex socio-technical nature of forecasters’ information sharing without interrupting their work. This paper highlights the utility of Dcog theory in sensitizing designers to the cognitive implications of changes to information systems and/or work processes and how the use of Dcog can empower user centered design methodologies.

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