Design of joint systems: A theoretical challenge for cognitive systems engineering

Leena Norros, Leena Salo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper the “joint systems approach” will be discussed. The approach is considered as a new paradigm in cognitive systems engineering (CSE). Its central idea, that human and technology form a functional unity, is as such not new. Why, then, has this idea become so appealing right now? In the first part of the paper we seek answers to this question by analysing the current situation in product design. The conclusion is that the focus of design is shifting from single products to intelligent environments. This change in focus induces tensions into the design process that urge for solutions. One of them is re-conceptualising the relationship between human and technology, precisely what the joint system approach is about. Three different joint system approaches are considered: the joint cognitive systems approach (JCS), the Risö extended CSE approach, and the joint intelligent systems (JIS) approach proposed by us. Comparisons are made with regard to how these approaches understand the joint system to be organised. While the JCS approach focuses on the human–technology relationship, the other two consider this relationship as embedded in a context of object-oriented activity. As a consequence, environment becomes included in the joint system. In JIS approach we propose the use of the semiotic concept of habit to characterise the ways of functioning of the joint system. “Habit” is a tool for identifying generic patterns in the situation-specific behaviour of the system. Defining habits enables expressing the meaning or purpose of the system’s functioning. In the end of the paper, we propose a design process model for the development of JIS. This approach is aimed at designing systems in usage i.e. to design of practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-56
JournalCognition, Technology and Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cognitive systems engineering
  • Design of practice
  • Distributed cognitition
  • Ecological approach


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