Usability within the digital battlefield : usability issues as applied to the digitised battlefield within a Southern African military context

De Jager, Madia (Madia Martie) (2002-03)

Thesis (MComm)--University of Stellenbosch, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Defence forces around the world are experiencing a period of dynamic change with new force structures being combined with new technologies in an effort to enhance effectiveness. Present day resources and technology available to the modern society, have facilitated the evolution of warfare as a technologically advanced enterprise, with the decided emphasis on the digitisation of the battlefield. With rapid development in the field of battlefield digitisation there is an increasing need to address the important issues and challenges facing the military. In order to meet strategic defence guidelines, it is necessary to integrate the capabilities of defence forces with modern technology. In this regard the South African Defence Force is striving towards the digitisation of the battlefield. This digitisation can potentially satisfy the many requirements set for the Defence Force, in a more timely and cost-effective manner than traditional methods of functioning and training would be able to achieve. Effective situational awareness and command and control structures are essential for any military operation, especially with increasingly complex military demands. Key areas of importance are the collection, dissemination and management of information, which if executed skilfully, will result in forces capable of operating more effectively and with greater flexibility. Decision makers on the battlefield continually suffer from information overload due to the extremely rapid inflow of information. This is likely to worsen with the continued introduction of new information technologies. The technology level of any defence force should therefore be appropriate, driven by usefulness and cost-effectiveness. The digitised battlefield allows for the execution of near realistic military exercises, while conserving material and reducing the detrimental impact on environment and personnel, as is the case with traditional exercises. A key issue of focus is the usability and integration of related technologies within the digital battlefield. Promoting optimal usability through continuous and comprehensive user-based evaluation is crucial and will result in increased human performance through interaction with technology. Optimal usability must be engineered into any product (defined as something produced by means of either human or mechanical work) from the inception of the product's life cycle. Within today's technology orientated society, the digitisation of the battlefield and the usability thereof have become increasingly important issues. Most research has investigated the concepts of battlefield digitisation and usability in isolation, and little co-ordinated effort has been made to integrate digitisation and usability, even though the relation is important and necessary. A study of this nature has not hitherto been conducted within the South African military context. The purpose of this study is to provide a theoretical background of the issues of military digitisation and usability, in order to determine the significance of this relation. This research aims specifically to promote the viewpoint that usability is central to military digitisation, as well as to emphasise the importance of user-centred approaches to system development and utilization. The result will be enhanced human performance and satisfaction when interacting with digital battlefield applications. The theoretical perspective is provided by way of a literature review of the relevant military and usability concepts. Military functioning is discussed, highlighting the importance of situational awareness and effective command and control capabilities. The digitisation in the military is examined with specific reference to Virtual Reality and simulation. An overview of usability (within a human-computer interaction and user-centred design context) and usability evaluation methods are provided. This research was conducted during a military exercise conducted by the South African National Defence Force. A usability inquiry approach was followed with questionnaires distributed to participants involved with the Command and Control Digital Battlefield System. Information was obtained concerning participants' characteristics, likes, dislikes, needs, and understanding of the digital battlefield system. The analyses of the information consisted of descriptive statistics as the research aimed to illustrate the attitudes concerning usability and the digital battlefield. The results provide an understanding of the perceptions of the users regarding the digital battlefield system and its usability. Conclusions are drawn from results obtained and recommendations are made for future research.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Moderne weermagte deur die wereld ervaar tans 'n peri ode van dinamiese verandering met nuwe magstrukture wat met nuwe tegnologiee gekombineer word ter bevordering van doeltreffendheid. Die hedendaagse hulpbronne en tegnologie tot die moderne samelewing se beskikking, het meegebring dat oorlogvoering ontwikkel het in 'n tegnologies gevorderde aksie met die klem op gevegsterrein-digitalisering. Die betreding van 'n era van tegnologies gevorderde oorlogvoering met die gepaardgaande snelle ontwikkelings in die veld van gevegsterrein digitalisering, het 'n toenemend groeiende behoefte laat ontstaan vir die indringende aanspreking van belangrike strydvrae en uitdagings wat 'n moderne weermag in die gesig staar.Tiit is noodsaaklik dat die vermoens van weermagte geintegreer word met moderne tegnologie ten einde aan strategiese verdedigingsvereistes te kan voldoen. Die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag het digitalisering van die gevegsterrein ten doel. Sodanige digitalisering kan potensieel die talle vereistes gestel aan 'n weermag op 'n meer tydige en koste-effektiewe wyse bevredig as wat met tradisionele metodes van funksionering en opleiding gedoen kan word. Effektiewe situasionele bewustheid en bevel en beheer strukture, is onontbeerlik in enige militere operasie, veral in die lig van toenemende komplekse eise gestel aan die moderne weermag. Sleutelareas van belang is die insameling, disseminasie en bestuur van inligting, wat as dit met die nodige insig en kundigheid uitgevoer word, aanleiding sal gee tot die verhoogde doeltreffendheid en buigsaamheid van 'n weermag. Die tegnologiese vlak van enige weermag behoort dus toepaslik en bruikbaar te wees, sowel as koste-effektief gedrewe. Die gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein maak vcorsiening vir die uitvoering van bykans-realistiese militere oefeninge met behoud van material en grootskaalse uitskakeling van die negatiewe invloede op die omgewing en personeel, meer so as wat andersins die geval sou wees met tradisionele oefeninge. 'n Sleutel-aspek is die bruikbaarheid en integrasie van verwante tegnologiee in 'n gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein. Die bevordering van optimale bruikbaarheid deur aaneenlopende en omvattende gebruikersbaseerde evaluasies, is deurslaggewend en sal lei tot verhoogde gebruiker prestasie betreffende interaksie met tegnologie. Optimale bruikbaarheid moet reeds vanaf die aanvang van 'n produk se lewenssiklus, bewerkstellig word. In die hedendaagse tegnologie-gebaseerde moderne same lewing, het digitalisering van die gevegsterrein en die bruikbaarheid daarvan, toenemend belangrik geword. In die meeste navorsmg word gevegsterrein digitalisering, asook bruikbaarheid, afsonderlik ondersoek, onafgesien van die belangrike verwantskap daartussen, en slegs geringe gekoordineerde pogings is van stapel gestuur om digitalisering en bruikbaarheid te integreer. In die Suid-Afrikaanse rnilitere konteks is so 'n studie nog nie uitgevoer nie en derhalwe het hierdie studie ten doel om 'n teoretiese agtergrond te voorsien van militere digitalisering- en bruikbaarheidskwessies, asook die vasstelling van die verwantskap daartussen. Hierdie navorsing het spesifiek ten doel om die standpunt te bevorder dat bruikbaarheid sentraal staan tot militere digitalisering sowel as om die gebruiker-gebaseerde benadering tot sisteem ontwikkeling en benutbaarheid, te bevorder. Die resultaat sal verhoogde gebruikerprestasie en tevredenheid wees wanneer interaksie met gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein toepassings plaasvind. Die teoretiese perspektief word voorsien deur 'n literatuur-oorsig van die relevante rnilitere- en bruikbaarheidskonsepte. Militere funksionering word bespreek met beklemtoning van die belang van situasionele bewustheid en doeltreffende bevel en beheer vermoens, Militere digitalisering word ondersoek met spesifieke verwysing na virtuele realiteit en simulasie. 'n Oorsig van bruikbaarheid (binne die konteks van mens-rekenaar interaksie en gebruikersgeorienteerde ontwerp) sowel as bruikbaarheidsevaluasie-metodes word voorsien. Hierdie navorsing is uitgevoer tydens 'n militere oefening van die Suid-Afrikaanse Nasionale Weermag. 'n Bruikbaarheidsondersoek-benadering is gevolg deur vraelyste uit te deel aan die deelnemers wat betrokke was by die gedigitaliseerde bevel en beheer stelsel. Informasie is ingewin betreffende die deelnemers se kenmerke, persepsies, voorkeure, afkeure, behoeftes en begrip van die gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein-stelsel. Die analise van die informasie het beskrywende statistieke behels omdat die navorsing ten doe I gehad het om ingesteldhede betreffende bruikbaarheid en die gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein, uit te lig. Die resultate voorsien 'n begrip van die persepsies van die gebruikers rakende die gedigitaliseerde gevegsterrein, en die bruikbaarheid daarvan. Gevolgtrekkings word gemaak vanuit die resultate verkry en aanbevelings word voorsien vir verdere toekomstige navorsing.

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