Technologies of the operator : engineering the pilot in the U.S. and Japan, 1930-1960
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
David A. Mindell.
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This study examines the assemblage of scientific knowledge, engineering practices, measuring instruments, and civilian and military institutions in the U.S. and Japan that went into the construction of the machine operator as a historically situated category of person in the midtwentieth century. Over the three decades from 1930 to 1960, American psychologists, physiologists, anthropologists, and engineers produced a large body of knowledge, instruments, and techniques with which to understand, select, and train aircraft pilots. The figure of the pilot thus constructed was less of a "flier" engaged in speedy movements and adventures than of an "operator" with disciplined attention and posture. The conditions that constituted the aircraft operator were multifarious: spatial, virtual, psychological, anthropometrical, political, and cultural. I first examine the Link Trainer, a ground-based flight trainer, and explore how the meaning of "flying" shifted with the use of instrument flying technique and the experience of simulated training on the ground. Then I show how psychologists redefined flying from a problem of movement to a problem of attention in their research on pilot selection tests, especially by contrasting the validity of physiological tests and psychomotor tests. Concurrently, physical anthropologists were articulating two different ways of relating the pilot's body to flying; one was the correlation between physique and one's success as a pilot and the other was the dimensional configuration of the body in the space of the cockpit. In postwar Japan, this American notion of the pilot served as the model for Japanese pilots, who embraced American norms and conventions for flying after a long ban on aviation. Even the bodies of Japanese pilots were measured and compared with those of Americans. As the scientists and engineers in postwar America extended wartime knowledge and techniques to study various situations of machine operation, aircraft pilots also came to stand for human individuals more generally, forming the conceptual basis of human factors engineering or ergonomics. Through this expansion and generalization of the pilot, a particular type of human-the one who operates machines through displays and controls-came into being as an object of study and control.
Thesis (Ph. D. in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS))--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 2010.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (p. 375-398).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.