2010

This thesis explores the possibility of drawing on a Foucauldian archaeological approach to critically reflect on some of the discursive practices that the disciplines of human factors and safety science are promoting. As such, it asks what insights Foucault’s archaeological analysis of objects can provide these practically oriented disciplines. Specifically, this thesis develops and presents a number of ways to apply Foucault’s archaeological level of description to study the constitution and discursive functioning of some prominent objects of the human factors and safety sciences discourses: it chiefly focuses on situation awareness (SA) and later expands the scope by analysing safety culture and resilience as objects of knowledge. Through their archaeological description of the constitution of situation awareness, in terms of the ‘rules of formation’ and ‘condition of possibilities’ for the formation of the object, the first two studies argue that situation awareness is not a natural object, but rather a historically contingent object that emerges as both a condition and an effect of the need to make the human part of our socio-technological systems more susceptible to analysis. Similarly, the studies into safety culture and resilience describe the constitution of their respective objects and then go on to discuss the effects that these objects have. Both studies conclude that the objects function in a manner to place the responsibility for safety on individual workers.