Professional bias: seeing workarounds and violations in motorcycle traffic

A few days ago I was spending some time in Genova waiting for a train, for about an hour looking out the hotel window at the traffic, the city moving about. The motorcycle parking caught my attention…


parcheggio motorini july 2018

Since early morning, it seemed constantly fully occupied. There were more scooters than parking slots, with coming and goings, a few leaving, more coming to park. And then with my professional bias (deformazione professionale) I started to see that there were lots of opportunities for ‘workarounds’, as usually known in the health informatics literature.

If you look at the use of space in the parking, there is clearly a ‘desire line’ observable in the middle, with an ordered line of scooters. Sooters in line still enable going up and down to park – thus an acceptable violation to traffic rules.

A scooter among them is parked out of line, partly blocking access. This seems to me a less acceptable workaround because lacking collective mindfulness (sensitivity to others’ operations) (Weick et al).

Different people approached the parking problem in different ways. One person left the scooter at the entrance, walked up to the end to check for available slots, and then motored in. A man got off his scooter, readjusted the position of another one that was parked with just enough space on the side, and then slotted his in. A woman entered from the end side of the parking, driving up and then down the footpath, closer to a free spot. A man, apparently knowing he would only stay for about 10 minutes, gave up looking for a space and parked his on the side road, by a yellow line.

It seems most people were at least attempting to park ‘correctly’, and avoid a potential fine. Though I suppose, those not in between white lines (the official parking slots) would still be considered a ‘violation’, at least in the traffic law book and in the workaround literature.

As I was thinking of writing down my reflections on what I was observing, I also realised how difficult it is to describe in words the movements in space of people and machines, the physical handling of lack of space.

And I also wondered whether there is anything I can learn from observing people dealing with scooters in road space, that could be translated to people dealing with computers in hospital space. Perhaps the acceptability of ‘violations’ when mindful of others’ needs and constraints.


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