Horizon Blog

A SOCIO-TECHNICAL APPROACH TO MISSING INCIDENTS

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James Pinchin: “I’ve very much enjoyed supervising Kyle Harrington throughout his studies investigating human search behaviour in emergency situations in order to facilitate the development of safer walking technologies for vulnerable people. Co-supervised by Prof. Sarah Sharples, Kyle is based within the Human Factors Research Group and Horizon Digital Economy Research.  Kyle’s research was sponsored by Phillips Research”.

A Socio-Technical approach to missing incidents

Every year the police receive around a quarter of a million reports of missing people in England and Wales alone. Whilst the vast majority of those who become missing return home safely; people with additional care and support needs are far more likely to suffer from physical, emotional or psychological harm. Missing Incidents are not only traumatic for those involved, but are also likely to contribute to overall public spending; both with respect to the resources required for Missing Person searches, but also due to the increased likelihood of the breakdown of familial care following difficult to manage behaviours. Effective responses to these incidents are imperative, but there is little academic research which explores how these practices could be improved and no work at all investigating the decision-making of carers or parents during these incidents.

In his recently submitted thesis, Kyle Harrington draws together several disparate research areas, alongside original research, which helps to elucidate how those responsible for a person with care and support needs search, navigate and make decisions under stress. The work described in his thesis represents an attempt at a systematic understanding of how missing incidents unfold, how decision-making within missing incidents can be predicated, and ultimately what can be done to address the problem. With a focus on decision-making and technology; the thesis uses a three stage approach to describe, predict and address the problem of Missing Incidents. Several key design recommendations were produced which are intended to inform the design of new technologies for supporting missing person searches and may be of use to technology developers, policy-makers, care providers and other stakeholders

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