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Digital Gazetteer Research and Practice: Call for Participation

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A 2 1/2-day workshop for the presentation, discussion, and summarization of current issues and opportunities

Convened by the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Redlands Institute. Sponsored by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Army Research Office

Location: Upham Hotel, Santa Barbara, California, USA
Dates: Early evening of Thursday, December 7, 2006 through late on Saturday December 9th (participants will depart early Sunday)

Application deadlines

30 September 2006: 1) A two-page expression of interest in the topics of the meeting, 2) A two-page resume. Both to be sent as email attachments to nga at ncgia . ucsb . edu.

15 October 2006: notification of acceptance.

Limited support is available to academic participants to cover the costs of travel (up to $600 domestic and $1000 international) and accommodation. Requests for support should be included with applications.

Organizing Committee


Michael F. Goodchild, University of California, Santa Barbara (Co-Chair)
Linda L. Hill, University of California, Santa Barbara (Co-Chair)
Allen Carroll, National Geographic Society
Tom Elliott, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
John R. Frank, MetaCarta Inc
Jim Frew, University of California, Santa Barbara
Bruce Gittings, University of Edinburgh
Jordan Hastings, University of California, Santa Barbara
Greg Janée, University of California, Santa Barbara
Christopher B. Jones, University of Cardiff
Naicong Li, Redlands Institute
David M. Mark, University at Buffalo
John Wilson, University of Southern California

Workshop structure and objectives

The workshop will focus on the role of digital gazetteers in georeferencing applications, starting with overviews of the state of the art and current activities, and leading to a consensus on the opportunities and directions for collaboration and the advancement of a research and practice agenda. Roughly 35 participants will be selected through a combination of open call and invitation. Ample time will be allocated to demonstrations, and to plenary and small-group discussion.

The workshop will have three focus areas

A. Components of gazetteer services

The three core elements of gazetteers – placenames, place categories, and geospatial locations – support the translation between informal georeferencing using placenames (“Santa Barbara”) and place categories (“city”) and the formal georeferencing of mathematical schemes (e.g., longitude and latitude coordinate systems). These elements plus explicit relationships between named geographic places and the identification of time frames for places and their characteristics are the fundamental components of digital gazetteers. Within the context of gazetteer services - such as support for enterprise georeferencing systems, geoparsing of text to derive spatial locations, navigation services, and support for geographic information retrieval (GIR) - the complexities of each of these components challenge the collection and use of gazetteer data. This session will explore such issues as:

  • appropriate generalization of the geospatial location
  • creation and sharing of category schemes for gazetteers
  • ccommodation for the variations and repetitions of placenames on a worldwide basis
  • effective treatment of the space-time linkages
  • integration of gazetteer data from multiple sources

B. Georeferencing as a process

Georeferencing by naming and categorizing natural and human-made geographic features is universal. The practice is highly influenced by individual strategies, local conventions, and requirements of particular applications. This session will explore studies that ferret out the nature of the motivations and practices of place naming and categorizing in individual, cultural, historical, information management, scientific, and business contexts and how they inform the construction and use of gazetteers and gazetteer services. This session will explore issues such as the following and their effect on the design of gazetteers and user interfaces to georeferencing services:

  • Natural vagueness of geographic referencing in common discourse
  • Role of context and point-of-view in the interpretation of geographic references
  • Interpretation of prepositional referencing (e.g., near, next to, left of) in information georeferencing
  • Cultural, political, linguistic, and disciplinary bases for dividing up the world and labeling the pieces (i.e., naming and typing)

C. Interoperable gazetteer services

Gazetteer data exists in many independent sources often dissimilar in construction and content, including:

  • Gazetteers of official toponymic authorities
  • Local, formally published, or special purpose gazetteers
  • Indexes accompanying atlases
  • Place identifier tables accompanying GIS datasets
  • Placename authority files used for cataloging and indexing
  • Historical printed gazetteers and encyclopedias
  • Online sources such as Wikipedia

This session will explore the requirements of gazetteer protocols and services to support interoperable access to and use of these distributed sources, taking into account such issues as:

  • Embedding gazetteer lookup capability in operational systems
  • Evaluating if two pieces of gazetteer data are about the same place when
  • names, types, spatial location, and time frame can all vary
  • Crosswalks between typing schemes
  • Placename translation

This session will also consider the steps needed to establish (1) an initial network of gazetteers as a platform for research and development, and (2) application software for the creation and maintenance of gazetteer data, including downloading, integrating, and documenting data from multiple sources.