Piotr Jankowski
Department of Geography
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83843

Position Paper for the Initiative 17: Collaborative Spatial Decision Making.

Many decisions concerning development, planning, and the management of environment are complex issues requiring the cooperation of various involved parties. Examples of such decision situations include habitat restoration and economic redevelopment problems. These types of problems are characterized by a slow decision making process evolving through a series of meetings, many of them public involving multiple stake holders that represent conflicting interests and agendas. The goal of decision making process in these situations is to seek a solution that can provide a compromise acceptable to the majority of stake holders. The information describing various aspects of the problem is the key to finding consensus solution. The effectiveness of information used by group members may directly effect the outcome of decision making process.

The relationship between the tools and techniques used for structuring and presenting information about the decision problem and their effect on problem solving and decision making performance of teams was noted in many studies on Group Support Systems (Galegher et al., 1990, Bowers and Benford, 1991, Jessup and Valacich, 1993). Their authors tried to discover if the use of information technologies had any positive impact on the effectiveness of group decision making measured by such indicators as: decision outcome satisfaction and the time it takes a group to converge on the consensus solution. Mixed results were found in regard to the benefits of information technology supporting group decision making. Much of the mixed results were most certainly due to differences in the character of the group, different research methods used, and differences in the information technology being tested. These studies also established two important findings:

1) the larger the group the more effective computer decision support systems are, and

2) due to learning effects, the effectiveness of computer-aided group support grows over time.

Many conceptual designs and empirical research questions developed in the field of Group Support Systems can be applied to Spatial Decision Support Systems for Groups (SDSS-G). This is because collaborative non-spatial decision making has similar conceptual characteristics to collaborative spatial decision making. In both cases it is an activity involving a group of people who are jointly responsible for generating possible solutions, evaluating potential solutions, or formulating strategies for implementing solutions (DeSanctis and Gallupe, 1988). The research issues that are more specific to spatial domain are related to the effects of combining tools for structuring and presenting spatial information (maps) with tools for presenting non-spatial information (decision models). The following specific questions/issues may become a part of research agenda in collaborative spatial decision making:

The development of such integrated tools presents not only the design and implementation challenges, but more even so an opportunity to explore the basic research question about the dynamics of collaborative spatial decision making supported by the geographic groupware software.


Armstrong, M.P., P.J. Densham. 1995. Cartographic Support for Collaborative Spatial Decision-Making. Proceedings of Auto-Carto 12. In press.

Bowers, J.M., S.D. Benford (Eds.) 1991. Studies in Computer Supported Cooperative Work Theory, Practice, and Design. New York: North-Holland.

DeSanctis, G., R.B. Gallupe. 1988. A Foundation for the Study of Group Decision Support Systems. Management Science. Vol.33, No.5, pp.589-609.

Galegher, J., R.E. Kraut, C. Egido. (Eds.) 1990. Intellectual Teamwork: Social and Technological Foundations of Cooperative Work. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Jessup, L.M., J.S. Valacich. 1993. Group Support Systems: New Perspectives. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Biographical Note

Piotr Jankowski is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at University of Idaho. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from University of Washington, in 1989, and M.S. degree in Econometrics and Operations Research from the School of Economics in Poznan, Poland. His current professional activities include teaching and externally funded research in the area of GIS, computer mapping, and collaborative spatial decision support systems. Dr. Jankowski has nine years of experience in the areas of computer mapping and GIS applications, mathematical programming, systems simulation modeling, and multiple criteria decision making methods.