Department of Geography
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83843
Position Paper for the Initiative 17: Collaborative Spatial Decision
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
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:
- what is a fundamental difference (is there any ?) between non-spatial
and spatial decision problems tackled by groups?
- what constitutes the set of SDSS-G tools? The common elements of GSS
include brainstorming, meeting organization, and consensus building tools.
Are there any tools not represented in GSS that should be included in SDSS-G?
- Is there a need for multiple criteria decision methods for groups
(MCDM-G) or are MCDM too complex to be used in group meeting situations?
There is a large number of both non-compensatory and compensatory decision
models that can be used for discrete decision problems (small number of
alternatives) by an individual decision maker. Researchers have been
integrating compensatory models (allowing to trade-off a poor performance
of alternative on one criterion for better performance on another
criterion) with GIS software to create spatial decision support tools.
The compensatory models, however, become burdensome for the user if the
number of criteria is large. These models could be replaced by new
compensatory MCDM techniques that will be more user friendly, especially
in eliciting the criterion trade-offs and decision maker preferences.
- New cartographic symbols and map types need to be developed to support
collaborative decision making. Some work on the development of maps for
collaborative facility location analysis has already been done (Armstrong
and Densham, 1995). More work needs to be done on developing symbols and
maps that can present group solutions and help in elicitation of
trade-offs between decision criteria. The examples of new maps include a
pairwise comparison map that could be used to support the elicitation of
trade-offs between criteria pairs, and a vote map which would present the
ranking position of each voted alternative. The group support maps may be
designed as interactive views combining hypertext, images, sound, and
- Integration of interactive maps and MCDM-G. The SDSS-G can include
interactive geographic visualization tools integrated with multiple
criteria decision models for groups. One such system has been already
developed at the Universities of Idaho and Washington. It is comprised of
a group decision support module and ArcView-2. The group decision support
module provides tools and methods for multiple criteria evaluation of
alternatives in private and public modes and it is linked through the
dynamic data exchange with the customized application in ArcView-2.
Thanks to the dynamic link, the solutions generated in the group decision
support module can be visualized in the real time on maps and images
developed in ArcView-2. The new solutions update, transparently to the
group members, maps such that spatial aspects of different solutions can
be compared. Maps in ArcView-2 also facilitate the elicitation of
evaluation criterion priorities.
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.
- Local vs. distributed (in space and time) collaborative spatial decision
making. The collaborative decision making that takes place in a meeting room
(local) is currently the most common form of group decision process. Other
forms, however, are also possible such as collaborative decision making
distributed in space or distributed in space and in time using the existing
technologies of videoconferencing and computer networks. The tools for space
and time distributed SDSS-G need to be developed, followed by the exploration
of the dynamics of distributed collaborative spatial decision making.
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:
DeSanctis, G., R.B. Gallupe. 1988. A Foundation for the Study of Group
Decision Support Systems. Management Science. Vol.33, No.5,
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.
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.