|Acknowledgements||Table of Contents||Sections 1-3||Section 4||Sections 5-6|
This session started by trying to identify the classes of problems in which CSDM can be used and to map these problems to appropriate tools. The set of problems identified ranged from specific to general and included: discrete spatial choice and the need to represent values and preferences; managing uncertainty and error; generation of alternatives and the expansion of the choice set; information filtering and management; accommodating multiple value systems; providing for information demand and data browsing; interacting spatial decisions; resistance to decision-making through consensus building; education about the problem or decision-making procedures; and, optimizing service delivery. Mapping of problems to tools proved difficult and a related mapping of tools to a four-way classification of space and time (same vs. different on both dimensions) was begun. Sub-topics were identified for a number of problems and discussion then moved to a consideration of whether there were any grand themes in these problems. Several were identified, including spatial search, representation issues, generating and analyzing alternatives, process management, and the need to decompose the problem context to achieve the desired mapping to tools.
This group met to discuss how a possibly disparate set of users would be able to interact with software in a collaborative setting. The group felt that research should focus on the human dynamics of collaboration, rather than the technology per se, because while the technology will change rapidly, the dynamics of human behavior will not. The first issue that was presented concerned the level of intervention that would be appropriate in a particular context. By intervention, it is meant that the system would possibly provide a context-sensitive structure that enables users who are otherwise unfamiliar with a system to navigate through it. Three levels of intervention were specified. The first, and most simple, is to replicate a path - the user is guided along a deterministic sequence of steps. The second is to present alternatives to the user who selects from among them. The third is to provide a critique of the process.
A second issue addressed is related to configurability. Different individuals, as well as different groups, have different views of a problem and its representation. One way to consider configurability is to specify a set of generic operations that would encompass the types of operations, information access and user tasks that need to be supported by the system. If this list is compiled and made available it can be structured hierarchically to provide different "depths" of intervention. This presumes, however, that an analysis of the tasks required to accomplish goals has been conducted.
The group decided that task analyses would prove useful in accomplishing the goal of supporting intervention. A taxonomy of usage patterns is required that is organized around the topology of time and space (same-place and same-time to different-place and different-time). Some of the most difficult problems result from "small" changes: moving from two people working together on a map in one office to working on the same map in different offices, for example. Task analysis would also help to identify a series of primitives - generic operations that support information access and user tasks. When working on a map, for example, people often want to show or highlight some information, add or remove information, or otherwise manipulate the map's content. The group also recognized that there are user and organizational characteristics that might color the process in which tasks are attempted.
Finally, the group considered the effect of roles. Different roles, such as facilitator or mediator would need to be supported in a way that would best enable them to accomplish their tasks. One of the roles of participants, for example, is to understand a problem so that it can be defined and alternatives generated and evaluated. A key element in this process is learning that enables users to understand their problem better. One group member recounted how when a group of people were shown an aerial photograph of their town, they were amazed at the amount of green space that they saw; they had never before seen such a display and it changed their perception of the problem.
This group attempted to come to terms with the institutional contexts in which CSDM systems might be used. In large part, the group was stymied by a lack of context: it was not evident what processes must be supported. Who should be involved in a decision is context-driven and cannot be discussed in a generic sense; indeed, even the set of tools that is made available for use is contextually-conditioned.
Any system has embedded within it an implicit and explicit character - its "spirit." Furthermore, a system has an embedded political structures that it supports. Discussion of this issue raised several questions:
The group started by acknowledging that a single problem formulation can be addressed by groups in a variety of contexts and that this might affect how the decision process is structured. Thus, a group of friends might proceed in a very different manner to one in which all the members are strangers. To support groups with varying characteristics, systems must be designed to accommodate a range of constraints. Such constraints can be placed in three classes: environmental, procedural and structural. Whilst environmental constraints define the context of the decision process, procedural constraints determine how the process evolves and structural constraints define the capabilities of a CSDM system's tools. These three types of constraints interact.
An attempt was made to try and decompose the three types of constraint into their constituent elements. It was recognized, however, that this would require picking specific examples of CSDM and decomposing them in a comparative analysis to see what is common and what is unique to each case.
Further discussion focused on using the three types of constraint as the axes of a "constraint" space. The labels of the axes were refined to reflect the group's idea that the space is better thought of as an "interaction" space that captures more of the richness of CSDM. Thus, the dimensions were relabelled as: institutional (environmental), activity (process), and physical setting (structural).
The group identified four researchable questions:
Discussion in this session began with an attempt to develop a group understanding of what was being meant by the term "multiple representations". A number of different aspects were discussed, including views versus models, internal versus external, interests versus positions. The group did not develop a definitive answer to "What is a representation?" but concluded that there are mental (including psychological, social, cultural and cognitive aspects), visual and computational perspectives. A second fundamental question, then, was "How to represent?" Should we use just maps or should we include language, databases, tables, graphics and GIS models? After setting this framework, the group quickly developed the following research questions:
This group considered two issues and their interaction: process intervention and differential empowerment. The first issue addresses the problem of agency. The way in which software is written, the types of tasks supported and the level of access that individuals have to different data will all condition and shape the nature of discussion. The group considered the idea that software and the manner in which systems are used force designers to face and make complex trade-offs between simplicity and complexity, and flexibility and structure. For example, if the system is structured and participants take issue with the structure, then the system will be viewed unfavorably. If, however, a multiple-level system were available, and users could change between levels of structure, this additional flexibility would contribute to usability.
The act of participation in decision-making processes provided one motivation for the discussion of empowerment. Two aspects of access were considered: access to technology in a public decision-making context and what might be called "conceptual access" - in the sense that individuals who are unfamiliar with computer use and with geographical concepts would be disadvantaged relative to others who have more specialized training in these areas. There is a possibility (a likelihood even) that an "information underclass" could arise as a consequence. In fact, the willingness of individuals to engage in a debate would be affected if they view themselves as likely losers in a technology-supported debate.
The group identified a series of researchable questions:
The group attempted to define approaches that could be used to evaluate the success of implemented CSDM environments. These metrics were stratified into metrics that can be used to measure the degree of participation, and the quality of the solution and the process that generated it. Discussion of metrics of participation focused on how to measure the number of participants as well as the amount of participation by each person. While metrics of solution quality measure the quantitative differences between pairs of alternatives, metrics of the quality of solution processes must include factors such as the number and type of deadlocks, user satisfaction, and the degree to which participants evaluated a range of non-trivial solutions.
The group identified the following research questions:
Because this group was large, it divided into two subgroups that reconvened prior to the plenary session to synthesize their discussions. The first idea that was discussed concerned the use of existing strategies for collaboration as analogies that could be developed into computer-mediated processes. Blackboards, for example, enable people to write over the top of someone else's material and gestures, which are effective ways of communicating, are often lost in computer-supported decision-making contexts. Because it is often useful to employ graphical "gestures," such as circling an area to draw attention to it, either to indicate agreement or disagreement, the idea of a spatial markup language was advanced.
Theories of argumentation were proposed as a mechanism to frame discussion about the kinds of actions that might need to be supported in CSDM environments. The provision of different types of bargaining tools, for example, might be appropriate in different contexts. One questions that arises is "What role could agents play in negotiation?" Agents would need to be trained to help a user clearly advocate their particular approach to problem-solving.
One topic of discussion that emerged from both groups was the maintenance of audit trails that support the reconstruction of the sequence of actions and activities that led to a particular outcome. These audit trails would need to be time-stamped to determine when different actions were taken and might prove useful during discussions about why particular results are judged to be superior to others.
The group identified the following researchable questions:
A commonly-adopted strategy for addressing semi-structured problems is to generate and evaluate a number of alternative solutions, or solution processes. Thus, a computer-supported system must facilitate the generation of alternatives. The group discussed the metaphor of genetic evolution to describe the process in which certain activities, processes and solutions are judged to be "fit" given other possible paths. Given a particular starting point, a solution or solution process could be perturbed to mimic a new generation in a genetically mixed population. This perturbation could be viewed as a mutation. If this process is allowed to advance through several generations, "fitness" can be evaluated at each step. Only those elements that are judged to be most fit at each step are further perturbed and allowed to propagate. In this way, fruitful and promising paths to solutions could be generated.
This group identified four researchable questions:
This session began with each participant briefly stating his or her definition of "representation." It became apparent that the resulting definitions needed a cognitive framework - finally expressed by Mike Shiffer in the following diagram. Each of the four corners of the diamond identify different aspects of representation, each aspect is linked to the adjacent one through some transformation process (indicated by the uni-directional arrows). Thus, it seems possible to evaluate representation from many different perspectives. Each aspect is individually rich in research opportunities while the links between adjacent corners also provide fruitful areas for research.
A number of research questions were identified:
The group considered two barriers that must be overcome to improve the use of CSDM software. The first barrier is latency that can be divided into two types. The first concerns system performance: if response times increase as complex models are developed and used, then the number of alternatives that can be considered in a same-time, same-place context is reduced. This could lead to decreased user satisfaction with the system. The second type of latency considered centers on the issue of tool preparation. The group discussed the idea of successive refinement of models: it may be possible to use "quick-and-dirty" models in the earliest stages of a continuous process of decision-making but later on, as the decision-process unfolds, effort can be focused on the development of those models that show the most promise. Marginal cost was suggested as one mechanism for determining the relative suitability of tool preparation and use.
The second barrier discussed by the group was distance. Participants raised
the issue of asynchronicity of use and discussed a possible environment in
which individuals could enter and leave the decision-making process that would
take place in a shared environment. The metaphor of a MUD (multi-user
dungeons) game was discussed in this vein.
Presented by Thomas Gordon
This group examined the ways in which alternative theoretical frameworks could
be brought to bear on CSDM problems. Three main theoretical stances were
discussed: economics and decision theory; argumentation theory and dialectics;
and adaptive structuration theory. The group also considered the environment
in which these theoretical frameworks would be used and noted that there are
two key dimensions: the availability or otherwise of resources; and the degree
to which the goals of a CSDM problem are well-defined. The location of any
given problem in the space defined by these two axes will help to indicate the
suitability of the different theoretical approaches for that problem. The
group then returned to a discussion of the attributes of argumentation theory
and suggested that it is well-suited to a broad range of CSDM problem types.
Presented by David Coleman
The group began by examining the initial formulation of "Joe's Cube." The cube arose from a desire to provide a means to map tools to problem contexts. The cube has three axes: physical setting, environmental setting and procedural setting. The group discussed at some length what each of these axes represented. The physical setting was the most clearly defined axis since the four elements are clearly distinguished: same-time, same-place; same-time, different-place; different-time, same-place; and different-time, different- place. The environmental setting axis was expressed in the context of a coupling index that ranges from "tightly coupled," representing a small group of people with similar goals working on a clearly defined project, to "loosely coupled," where there is a large group with dissimilar goals working on a problem which is multi-faceted. The procedural axis is the most problematic to refine. Beginning with a simple idea of the axis representing the progression of decision-making from preparation, to review, analysis, evaluation and decision, the group visualized a possibility that this axis might in fact be a loop or cylinder. After acknowledging that a decision-making process could move through various levels on the physical and environmental axes, the group visualized a spiral moving through the space within the cube that depicts the decision-making process as it cycles through a number of similar procedural stages.
The cube gradually evolved into a conceptual framework within which it would be possible to examine a number of different problem domains. Thus defined, the cube allows CSDM problem contexts to be decomposed in such a way that similarities and differences between them can be compared once the cells have been filled with appropriate tools or techniques. It may be necessary to refine the definitions of the axes differently for different domains. At the end of the session an effort was made to use the cube to examine the very simple, and pertinent, spatial collaborative problem of a group of people trying to decide which restaurant to choose for dinner.
The group frequently returned to the question of the spatial dimension and wrestled with how it should be expressed within the cube. One suggestion was to impose a fourth dimension to represent the spatial domain, but it was not possible to conceive how that would prove useful. No conclusive spatial aspect of the cube could be identified. The group concluded that although the cube may be useful in many collaborative decision-making studies, it would nevertheless be useful if constrained solely to CSDM problems.
A set of relevant research questions were posed:
This group discussed several themes that are essential to the development of
systems that are well-received by users. The first, function, assumes that
individuals are using a system in a same-time, different-place mode. In such
cases, communication bandwidth plays an important role. Users may require
concurrent access to spatial objects and they may need to annotate and
highlight salient aspects of these objects. In such environments a process of
spatial argumentation must be supported. This may take place in either
geographical space or attribute space. Certain bookkeeping activities were
also considered to be essential to the successful implementation of systems: an
archival storage and access mechanism, for example. Finally, the group
considered the potential impact of information overload on participants and
suggested that filtering mechanisms be developed.
Breakdown, failure and disaster
Presented by Mike Shiffer
This group examined the nature of adverse outcomes on system use. They first
considered technical problems that can erode confidence in a system. Clearly,
an experience such as a system crash might lead users to view a system as
"tainted." More subtle impacts, such as the effect of extreme latency on
system use, were also considered to be important technical problems that must
be treated. The second class of problems considered centered on the idea of
process and the development of trust that is fostered among users and with the
use of the system to address problems. The group also considered issues such
as anonymity and the role(s) that the facilitator should play during the
decision-making process. Finally, user interface and system complexity were
considered once again because overly complex software would discourage use and
lead to failure.
Tuesday p.m.: Toward a synthesis
During the final lunch break, five groups met to individually consider the
synthesis of the meeting discussions and to formulate a set of relevant
research questions. These questions have been grouped below under two
headings: research into tool development and research into tool use.
Participants also made some suggestions about the role of NCGIA in fostering
and supporting CSDM-related research.
Research into tool development
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Comments to Karen Kemp