I’m currently knee-deep in another conference paper – this one to be submitted to ICA Conference in Paris, 2011. If accepted I’ll be heading there in July. That’s the bread-stick of motivation currently being dangled in front of my buret-adorned and stripey shirted self.

To be honest, even without the Eiffel Tower looming, I’d still be reading and writing about this right now as context-awareness has captured my imagination. I’m working towards a first draft of the paper today and over the weekend, but I thought I’d post the introduction here for feedback on its direction.

From Context-aware Geovisualisations: Using context to make sense of location based data:

The proliferation of Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled consumer electronics devices has led to an increase in the availability and quantity of data that is geo-located. The position of where certain data has been captured, photographs taken, places visited, or the origin of a message can be easily and quickly appended to files generated by a portable device. Related to the capture of this geo-coded information has been the need to represent or visualise this data.

Geovisualisation (MacEachren, 1994), the viewing of data with an element of location through the frame of that location, has become an important method for sense-making and knowledge discovery (Dykes et al., 2005, Fabrikant & Lobben, 2009). Recent research in this field has developed it in a direction that has been called “geovisual analytics”, with an emphasis on the cognitive aspects of data exploration through the use of highly interactive interfaces rather than simple, static displays. This repositioning of geovisualisation highlights the importance of the human elements of interaction with geo-located data and the interfaces designed to present them (Fabrikant & Lobben, 2009).

As the focus of Geovisualisation moves towards examining the gaps between people, data and interfaces, interesting overlaps with disciplines such as human-computer interaction (HCI) are emerging (MacEachren and Kraak, 2001) . Besides the need for properly considered and tested interfaces and interactions, the most obvious similarities exist with ubiquitous or context-aware computing – areas of study that deal with location and other environmental indicators in the design and implementation of systems and services (Dourish, 2004).

This paper analyses how geovisualisations provide tools to assist in solving complex problems. By exploring this approach in the context of management of national parks, we demonstrate ways that geovisualisation can augment and facilitate our natural ability to see novel, surprising and otherwise invisible relationships between information. We will also explore the role that context-awareness could play in the design and development of a knowledge service that incorporates geovisualisations.

In particular, we will explore the role of context in a phenomenological sense – one that is subjective and qualitative rather than objective and factual, and that has “no objective reality beyond the ability of individuals and groups to recognise and orient towards them”(Dourish, 2004. pp. 21). We wish to discover how a system can be aware of context in a phenomenological sense. And, how can a knowledge service assist in knowledge formation by better utilising an individual or group’s subjective interpretation of place?

I hope the paper will provide a foundation for future work into how the kind of soft sensing context can be used by an intelligent system.

In the meantime, I continue to read just about everything Paul Dourish has published and keep a keen and impressed eye on Reuben as he applies his talents to iOS development and some ideas we’ve been discussing together. It’s a pleasure to be working with him.


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