I’ve been working on my ethics submission for the last week or so, and one of the requirements is to explain in layman’s terms just what it is I’m meant to be doing, and why it’s significant. I probably haven’t quite nailed it yet, but here’s what I mustered up as a first draft. Hopefully it will provide a bit more insight into what it is I’m hoping to achieve.

Research aims and significance

This research will explore the potential for a location based system to assist with the retention and dissemination of information relevant to a decision making process. Whilst specifically about fire management in a national park, it will provide broader insights into how knowledge about a location can be effectively retained and communicated.

The main research question is: “How can Parks Victoria better utilise the knowledge it and its staff have?”. Currently, valuable park specific knowledge, obtained by rangers through years of experience, is inaccessible to other rangers and vanishes completely when rangers move on. The research project is interested in understanding the varieties of people in a park, the types of expertise they possess, and how they interact with each other to share information and learn. Once this understanding has been reached, the research will explore the potential for location-aware technology to augment this process.

This research is relevant for the following reasons:

  • It will provide insights into the management, display and sense-making opportunity of large amounts of user generated data. Whilst the project has a limited scope – in national parks – the findings for particular visualisation interfaces and sense-making tools will be applicable to a large number of other problem domains, where location-based data is being generated at an increasing rate by large numbers of people, particularly in a mobile context. Further, it will provide insights into the human/user-centered side of visualisation in cartography, an area that has been flagged as one of great importance for the wider cartographic field (Fabrikant & Lobben, 2009).
  • It will provide insight into the role of location-based technology, interface design and visualisation in the fire management process, and will result in the development of useful tools that assist in this management. This will be particularly timely for the wider community and those responsible for fire management given Victoria’s recent history of wild fires. Particularly, it will aim to provide innovative exploratory interfaces for location based data to assist in decision making processes, a key area of research in cartography known as geovisualisation (Dykes, et al., 2005).
  • Location based services are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, with the increasing use of devices that are location aware. This will provide the industry with a case study that is based on a deep and real need, and is both beneficial to the wider community (through better fire management) and specific organisational interests (through better decision making tools).

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