SQSynC: Spatial Queries in Synchronous Collaboration

Open Access
Ross, Kevin Scott
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Alan Maceachren, Thesis Advisor
  • synchronous collaboration
  • spatial queries
  • GIS
  • groupware
  • geographic information science
  • geocollaboration
  • web mapping
  • CSCW
        Processes of knowledge-building, planning, and decision-making are frequently accomplished by groups of remotely located people working together. Research in the field of geocollaboration has been aimed at discovering ways to support this type of collaborative work using GIS technologies. One important topic that is yet to be explored is how to support synchronous collaborative spatial data queries. The goals of this research are (a) to develop a conceptual framework and create and assess the Spatial Queries in Synchronous Collaboration (SQSynC) proof-of-concept prototype to enable remotely located people to collaboratively query spatial data in real-time requiring only an internet connection and web browser and (b) to analyze the methods used by geographers to construct the queries in this environment to develop a deeper understanding of the process. <br />        The SQSynC software prototype is a web-based application that can support both simultaneous and parallel collaborative activities between the users within the interface. In simultaneous mode, the software behaves as if there is only one interface that every user is concurrently interacting with, even though each user is remotely connected through individual computers. For instance, if one person were to pan and zoom the map, every other user would see the map change. In parallel mode, the software provides each user with a distinct, private interface that no other users can see or interact with. To enable more direct collaboration in the parallel mode, a second, public tab exists. Users can move items from their private tab over to the public tab in order to share them with the other users. <br />        A user study was conducted, using the SQSynC prototype, to obtain targeted input from geographers regarding the two different approaches to collaborative spatial data query. Participants, working in counter-balanced pairs, were asked to collaboratively work through one set of tasks using the simultaneous application mode, then another set of tasks using the parallel mode or the reverse. In the simultaneous mode, each user could simultaneously interact with a shared query building interface. In the parallel mode users could communicate with each other and share data on the public tab, but there was no shared query building interface with which they could simultaneously interact, only a private interface. A total of 16 participants took part in the experiment and they each completed a follow-up survey to answer questions about which mode they preferred, report any critical incidents that occurred or features that they liked, and provide additional comments and suggestions. The main finding, along with all of the in-depth feedback from the participants, is that 56% of participants preferred the parallel mode of collaborative query building, while 44% preferred the simultaneous mode. The results of this experiment ultimately show that in geocollaboration software there is a place for both private and shared query building tools.