A Geovisual Analytics Approach for Producing Geo-Historical Context

Open Access
Tomaszewski, Brian
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 10, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Dr Alan M Mac Eachren, Dissertation Advisor
  • Alan Maceachren, Committee Chair
  • Donna Jean Peuquet, Committee Member
  • Michael Mc Neese, Committee Member
  • Mark N Gahegan, Committee Member
  • Geocollaboration
  • Geography
  • Context
  • Geovisual Analytics
  • Humanitarian Information
  • Sudan
Context is a difficult concept to define, model, and represent. Geography and history offer unique perspectives on the notion of context, a context defined in this research as geo-historical context, or GHC. GHC creates a contextual setting based on the interconnectedness of phenomena, events, and place across multiple spatial and temporal scales that allow situations to be reasoned with, often through visual representations such as maps. Although GHC is important for understanding the circumstances of situations, three main challenges exist to modeling and producing GHC. First, no formal approach for modeling or reasoning with GHC exists. Second, in an application domain such as crisis management, GHC for a given situation does not exist in an isolated state. Rather, GHC is tightly coupled to and shaped by the tasks and goals of collaborative actors that need to contextualize a situation from a geo-historical perspective. Third, information that can potentially contextualize situations from geographical and historical perspectives is vast and heterogeneous. These challenges are explored in this research. Specifically, the research presents (a) a model of GHC, (b) a proof-of-concept visual analytics system applied to geographic information (geovisual analytics) designed to represent and produce GHC in collaborative crisis management situations, and (c) computational evaluations and user studies on the effectiveness of the GHC model and the proof-of-concept geovisual analytic system. User studies for this research were conducted with experts from Penn State’s Geographic Visualization Science, Technology, and Applications Center (GeoVISTA) and the United Nations (UN) ReliefWeb office. Results of this research show the theoretical viability of GHC for informing the development of tools and tasks designed to aid situational reasoning through the production of GHC. Additionally, evaluations of the geovisual analytic system demonstrate that the system is a viable proof-of-concept for producing GHC in social settings and with further research and development, a system that can specifically be applied for use in the humanitarian information management domain.