The need to develop information
science and technology to support crisis management has never
been more apparent. Federal, state, and local government agencies
must develop coordinated strategies and adopt advanced and usable
technologies to prepare for and cope with crises in contexts ranging
from natural disasters to homeland security. A desire among agencies
to coordinate activities, however, is not enough. Meeting the
challenges of crisis management in a rapidly changing world will
require fundamental information science and technology research.
To have an impact, that research must be linked directly with
development, implementation, and assessment of new technologies
supporting coordinated work within and among government organizations
in both civilian and defense sectors. To be useful and usable,
that technology development must be human-centered, involving
practicing crisis management personnel at all stages.
Crisis management is considered here to include both strategic
assessment (work to prepare for and avert crises) and emergency
response (activities designed to minimize loss of life and property).
Geospatial information plays a key role in both activities, providing
context and details about the event itself, its causes, the people
and infrastructure affected, and resources available to respond.
Crisis management also requires close coordination among individuals
and groups of individuals who need to collaboratively derive information
from geospatial data and use that information in coordinated ways.
This project addresses fundamental research challenges in two
linked domains that underpin GeoCollaborative Crisis Management
(GCCM): 1) developing a deep understanding of group work with
geospatial information and technology in the context of crisis
management and 2) developing advanced, easy to use geospatial
technology that supports both same-place and distributed/mobile,
dialogue-enabled collaborative crisis management activities. Our
approach builds on theories of distributed cognition, emphasizes
development of intelligent adaptive systems, applies robust Cognitive
Systems Engineering (CSE) methods, and takes a Living Laboratory
perspective. The work leverages our collective recent research
as well as experience of partner VideoMining,
Inc. (formerly Advanced Interfaces) in transitioning research
into practice (Chairperson/CEO: CoPI Sharma). AI has a history
of cooperative research with Penn State and has been helping to
commercialize prior research by Dr. Sharma's group in human-computer
Our research addresses collaborative geoinformation use and technologies
to enable all stages of crisis management (mitigation, preparedness,
response, and recovery), with an emphasis on preparedness and
response. We ground the research in the practice of federal and
state government agencies, thus facilitating transition of research
results in support of agency missions. Linking theory with practice
provides a base from which to develop next generation geospatial
information technology solutions. Our vision for next generation
distributed GCCM is characterized in the Scenario and figure below.
Scenario: Imagine a crisis management center with Center Director
Jill White and chief logistics manager Jim Smith, in front
of the large-screen display provided by the agency's GeoCollaborative
Crisis Management (GCCM) system.
Crystal River nuclear power plant has notified officials
that an accident occurred, resulting in a potential radioactive
particulate release within 9 hours. Response professionals
with a range of expertise, work to determine the impact
area, order and carry out evacuations, and deploy RAD health
teams to identify 'hot zones' in residential and agricultural
areas. Based on available information, immediate decisions
must be made about where and how to evacuate or quarantine
residents, establishing decontamination checkpoints, deploying
rescue and RAD health teams, ordering in-place sheltering,
and prioritizing situations. As field personnel deploy,
the command Center focuses on coordination of the distributed
activity among many participants who are using a range of
devices and who have a wide range of geospatial information
needs. At right, we represent the multimodal, dialogue-enabled
GeoCollaborative Crisis Management methods and technologies
we envision, and to which our research is targeted. The
central portion of the figure depicts models of the complementary
system/human knowledge construction processes and components
of the proposed dialogue-enabled links between them.
The research focuses on
two specific problem domains relevant to achieving the above vision:
Group work in Emergency
Operations Centers (EOCs) around large screen, GIS-enabled
displays using multimodal, gesture-speech interfaces.
- Distributed teams - some of whom use
mobile devices in the field linked to others using desktop or
large-screen displays in the EOC or in mobile field stations.
Specific research questions
being addressed include:
How can we facilitate distributed cognition in GCCM? What role
can external, visual, manipulable representations play in distributed
cognition for teams?
work: What are the impacts of visual-mediation tools on group
work with geospatial information and how can these tools be
What role can multimodal interfaces play in GCCM command centers?
How can multimodal interfaces support work of distributed, mobile
How can technology enable human-computer-human mixed initiative
dialogues for GCCM activities?
systems: How can intelligent geo-appliances enable user-computational
power in the real world? How can we support robust, human-agent,
shared mental models providing context for mutual adaptation
in a changing environment?
support: How should geocollaborative devices be designed to
facilitate user-centric, distributed team use in stressful crisis