Architecture Design and Prototyping of a Web-Based, Synchronous Collaborative 3d GIS

By Chang, Zheng, "Eric"; Li, Songnian | Cartography and Geographic Information Science, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Architecture Design and Prototyping of a Web-Based, Synchronous Collaborative 3d GIS


Chang, Zheng, "Eric", Li, Songnian, Cartography and Geographic Information Science


Introduction

Collaborative GIS closely relates to the concept of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). Through its technological implementation (groupware), CSCW supports groups of people engaged in a common task (or goal) by providing an interface to a shared environment (Ellis et al. 1991). Groupware has been defined as "technology that communicates and organizes unpredictable information, [thereby] allowing dynamic groups to interact across time and space" (Cameron et al. 1995). Each groupware system is designed to support a particular cooperative work situation or, a particular range of cooperative work situations. Although cooperative work settings are very diverse in terms of task, duration, group, organizational context, and culture (Hinssen 1998), they are usually classified as one of four situations characterized by their temporal and spatial dimensions (Johansen 1988; Dix 1996; MacEachren and Brewer 2004). These are: 1) same time (synchronous) and same place (co-located); 2) different time (asynchronous) and same place; 3) different time and different place (distributed); and 4) same time and different place.

A quick search of the literature reveals an overwhelming number of publications related to collaborative geographic information systems (GIS) (Churcher and Churcher 1996; Jones et al. 1997; Li and Coleman 2003; Balram and Dragicevic 2006), Geocollaboration (MacEachren and Brewer 2004; Cai 2005), or group spatial decision support (GSDS) (Armstrong and Densham 1995; Nyerges 1999; MacEachren 2001; Jankowski and Nyerges 2001). Most of these research efforts relate to group spatial decision support and the development and/or integration of group-based GIS technology with other computer technologies to facilitate group problem-solving, scientific visualization and decision-making with an inherently geographical character (Jankowski and Nyerges 2001). Nyerges and Jankowski (Nyerges 1999; Jankowski and Nyerges 2001) have pursued a systematic program of research focused on GIS-supported, same-time and same-place collaborative decision-making, design and implementation of group systems, and development and application of methods for evaluating these systems. Dragicevic and Balram (2004) focus on structuring and managing distributed planning processes with a Web GIS collaborative frame work, which enable remote users can share maps, annotations, and text comments at the same or different times. Stock and Bishop (2006) developed the so called envisioning system (EvS) for the study of community values and their interactions with a given landscape (3D models) in a workshop environment. The system uses virtual reality technologies and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices. Li and Coleman (2003) applied workflow and warehousing principles to a collaborative GIS data production environment.

Over the last few years, efforts to study human factors and/or human-computer interaction in GIS collaboration have increased. MacEachren and Brewer (2004) described a conceptual framework for geo-collaboration activities, which takes into account both human-centered (such as problem context, collaboration tasks, and perspective commonality) and system-oriented factors (such as temporal context, interaction characteristics, and tools to mediate group work) during the development and usability testing of such environments. Balram and Dragicevic (2006) presented a collaborative modeling framework with agent UML (AUML) to solve more complex interactions between "nature" and human systems.

However, the technologies and discussions referred to above are based on specific contexts or domains. This is because most collaboration functions are not generic. However, while the functions can be multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary, collaborative features, such as map view sharing and participants' awareness, are in common, potentially creating the need to isolate and abstract them into a GIS application. …

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