B. Tomaszewski

Department of Geography, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA USA


For centuries, maps have played a critical role for providing a visual medium to support understanding of dynamic events in time and space, also known as situation awareness (SA). The importance of maps to support SA is greater than ever. Application domains such as hazard monitoring and disaster response intrinsically rely on effective cartographic representations to convey basic situational information from categories such as geographical context, collaborative actors, resource status, and temporal dimensions of these categories. Increasingly, situational information from these and other categories is derived through computational extraction procedures. These procedures include simple data extraction functions such as incorporating geography from GeoRSS or WMS feeds to complex geographical text mining algorithms that extract geospatial data from sources that are not intrinsically geographically aware, such as news stories. Furthermore, GIScience research advances in formal and informal knowledge representation through ontology and concept mapping create the potential where conceptual representations and relationships can be used to impose structure and make sense of heterogeneous situational information that can ultimately be anchored to a cartographic display to provide SA. Lastly, the advent of easy to use publicly available, open-system mapping tools such as Google Maps, Google Earth, and NASA World Wind allows geographical and other situational information derived from computational extraction procedures to be rendered rapidly and presented with default geographic information in a virtual environment accessible to a non-specialist user.

This paper will examine the cartographic design for and visual representation of situational information. The particular focus is on computationally derived situational information extracted from distributed web sources. By understanding design and representation issues of situational information, results rendered to maps through computational extraction procedures can enhance support of SA, and mitigate issues of information overload and irrelevancy. Specific topics that will be addressed include how standard cartographic variables and the mapping environment containing and controlling these variables can be used to encode categories such as scale, time, coordinated 2D and 3D views, collaborative actor artifacts such as real-world position and map view position, conceptual flows such as geographical relationships, and aspatial/spatial concept relationships.  Functionality of a prototype geocollaborative crisis management and monitoring system designed to support situation and context awareness through visual and cartographic representation of aforementioned categories will be presented, and will form the basis for a critique on the effectiveness and limits to using publicly available, open-system mapping environments as a cartographic and visual medium to support situational awareness.