Associate professor receives two NSF awards for work in GIScience

October 08, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Alexander Klippel, an assistant professor of geography at Penn State, has received two National Science Foundation awards for his work in cognitive GIScience.

The first award, titled “Contextual influences on the category construction of geographic-scale movement patterns,” will investigate the way humans understand movement patterns at a geographic scale, such as in the paths of hurricanes or flooding events.

“How do humans think, talk and graphically communicate about geography events?” Klippel said about some of the questions he hopes to answer. “How do they segment them into meaningful units and how do they categorize movement patterns naturally?”

Klippel, who is the sole principal investigator, said he will address the topic from the perspective of how qualitative formalism of geographic spatial information science relates to the cognitive understanding of events. The twofold goal is to cognitively evaluate existing qualitative formalism and to improve the cognitive adequacy of this formalism.

To achieve the goal, Klippel has partnered with Frank Hardisty, of the GeoVISTA Center in Penn State’s geography department, and Chris Weaver, of Oklahoma State University.

“Both are experts in visual analytics and will contribute substantially to the success of this project by developing software tools for both the conduction of experiments as well as the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data,” Klippel said.

The team already has successfully implemented prototype versions of visual analytics software that provide deep insights into the human understanding of geographic scale movement patterns. Klippel said they will refine the software solutions and release them to the research community.

More information about this project can be found at online.

The second award, titled “Spatial awareness through sapient interfaces,” is a collaborative effort between Klippel and Luke Zhang, an assistant professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State.

“In a world where mobile navigation devices become omnipresent, it is important to rethink how we design these devices to upgrade them from being gadgets to ubiquitous computing aids that seamlessly integrate into modern information architecture,” Klippel said.

Recent research papers have shown the detrimental effects that navigation devices have on how humans understand and learn about their environments, he said.

“The bottom line is that once we switch on a navigation device, humans tend to switch off their brains,” Klippel said. “It is time to rethink how to provide spatial information on mobile devices to improve spatial thinking and spatial awareness.”

The project is built on current approaches to spatial analysis, such as space syntax to evaluate environments from a formal perspective.

The crucial aspect of this project will be to relate spatial analysis measures to wayfinding behavior, Klippel said. That will allow for the design of navigation tools that leverage challenging environments, help understand spatial structures, make people spatially aware and educate them rather than enslave them, he said.

More information on the spatial awareness project can be found at online.

Last Updated January 09, 2015