Publication: Learning the Land: CSCW in the Arctic (Presentation)

Much research in the northern territories of Canada involves eliciting Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) from community elders. Geographical information is a key component of TEK and almost every TEK session uses paper-based maps for illustration and transparent overlays for recording map interactions. However, paper-based maps pose several challenges for researchers, such as difficulties with anticipating and printing the necessary paper maps, observing and recording community member's interactions with maps, and effectively archiving new geographical information after the session is complete. Since community elders are mostly non-interactive with technology, new technologies that require explicit interaction will not be readily patronized by the community. Furthermore, due to factors including age and culture, elders are unlikely to use new technologies of any kind. Thus, any improvement on the paper-based interaction paradigm must satisfy researcher's needs for a simple map navigation interface as well as greater ease and accuracy in recording interactions while maintaining as low a technological profile as possible. We interviewed four researchers in biology and veterinary medicine whose primary research takes place in the north with community members to determine the most effective mechanisms for presenting and eliciting geographical information during northern research without altering the existing interaction paradigm. All researchers agreed that little should be changed about the feel of the current interactions. Thus, it was important to create a tool that felt similar to the original paper-based map interactions yet provided additional functionality. We created a design for a tabletop system to support these requirements. Comprised of modified Geographical Information System browsing tools, a tabletop application provide the additional flexibility desired by the researchers while retaining a similar interactive feel to the paper-based technology. Additional discrete components to monitor user interaction (such as cameras) further enhance the capabilities of the tool without interfering with the traditional interaction metaphor. The interviews also suggested restrictions not normally incorporated in tabletop displays, such as extra durability and portability, reduced control spaces so community members will not accidentally invoke map navigation commands, and user differentiation without onerous devices. All of the changes were required to reduce the level of explicit technological interaction necessary to run the system, emulate as closely as possible the already existing technology, and survive the harsh conditions for transport and storage present in the arctic and sub-arctic.


2007. Learning the Land: CSCW in the Arctic (Presentation). In ACUNS 2007.


@inproceedings {
title= {Learning the Land: CSCW in the Arctic (Presentation)},
booktitle= {ACUNS 2007},
year= {2007}