Designing Visual Analytic Tools for Emergency Operation Centers: A Qualitative Approach

Designing Visual Analytic Tools for Emergency Operation Centers: A Qualitative Approach

Richard Arias-Hernandez, Brian Fisher
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2014070101
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The Emergency Management Information System (EMIS) field has an established tradition of user-centered methodological approaches for design and evaluation research. However, visual analytics, a new field that is starting to intersect with EMIS, is barely using such approaches. Thus an opportunity has emerged to expand these user-centered approaches from EMIS towards visual analytics via the design of visual analytics tools for emergency management. In this article, the authors present a qualitative methodology for design research that takes on this opportunity. This specific methodology is characterized by using non-participant observation and interviews as methods and by being theoretically informed by the multidisciplinary framework of visual analytics. The authors also include a detailed application of the methodology to the design of visual analytic tools for Emergency Operation Centers in Vancouver, Canada as well as the corresponding results: contextual knowledge for design, informed requirements for four design projects and evaluation criteria for these designs.
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The EMIS field has extensively incorporated the perspective of final users in both, the design and evaluation of their tools (Hiltz et al., 2009). This can be observed on the considerable inclusion of qualitative approaches for the analysis of workflows and information requirements for specific work and organizational contexts. Socio-technical context analysis (Harnesk, Lindström, & Samuelsson, 2009), case-based analysis (Pau & Simonsen, 2009), and action-research (Raman, Ryan, Jennex, & Olfman, 2009) are examples of some of the specific qualitative approaches that have been used for the design of EMIS. Qualitative methods have also been used to assess the effectiveness of new information systems once incorporated in daily work practices, determining whether expectations about the EMIS were fulfilled or not. Evaluation of prototypes in participatory design (Büscher, Mogensen, & Kristensen, 2009), participant observations of the system-in-use during simulations with real users (Trnka, Kemper, & Schneiderbauer, 2009), field reports on the use of existing information technologies (Howe, Jennex, Bressler, & Frost, 2009), and interviews with users on the use of tools (Gryszkiewicz, 2009) are all examples of uses of these methodologies for EMIS evaluation.

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