Haiti Maps Usability: I am supervising Luke Caley an MSc project student looking at usability of maps in the Haiti earthquake disaster, Luke is talking to people who where there at the early stages of the disaster investigating how maps and mapping were used in the field. There is a related area about the usability of crowd sourced map systems that is fascinating but unfortunately beyond the scope of this study.
Our theory is that Aid workers are a group for whom map usability is critical: when you publish a map on the web user's are only ever a click away from watching cats falling off sofas on YouTube. In an emergency situation the attention of aid workers is even worse - trying to figure out your map is time they could be using to pull people out from under collapsed buildings. So far the interviews seem to be showing that our theory is basically correct. Lots of organisations are generously giving time to helping us, for example ImageCat and MapAction. Final results are due in this autumn.
Google Earth Tour Research: Research is continuing into defining best practices for using tours in virtual globes (see 58:12 into this video for my talk on earlier work). Our results will apply to any virtual globe but for this study we've chosen to use Google Earth. Our main areas of investigation are into seeing how speed of flight and path geometry in tours affect the user's ability to track where they are within Google Earth. The video clip below illustrates the effect tour path has on user understanding, keeping track of where you are is easier on the outbound flight than on the return inbound leg:
User testing on students is planned for September and the results will be used in teaching materials. These materials will support students who will produce their own tours as part of a Southampton University GIS course. The study is funded by GEES.
Usability of Google Earth Materials in Education: I'm working with Declan De Paor from Old Dominion University and others on an NSF funded educational project where I'm providing input on usability issues. It's very early days on this project but Declan's examples give a good taste of what we're going to get up to.
China: I'm also off to China working with John Dearing and others where I'll be using Google Earth to communicate with Chinese farmers helping to alleviate poverty. Again, the project has yet to really kick off.
Next year is looking busy but exciting!
(update 26 Aug: Corrected Declan's surname spelling mistake)