Publications and Presentations

Exploring realistic immersive geovisualizations as tools for inclusive approaches to coastal planning and management
Robert Newell (2017)

Committee: Rosaline Canessa (supervisor), Tara Sharma, Cameron Owens, and Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier

Abstract: Effective coastal planning is inclusive and incorporates the variety of user needs, values, and interests associated with coastal environments. This requires understanding how people relate to coastal environments as ‘places’, imbued with values and meanings, and accordingly, tools that can capture place and connect with people’s ‘sense of place’ have the potential for supporting effective coastal management strategies. Realistic, immersive geographical visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, theoretically hold potential to serve such a role in coastal planning. However, significant research gaps exist around this application context. Firstly, place theory and geovisualizations are rarely explicitly linked in the same studies, leaving questions around the (potential) relationship between these tools and sense of place. Secondly, geovisualization work has focused on terrestrial environments, and research on how to realistically model coastal places is currently in its infancy. This dissertation aims to address these gaps by pursuing two research objectives. The first objective is to explore the ‘human component’ of geovisualizations, referring to how these tools operate within the social and cultural dimensions germane to environmental management plans and processes. In accordance with the discussion above, this exploration is framed through place theories and concepts, and regards realistic geovisualizations as ‘place-based’ tools. The second objective concerns the coastal context, and it involves elucidating the considerations around developing and using terrestrial-to-marine geovisualizations as tools for inclusive coastal planning and management. The dissertation is composed of five manuscripts, which have been prepared as standalone articles for submission to academic journals. Each manuscript details a study designed to support an aspect of the research objectives, respectively serving (1) to develop a theory of geovisualizations as place-based tools, (2) to explore the theory in the coastal context, (3) to examine the relationship between sense of place and one’s mental visualization of place, (4) to develop a coastal geovisualization under place-based considerations and examine its capacity for connecting to sense of place, and (5) to assess the geovisualization’s potential as a tool for inclusive coastal planning efforts.

 

Visualizing our options for coastal places: Exploring realistic immersive geovisualizations as tools for inclusive approaches to coastal planning and management
Robert Newell, Rosaline Canessa and Tara Sharma (2017)

Abstract: Effective coastal planning is inclusive and incorporates the variety of user needs, values and interests associated with coastal environments. Realistic, immersive geographic visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, can serve as potentially powerful tools for facilitating such planning because they can provide diverse groups with vivid understandings of how they would feel about certain management outcomes or impacts if transpired in real places. However, the majority of studies in this area have focused on terrestrial environments, and research on applications of such tools in the coastal and marine contexts is in its infancy. The current study aims to advance such research by examining the potential a land-to-sea geovisualization has to serve as a tool for inclusive coastal planning efforts. The research uses Sidney Spit Park (BC, Canada) as a study site, and a realistic, dynamic geovisualization of the park was developed (using Unity3D) that allows users to interact with and navigate it through the first-person perspective. Management scenarios were developed based on discussions with Parks Canada, and these scenarios included fencing around vegetation areas, positioning of mooring buoys, and management of dog activity within the park. Scenarios were built into the geovisualization in a manner that allows users to toggle different options. Focus groups were then assembled, involving residents of the Capital Regional District (BC, Canada), and participants explored and provided feedback on the scenarios. Findings from the study demonstrate the geovisualization's usefulness for assessing certain qualities of scenarios, such as aesthetics and functionality of fencing options and potential viewshed impacts associated with different mooring boat locations. In addition, the study found that incorporating navigability into the geovisualization proved to be valuable for understanding scenarios that hold implications for the marine environment due to user ability to cross the land-sea interface and experience underwater places. Furthermore, this research demonstrated that building scenarios within a realistic geovisualization required modeling place-based characteristics (including soundscape) as well as spatial properties. This approach can allow users the ability to more comprehensively assess scenarios and consider potential options.

 

Modelling both the space and place of coastal environments: Exploring an approach for developing realistic geovisualizations of coastal places
Robert Newell, Rosaline Canessa and Tara Sharma (2017)

Abstract: Effective coastal planning incorporates the variety of user needs, values, and interests associated with coastal environments. This requires understanding how people relate to coastal environments as ‘places’, imbued with values and meanings, and accordingly, tools that can capture place and connect with people’s ‘sense of place’ have the potential for supporting effective coastal management strategies. Realistic, immersive geographical visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, theoretically hold potential to serve such a role in coastal planning; however, significant research gaps exist around this application context. Firstly, place theory and geovisualizations are rarely explicitly linked in the same studies, leaving questions around how to model ‘coastal place', as well as coastal space. Secondly, geovisualization work has focused on terrestrial environments, and research on how to realistically model coastal places is currently in its infancy. The current study addresses the research gaps by developing a coastal geovisualization under place-based considerations, and then examining its capacity as a tool for connecting with people’s sense of place. The research uses Sidney Spit in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (BC, Canada) as a study site, and a geovisualization was developed using a combination of ArcGIS, Adobe Photoshop, Trimble SketchUp, and Unity3D. Focus groups were assembled involving Parks Canada staff and Greater Victoria Area residents, and the geovisualization was assessed in terms of its representation of a real-world coastal place and ability for connecting with sense of place. Findings from the study indicate that the presence certain elements in coastal geovisualizations can contribute to realism and sense of place, such as people, dogs, birds, marine life, vegetation, and boats; however, simultaneously, deficiencies in numbers and varieties of these elements can detract from realism and sense of place. In addition, incorporation of soundscape and viewshed elements both demonstrated as significant to the tool’s ability to connect with sense of place, with the latter potentially being more significant among those with higher familiarity with the real-world place. Beach textures were also found to be important for the geovisualization’s ability to connect with sense of place; however, this ability can be compromised when running versions of the tool with lower graphical resolution.

 

Picturing a place by the sea: Geovisualizations as place-based tools for collaborative coastal management
Robert Newell and Rosaline Canessa (2017)

Abstract: Effective coastal management is integrative and aims to incorporate the wide variety of user needs, values and interests associated with coastal environments. This requires understanding how different user groups relate to coastal environments as ‘places’, imbued with values and meanings, rather than simply ‘spaces’. Accordingly, tools and techniques that can capture and convey place-based information have potential for supporting coastal management strategies. This suggests a role for geovisualizations that inclusively reflect the range of values and meanings through immersion and realism. The current paper aims to advance coastal geovisualization research by firstly, examining relationships with, understandings of, and behaviours toward coastal places, and secondly, using this insight to create recommendations for building geovisualizations that can effectively facilitate collaboration among conflicting user groups. The paper identifies different coastal user groups using a cultural model framework, and through a review of previous research on coastal communities, it examines how the values and interests of these user groups influence understandings and perceptions of coastal places. Recommendations for geovisualizations emerging from this research include full navigability, dynamic elements, and flexibility in the way that they allow for continual modification and scenario building.

 

Modelling both the space and place of coastal environments: Exploring an approach for developing realistic geovisualizations for collaborative coastal management (poster)
Robert Newell and Rosaline Canessa (2016)

Abstract: Previous research has positioned realistic geographical visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, as potentially powerful tools for facilitating collaboration among diverse stakeholders in management and planning efforts. However, much of this research has been conducted in the terrestrial context, leaving a dearth of knowledge in coastal and marine contexts. This research aims to address this gap by exploring challenges and opportunities around developing geovisualizations of coastal environments, specifically as tools for collaborative management. Using Sidney Spit (BC) as a study site, the research employs a novel approach that models the Spit under ‘place-based’ considerations; that is, it explores ways of developing coastal geovisualizations as tools for conveying place and interacting with people’s sense of place, rather than as tools used for primarily spatial analysis. Such an approach requires a meshing of human geography with spatial techniques to be cognizant of how different user groups understand coastal environments and relate to them as ‘places’, imbued with values and meanings, while also maintaining spatial accuracy. The modelling process involves a combination of ArcGIS, Adobe Photoshop, and Unity 3D (gaming engine), respectively selected to build the model with spatial integrity, develop realistic objects and textures the can ‘speak’ to sense of place, and create a dynamic and navigable virtual environment.

 

Seeing, believing, and feeling: The relationship between sense of place and geovisualization research
Robert Newell and Rosaline Canessa (2015)

Abstract: Advancements in GIS and media technologies have created opportunities for developing realistically and geographically-accurate representations of the environment that can be recognized and related to as "real places." In turn, these "geovisualizations" can connect with the meanings, values, beliefs and/or feelings people associate with places, i.e., their "sense of place," which positions them as powerful place-based tools for inclusive and collaborative environmental management efforts. However, despite their place-based applications, geovisualization studies rarely explicitly incorporate place theories and concepts. This lack of integration is reflected in the current state of knowledge, as much of geovisualization research has advanced knowledge on technological capacity for processing and rendering images from spatial data, whereas knowledge on how people interact with and use these tools in collaborative management strategies has lagged behind. This research effort serves as a move toward addressing this knowledge gap by explicitly illustrating the relationship between sense of place and applications of geovisualizations in collaborative management. This work employs ideas from research on human-media interactions and conceptual models from research on sense of presence to synthesize a coherent theory on how geovisualizations can function as place-based tools. In addition, through a review of landscape visualization studies, this work provides evidence of that geovisualizations can operate as place-based tools, and this evidence includes observations on these tools’ capabilities for communicating "meaningful information" on places, eliciting responses reflective of particular place-based values, and evoking emotional responses associated with places.

 

Exploring an approach for developing realistic geovisualizations of coastal places (presentation)
Robert Newell and Rosaline Canessa (2015)

Abstract: Previous research has positioned realistic geographical visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, as potentially powerful tools for facilitating collaboration among diverse stakeholders in management and planning efforts. However, much of this research has been conducted in the terrestrial context, leaving a dearth of knowledge in coastal and marine contexts. This research aims to address this gap by exploring challenges and opportunities around developing geovisualizations of coastal places, specifically as tools for collaborative management. Using Sidney Spit (Canada) as a study site, the project employs a novel modeling approach, which compiles and processes spatial and photographic data using ArcGIS, media-editing and 3D-modeling tools, and gaming engines. This combination of software was selected for the purposes of (respectively) spatially referencing the model, developing realistic objects and textures, and incorporating dynamics. Early research findings provide useful insight on possibilities for features and extensions for GIS applications that could better facilitate a workflow for developing coastal geovisualizations.

 

Uncovering the Oceans through MarineScape geovisualizations
Rosaline Canessa, Robert Newell and Caty Brandon (2015)

Abstract: More often than not, geographic representation of the marine environment strips the ecosystem of its richness habitats, biodiversity and verticality. Mapping the marine environment in GIS results in marine features represented as a 2D plane on the sea surface or as bare bathymetry. These are geographically accurate, but not visually pleasing nor comprehensive in representing marine ecosystems. In contrast, gaming and virtual reality programs produce attractive visuals but typically are not geographically referenced. This chapter explores marinescape geovisualization, the integration of visual simulation with map‐based geography for marine environments. First, a review of progress from conventional 2D maps to immersive and interactive 4D models for marine environments is presented. Subsequently, a case study of a marinescape geovisualization model integrating GIS and landscape visualization software of an offshore marine protected area is described along with feedback provided by MPA planners and scientists. Finally, the chapter concludes with insights on key research and development issues to advance marinescape geovisualization.