Collaborative emergency management report writing: an application for differential synchronisation

Shatte, Adrian Brian Royce (2016) Collaborative emergency management report writing: an application for differential synchronisation. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Effective collaboration is fundamental in fast changing environments such as emergencies. Emergency management (EM) requires timely and accurate information from a range of stakeholders to ensure adequate response. Problems arising from poor communication and lack of information sharing between disaster management groups can have a negative impact on response. For remote EM practitioners, a lack of resources combined with the large geographic areas affected by disasters can make effective EM response even more challenging. Modern technologies and advances in networking can provide new methods for sharing real-time information about a disaster with stakeholders regardless of their location. Thus, research should investigate methods for making this technology available for remote EM practitioners.

This thesis aims to develop a research artefact that meets the needs of remote EM practitioners for collaborative report writing tasks. The research methodology employed throughout the thesis to achieve this aim is Design Science. First, a survey of EM practitioners from remote Northwest Queensland (QLD) investigated their current information sharing and report writing practices. Limitations of current practices were identified, including the duplication of effort and the difficulty in sharing information with diverse stakeholders. It was also demonstrated that EM practitioners in remote Northwest QLD are interested in utilising collaborative technologies to improve information sharing both within and between organisations. The results of the survey derive several key features that should be supported in such systems, including support for real-time synchronisation, automatic convergence of information, flexible locking, user attribution, maintaining report history, as well as support for collaboration with users in the field.

Based on the findings of the survey of remote EM practitioners, an artefact was developed iteratively following the principles of Design Science. A comparison of text synchronisation algorithms demonstrated that the Differential Synchronisation technique (diffsync) was most suited for supporting synchronisation in remote EM, due to its natural convergence and robustness to poor network environments. However diffsync lacked support for several of the features suggested by the EM community. Thus, the development of the artefact focused on new techniques and frameworks for achieving flexible locking, user attribution, multi-synchronous editing and crowdsourcing within the diffsync technique. These features combined with diffsync provided a toolkit for developing collaborative EM report writing tools.

To determine whether the artefact met the needs of the remote EM practitioners, it was subjected to several Design Science evaluation methods. These methods included benchmarking, a static analysis based on groupware heuristics, and the instantiation of a prototype. This instantiation was subject to additional evaluations with the target EM community, including a comparison study, a technology acceptance study, and an enhanced cognitive walkthrough. The results of these evaluations determined that the artefact meets the needs specified by the remote EM practitioners surveyed earlier in the study.

The outcome of this thesis has many contributions and implications. First, the artefact developed provides a framework on which collaborative EM report writing tools can be developed, for example the prototype developed for evaluation. This framework is based on the needs of remote EM practitioners and assists with sharing timely and accurate information between EM responders. This framework could be utilised for further research in EM or other similar fields that require sharing of timely and accurate information. Finally, there were also several technical contributions to the diffsync technique including flexible locking and user attribution which provide a toolkit for emerging work paradigms such as multisynchronous editing and crowdsourcing.

Item ID: 46991
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: collaboration, differential synchronisation, dynamic locking, edit history, emergency management, pair programming, parallel writing, report writing, text editing, user attribution, web technologies, workspace awareness
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2017 01:52
FoR Codes: 08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080605 Decision Support and Group Support Systems @ 50%
08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080608 Information Systems Development Methodologies @ 25%
08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080602 Computer-Human Interaction @ 25%
SEO Codes: 89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8902 Computer Software and Services > 890202 Application Tools and System Utilities @ 60%
89 INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION SERVICES > 8902 Computer Software and Services > 890205 Information Processing Services (incl. Data Entry and Capture) @ 40%
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