Terseki Oasis, China


Information Visualization

Problem-Focused Learning



Tahoe Basin
Pilot Project




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Supporting the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Twenty Year Plan, and its Pathways 2007 initiative, the Eco-Café is helping to develop the knowledge management system for the GeoLibrary, enlisting users to participate in the GeoLibrary’s resource-sharing environment. Through workshops to brainstorm on specific problems requiring cross-disciplinary collaboration, the Eco-Café is exploring how more effectively to support cross-disciplinary fusion and collaboration to address multi-faceted ecosystem problems. The GeoLibrary’s public knowledge space and customized, private sign-in collaboratory workspaces offer specific resources for problem-solving teams.

The Eco-Café will support a six-step process:
  1. Teamstorms. To extend Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s “Pathways 2007,” bringing together large and small cross-disciplinary teams to brainstorm from different perspectives on Tahoe Basin ecosystem forecasting and to co-author one or more white papers following each session.
  2. White papers/ tasks/ timelines. As part of each workshop, team(s) producing white paper(s) specify how they plan jointly to address a problem identified, outlining their method, tasks and timeline.
  3. Enlistment of key leaders. Each white paper serves as a position paper and status report to enlist new team members and to contact relevant stakeholders for each aspect of the problem.
  4. Scenario-building. Eco-Café problem-solving guidance enables online brainstorming to evolve into scenario-building. Eco-Café follow-up supports the ongoing team effort to develop “what if?” scenarios facilitated by web-based, problem-focused sessions.
  5. Problem-mapping. Documenting each problem-solving process aligns it with the five key components of the Earth Science Enterprise Research Strategy and its hierarchy of scientific questions.
  6. Iterative Cycles. Each technical refinement cycles back for testing with the users. Built-in capacity to represent the status of problem-solving as it evolves facilitates measuring and assessing improved speed and efficiency of decision-making, in order to refine the framework.
Unique to our approach is the informality of the Eco-Café, its capacity to structure incoming data and proposals in process as problem-solving evolves, to report on the status of problem-solving and integrate new resources relevant to different aspects of each ecosystem challenge. The Eco-Café builds stakeholder networks: from scientists to engineers, planners to policy-makers, educators to students, and finally the general public. Besides a clear need for cross-platform, cross-disciplinary integration, the Eco-Café addresses the following new challenges:
  • First, pre-planning prior to holding each cross-disciplinary workshop. We will develop a web-based framework for future workshops into which attendees can easily deposit the different components of their Position Statements. This framework will be able to cluster related inputs and to map user interests, needs, and contributions.
  • Second, post workshop follow-up. We will design a system to map diffusion flowing from each workshop, such that this mapping method is applicable to other similar workshops and possibly to workshops in other disciplines. This tool can be used by workshop sponsors to assess cost/ benefit of hosting each workshop and will be one metric of the Eco-Café.
  • Third, an evolvable system. Workshop pre-planning, documentation, and post-workshop follow-up feed into an integrated, ongoing library, linked not only to output from other workshops, but also to related resources in the GeoLibrary.
  • Fourth, a “metaview.” By clustering and linking information in multiple ways, we can hyperlink resources not only by workshop, but also by emergent themes identified through each workshop, key research topics, applications, etc. See the convergent planning method of MetaVu Network.
Besides the need to build links across institutional boundaries, the Eco-Café
  • enables some subset(s) of the core group of attendees at each workshop to link synergetic projects and track those linkages (using the system above);
  • identifies institutional leaders able to represent the needs and contributions of their institutions and provide resources for the Tahoe GeoLibrary;
  • supports project-focused workshops, such that pre-planning for future workshops can gather new input from participants toward TRPA’s Pathway 2007 initiative to develop a Twenty Year Plan for Tahoe (2007 – 2027).
Each Eco-Café workshop
  • produces one or more white papers defining “major opportunities” identified by a quorum of attendees;
  • identifies drivers/ champions for particular solutions networks (possibly coincident with white paper topics and/or proposed projects) related to the Pathways 2007 agenda;
  • enables future Pathways 2007 Workshops to augment the capacity of teams (people and resources) to drive their own projects and to share progress on those projects with other teams, at future workshops and online.
Workshops combine three types of components as needed:

Partner-Focused Workshops bring together product developers, stakeholders and users, tools developers and systems integrators.

Project-Focused Workshops address different issues for regional planning, assembling stakeholders to clarify their needs and perspectives.

Tools Applications Workshops explore the needs of systems integrators for
  • Collaborative GIS and Visualization for Decision Support;
  • Open Source Tools grounded in Communities of Practice;
  • Information Visualization and intuitive User Interfaces.
Eco-Café workshops bring leaders/ users together with integrators, user interface designers, and information visualization experts to develop specs for integrated systems design. Each workshop produces a white paper, or series of white papers, and an associated Work Plan. Resources are collected into an emerging, ongoing collaboratory serving evolving teams of participants.


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