Article Summaries
SEPTEMBER 2006 (Vol. 39, No. 9) p. 4
0018-9162/06/$31.00 © 2006 IEEE

Published by the IEEE Computer Society
Article Summaries
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Developing Concept-Based User Interfaces for Scientific Computing
pp. 26–34
George Chin Jr., Eric G. Stephan, Debbie K. Gracio, Olga A. Kuchar, Paul D. Whitney, and Karen L. Schuchardt
Graphs and diagrams provide an intuitive, expressive, and universal visual language that scientists can use for conceptualizing problems and theories. Unfortunately, the static drawings developed through typical means aren't amenable to computational analysis.
The authors have developed systems that capture, represent, and operationalize different kinds of scientific knowledge: experimental procedures, concepts and theories, and analysis results. These visual systems are intended to represent knowledge at the appropriate level of abstraction so that scientists can express their theories and processes intuitively and naturally.
Imagining the City: The Cultural Dimensions of Urban Computing
pp. 38–43
Amanda Williams and Paul Dourish
Cities as cultural objects can be interpreted in two different ways. The taxonomic view recognizes that cities in Britain are different from those in the US, Australia, or Asia. Though it allows for categorization and classification, this view of culture obscures a deeper meaning. The authors are more concerned with the generative or interpretive notion of culture, which recognizes that cities reflect and reproduce cultural values and that encounters with cities represent opportunities for cultural work.
Thinking about urban computing from this perspective prompts several questions. What cultural dimensions frame research in technologies for city life? What lenses do researchers use to analyze and understand this research? How might a change of frames inform our technological practice?
Facilitating Social Networking in Inner-City Neighborhoods
pp. 44–50
Marcus Foth
Interaction and engagement, usually voluntary, are driven by social needs, personal interests, mutual support, and intrinsic motivation. Social networks exhibit swarming, transitory, and informal qualities. Further, in social networks based on geographic proximity, online interaction takes place in a shared locale where users can see and meet each other in real life if they wish.
Commercially successful systems designed to facilitate and support social networking in inner-city neighborhoods represent an opportunity to bridge a gap in the market. For example, with a new kind of cross-platform instant-messenger tool, users can easily maintain social ties with their local friends and peers—anywhere, anytime.
Designing Urban Pervasive Systems
pp. 52–59
Vassilis Kostakos, Eamonn O'Neill, and Alan Penn
To understand how a city's spatial structure relates to its function, the authors' space syntax research analyzes cities as systems of space created by the physical artifacts of architecture and urban design. This research investigates pedestrian and vehicular movement, land use, social and economic performance, crime, and many other functional aspects of urban systems.
The authors describe a conceptual framework that relates degrees of publicness to three aspects of pervasive systems: the interaction spaces the artifacts create, the architectural spaces in which they are situated, and the information they access or exchange.
Public Pervasive Computing: Making the Invisible Visible
pp. 60–65
Jesper Kjeldskov and Jeni Paay
The deployment of low-cost wireless sensor networks has motivated researchers as well as sociologists and city architects, planners, and designers to explore the use of pervasive computing technologies in inhabited environments.
Adding a digital layer to the existing physical and social layers could facilitate new forms of interaction that reshape urban life. While commercial information providers would create, own, and maintain this new layer, the public would greatly inform its form and content.
Initiated two years ago, Just-for-Us is a multidisciplinary exploration of public pervasive computing in a specific city precinct: Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia.
Simulations for Urban Planning: Designing for Human Values
pp. 66–72
Janet Davis, Peyina Lin, Alan Borning, Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn Jr., and Paul A. Waddell
The authors present a snapshot of ongoing research into the design of user interactions based on the results from UrbanSim, a large-scale urban simulation system. UrbanSim projects patterns of land and transportation use and the environmental impact of various policies and investments over 20 years or more.
The authors developed three tools to help a variety of stakeholders—planners, modelers, citizens—understand UrbanSim's indicators: technical documentation designed to make information about indicators readily accessible; indicator perspectives that provide a platform for organizations to advocate for the use of particular indicators in decision making; and household indicators that let citizens look at simulation results from the viewpoint of their own household.