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NC CSC Adaptation and Decision making Working Group Webinar

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Decision Making with Software: Identifying Cognitive and Social Mechanisms
Amanda Cravens (USGS Mendenhall Fellow)
Abstract: Calls for decision support processes and tools are ubiquitous in federal climate change research, but the cognitive and social mechanisms by which tools influence problem solving, negotiation, and collective learning receive relatively little attention. This case study of the geospatial decision support tool MarineMap, designed to site marine protected areas in a participatory planning process along California’s coast, is used to illustrate how software design and implementation choices influence users’ experiences. In this case, the decision support tool facilitated communication by creating a common language, helped users understand the geography and scientific criteria in play during the process, aided stakeholders in identifying shared or diverging interests, and facilitated joint problem solving. The same design features that enabled the tool to aid in decision making, however, also presented surprising challenges in certain circumstances by, for example, making it difficult for participants to discuss information that was not spatially represented on the map-based interface. The study also highlights the importance of the social context in which software is developed and implemented, suggesting that the relationship between the software development team and other participants may be as important as technical software design in shaping how decision support tools add value. I will end by discussing my current research on decision support for climate adaptation and solicit feedback to shape the project, which is just beginning.


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