Articles | Volume 13, issue 1
Research article
23 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 23 Jan 2013

Collaborative damage mapping for emergency response: the role of Cognitive Systems Engineering

N. Kerle and R. R. Hoffman

Abstract. Remote sensing is increasingly used to assess disaster damage, traditionally by professional image analysts. A recent alternative is crowdsourcing by volunteers experienced in remote sensing, using internet-based mapping portals. We identify a range of problems in current approaches, including how volunteers can best be instructed for the task, ensuring that instructions are accurately understood and translate into valid results, or how the mapping scheme must be adapted for different map user needs. The volunteers, the mapping organizers, and the map users all perform complex cognitive tasks, yet little is known about the actual information needs of the users. We also identify problematic assumptions about the capabilities of the volunteers, principally related to the ability to perform the mapping, and to understand mapping instructions unambiguously. We propose that any robust scheme for collaborative damage mapping must rely on Cognitive Systems Engineering and its principal method, Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA), to understand the information and decision requirements of the map and image users, and how the volunteers can be optimally instructed and their mapping contributions merged into suitable map products. We recommend an iterative approach involving map users, remote sensing specialists, cognitive systems engineers and instructional designers, as well as experimental psychologists.