Beyond Place Names: Current Capabilities, Limitations, and Future Directions in Place- Based Search


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This full-day workshop on September 10, 2019 at COSIT 2019 is meant to attract participants with a research interest in place-based search. This workshop will advance discussion on two main topics: the current theoretical and technical limitations of place-based search and the limitations that can be addressed in the next few years. The morning session will focus on participant presentations and cataloging current limitations of place-based search through a hands-on activity. The afternoon session will be dedicated to general and breakout group discussion on if and how individual limitations can be addressed in the future. Those interested should submit a 2-3 page paper on current research on, or a position on future directions of place-based search. Please see details below.



Currently, many search tools allow users to tailor results to a locality by specifying a place name or exploring a map. But how exactly do these tools interpret a place name, and do these interpretations capture an adequate representation of places? How valuable are these tools in their present form for place-based search? This workshop will investigate these questions and advance discussion on two topics: the current theoretical and technical limitations of place-based search and the limitations that can be addressed in the next few years. Place is a much discussed topic in the spatial information theory community, so emphasis at this workshop will be on how search tools in particular can, should, and do handle place references.

Place-based search plateaued with the maturation of web mapping and location- based services and has since remained relatively undeveloped. In most text-based search tools, place names are handled, at best, as links to some geometric footprint stored in a gazetteer, which can then be used to query nearby, contained, or overlapping results. Other aspects of place, such as their enabling of events, people’s sense of place, and even variable interpretations of where places are remain outside current capacities of place-based search tools.

Relevant work on place-based search can be found in contexts such as Digital Earths (e.g., Gore 1998), Digital Libraries (e.g., Lafia et al. 2016), Qualitative Spatial Reasoning, and Geographic Information Retrieval (GIR, e.g., the SPIRIT project (Jones et al. 2002)). However, place-based search is more specific than GIR, focusing on how place name interpretations influence search results. Many search tools in these and other contexts provide some form of geobrowsing, i.e., map-based search.


Gore, A. “The digital earth: understanding our planet in the 21st century.” Australian surveyor 43.2 (1998): 89-91.

Jones, Christopher B., et al. “Spatial information retrieval and geographical ontologies an overview of the SPIRIT project.” Proceedings of the 25th annual international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval. ACM, 2002.

Lafia, S., et al. “Spatial discovery and the research library.” Transactions in GIS 20.3 (2016): 399-412.


How to Prepare

We ask that participants submit a 2-3 page paper on either current research or a position on future directions of place-based search, which will be used to select attendees. Example topics may include fuzzy or local gazetteers, non-geometric place representations, place-based querying and ranking, linguistic and contextual approaches, and evaluation methods for place-based search. All submissions must discuss how at least one search tool studied interprets and/or represents place.

Submissions will be reviewed by the organizers for topical fit and innovativeness. If accepted
papers contain enough novel material and the discussions suggest further development after
the workshop, a call for full papers to a special journal issue will follow.

Please submit manuscripts using the button above or the submission link on the workshop’s EasyChair page:

Important Dates

NOTE: Paper due date extended.

Important Links

[button link=”” type=”icon” icon=”people” newwindow=”yes”] COSIT Website [/button] [button link=”” type=”icon” icon=”people” newwindow=”yes”] COSIT Workshop [/button] [button link=”″ type=”icon” icon=”people” newwindow=”yes”] Paper Submission [/button]




The first session (morning session) of this full-day workshop will discuss positions on what place-based search is, focusing on its current theoretical and practical limitations. The second session (afternoon session) will take the form of a group-based discussion to identify how limitations can be addressed in the near term.


Session I (900 – 1230)

  • Motivating presentation: Organizer of invited speaker (20′)
  • Introductory questionnaire for participants (15′)
    • Aimed to establish common ground on what place-based search means. Sample questions will include:
      • What are examples of content that should be searchable by place?
      • How does place-based search differ from location-based / location-inclusive search (LBS) and GIR more generally?
      • Should search functionality change when searching for georeferenced data versus non-georeferenced data?
  • Questionnaire results discussion (30′)
  • Participant paper presentations (5′ + 3′ Q/A)
    • Participants will be asked to highlight which technical capabilities from the questionnaire exercise their work addresses, or new ones to be added.

Coffee Break (1030 – 1100)

  • Participant paper presentations (continued)

Lunch break (1230 – 1400)

Session II (1400 – 1700)

  • General discussion: Limitations of place-based search (30′)
    • Participants will catalog issues discussed during Session I, and, for each of them, whether it is known how to solve it or not.
  • Breakout group discussion (60′)
    • Participants will self-organize into groups around a single limitation and discuss possible steps to address it.

Coffee Break (1530 – 1600)

  • Plenary discussion (60′)
    • Participants will reconvene to discuss findings and potential publication outlets for the results.


Post Workshop Event (1830)

  • Walk or ride bus to Old Town for an icebreaker and beer tasting. Note: Leave campus by 1745


Thomas HerveyGraduate Student of GIScience, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Werner KuhnProfessor, Department of Geography, and Director, Center for Spatial Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Stephan WinterProfessor, Department of Infrastructure Engineering, University of Melbourne, Australia
Ross PurvesProfessor, Department of Geography, University of Zürich, Switzerland

Contact: Thomas Hervey –

Report on Leadership Workshop on Location Analytics in Business

The final report from the Leadership Workshop on Location Analytics in Business is now posted and available to read here.

This meeting was held at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara from January 31 to February 2, 2018. The motivation for this workshop originated in an effort by Esri to encourage greater use of location analytics in business, and to that end to engage with the discipline of information systems (IS) as a way of reaching an appropriate set of leaders in business education. Esri staff had made presentations at previous conferences of the Association for Information Systems (AIS) such as the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS), and had been encouraged by the level of interest they observed in location analytics. Michael Gould of Esri and three faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB; Michael Goodchild, emeritus; Werner Kuhn; and Krzysztof Janowicz) began the process of planning a workshop to be held in Santa Barbara in early December 2017, with the aim of further developing strategies and building bridges between the IS and GIScience communities. An open call was issued, and invitations were advanced to a number of key individuals.

In early December the Thomas Fire broke out and expanded rapidly across a wide area of Southern California, causing unhealthy levels of smoke in the Santa Barbara area, plus substantial risk that the fire would reach the city. The workshop had to be postponed at the last minute, and a new date of January 31 was announced. Unfortunately the new dates were impossible for some of the participants, leading to a workshop that was smaller than anticipated. However a very compelling set of presentations and extensive discussions occurred; this report is an account of the meeting and its conclusions. Read the full report here.

The workshop was hosted by the Center for Spatial Studies at UCSB, and sponsored by Esri.

GIS Help Desk Workshops

Past Workshops

Introduction to GIS using ArcGIS

Date & Time: Monday, May 23, 2016, 09:00am–11:00am
Location: UCSB Library Collaboratory
(2nd floor on the mountain side near the courtyard entrance, map)
Description: No prior knowledge of GIS is necessary to attend. This is a 2-hour introduction to digital spatial data in which you will learn to:

  • Visualize spatial data in a geographic information system
  • Explore different ArcGIS tools for spatial analysis, including overlay analysis and choropleth mapping
  • Identify 7 common file formats used with spatial data
  • Learn about data resources available to you at the UCSB Library
  • Produce a map to print or share online

Laptop Introduction to ArcGIS Pro

Date & Time: Wednesday, February 17, 2016, 11:00am–1:00pm
Location: UCSB Library Collaboratory
(2nd floor on the mountain side near the courtyard entrance, map)
Description: ArcGIS Pro, the newest application included with ArcGIS 10.3 for Desktop, is designed to help GIS professionals complete their projects and share their results more quickly and easily than ever before. With its modern ribbon interface and tight integration of 2D and 3D capabilities, ArcGIS Pro will streamline the way you do your GIS work.
Instructor: Song Gao

Laptop Installation of ArcGIS Desktop

Date & Time: Friday, January 22, 2016, 1:00–5:00 pm
Location: UCSB Library Collaboratory
(2nd floor on the mountain side near the courtyard entrance, map)
Description: Hands-on tutorial on installing Esri ArcGIS Software
Instructor: Song Gao

UCSB Mapping Resources

Maps can add important dimensions to analysis and interpretation in the humanities, illustrating the distribution of phenomena, patterns of activities, processes of landscape change, flows among places, and connections between natural and human environments. They also enable the transfer of information, provide guidance to navigation, and offer insight to solving problems.

This workshop will provide demonstrations for a range of tools used in map making that are readily accessible and that illustrate a variety of applications of likely interest in the humanities. These tools will include open-source software to create maps from databases and online mapping tools that allow access to historical and contemporary socio-demographic data. Demonstrations will cover procedures for transferring GPS tracks and locations to maps and for embedding one’s own information and imagery to Google Earth and similar geo-browsers. Information on courses and software licenses available at UCSB will be provided, along with listings of mapping resources and data that are Web accessible. Participants are encouraged to bring their laptops to the workshop for accessing resources that exist online.

Moderators and Introduction:

  • Ann Bermingham, (UCSB Interdisciplinary Humanities Center)
  • Don Janelle, (UCSB Center for Spatial Studies)


      Viewers may find the following presentation by Waldo Tobler of special interest–

“Beyond-Ptolemy: Mercator and other Distorted Maps”Download only