Please join us for the next Spatial Technology Lunch on Thursday, May 1, from 12:00-1:00 pm in Phelps Hall, room 3512. This semi-regular series, hosted by spatial@ucsb, aims to promote discussion and interaction within the university’s spatial technology community.

Stanford PhD candidate Amanda Cravens of the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources will present findings from her research on environmental decision making with geospatial decision support tools (DSTs). She investigated how MarineMap, a collaborative DST, influenced participants’ experiences during the implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). See below for Amanda’s full abstract.

Feel free to invite interested friends and colleagues. As always, pizza and drinks will be served. Please RSVP to Kitty Currier by Tuesday, April 29.

Negotiation and Decision Making with Collaborative Software: How MarineMap ‘Changed the Game’ in California’s Marine Life Protected Act Initiative

Amanda E. Cravens


Environmental managers and planners have become increasingly enthusiastic about the potential of decision support tools (DSTs) to improve environmental decision-making processes as information technology transforms many aspects of daily life. Discussions about DSTs, however, rarely recognize the range of ways software can influence users’ negotiation, problem-solving, or decision-making strategies and incentives, in part because there are few empirical studies of completed processes that used technology. This mixed-methods study—which draws on data from approximately 60 semi-structured interviews and an online survey—examines how the geospatial DST MarineMap influenced participants’ experiences during the implementation of California’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). Results suggest that MarineMap facilitated communication by creating a common language; helped users understand the coastal 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 MarineMap was implemented, suggesting that the relationship between the software development team and other participants may be as important as technical software design in shaping how DSTs add value. The paper concludes with considerations to inform the future use of DSTs in environmental decision-making processes.

Spatial Technology Lunch: Amanda Cravens