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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interactive visualization to facilitate group deliberations in decision making processes Taheri, Hamed


Structured Decision Making (SDM) and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) are increasingly used to facilitate municipal and environmental decision-making. Even though it is well documented that visualization techniques can facilitate analytical activities, few studies have probed into the use of information visualization (infovis) in SDM and MCDA processes. The aim of the present study is to analyze how infovis can support participants in a real-world MCDA/SDM process surrounding an urban infrastructure-planning problem with focus on meetings held to evaluate multiple alternatives over a set of criteria. I attended as a participant in a series of SDM workshops related to the renewal of a municipal sewage treatment facility. Participatory observation was conducted of visualizations used to evaluate multiple alternatives over a number of criteria. Two interactive infovis features were identified to be particularly be beneficial for SDM-based processes: information on demand and exploration of preferences. We demonstrated an interactive computer-based tool developed by our research team, ValueCharts, in a number of meetings with potential users to get their feedback. Drawing on these results and the literature, ValueCharts was extended by our research team to a new version, Group ValueCharts, to support group deliberations during MCDA and SDM processes. An experiment was then conducted with seven participants on a stormwater management decision problem at UBC. Our results show that interactive visualization features in ValueCharts and Group ValueCharts have the potential for increasing the effectiveness of MCDA decision processes. They can facilitate comparing multiple alternatives and also probing into participants’ preferences. Interactive visualization was acknowledged by participants for improving group interaction, exchange of information, identification of sticking points, and focusing discussions on what matter for the final decision. Feedback from the participants and our observations support our conclusion that the identified infovis features hold the potential of facilitating the decision process in SDM. Understanding MCDA concepts, however, seems to be essential to get the most out of such visualization tools. If participants do not grasp MCDA concepts, some of them may become suspicious of the final ranking or not be able to identify some of sticking points that really matter.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada