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Visual Representation and Implementation of Culturally Significant Information for Enhanced Tactical Decision-making


TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Information Systems

OBJECTIVE: Using a visual analytics approach, develop a reasoning and display tool that will enable the visual representation and implementation of culturally significant information for enhanced tactical decision-making in a foreign and hostile environment.

DESCRIPTION:  Modern warfare and conflict environments are drastically different from what was once considered to be the norm [8].  Where once the norm consisted of countryside “battlefield combat with distinct front lines,” modern conflict increasingly occurs in urban areas lacking distinct boundaries [8], within foreign cultures, where the focus is centered on the civilian population instead of the battlefield [1].  The discerning combatants from civilians has become increasingly complex in that combatants are frequently dispersed throughout the civilian population and without any clear uniform, it can be extremely difficult to discern friend from foe [8].  To further complicate combatant and civilian distinctions, a civilian encountered as such one day may present as a combatant another [8].  The conventional goal of overcoming an armed enemy is expanding, incorporating goodwill missions where the goal is to win over local civilians [8].  Operating in foreign environments, warfighters often find themselves in unfamiliar situations where they need to know how to resolve a situation appropriately in the context of an alien culture [4].  Due to these expansions in military conflict norms, sociocultural knowledge has become a critical factor for success in modern warfare environments [8].  Soldiers must understand a society’s values, motivations, culture, and subcultures within in [1].  For mission success, it is critical for all Soldiers and commanders to maintain cultural situational awareness when in a foreign environment [1].   Effective situational awareness depends on the ability to collect data from many distributed, heterogeneous information-sources and through visual analytics, display the data so that it facilitates understanding of evolving events occurring within complex and dynamic environments [3].  The military has applied visualization techniques to enhance decision making [2].   Incorporating culturally significant information into a military database accessible by Soldiers and commanders will enhance decision-making.

The challenges with this topic are threefold.  First, building and maintaining foreign cultural awareness and understanding societies where military operations are conducted has not always been a priority of the U.S. military [7].  It has been suggested that the lack of preliminary efforts to understand the local populace and culture that our forces operate in resulted in many of the early challenges encountered during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (OEF and OEF) [7].  Therefore, we are having back-track in order to develop and share cultural awareness while still immersed in these foreign cultures, and situations that have been exasperated by our lack of sociocultural awareness.  Secondly, there are many challenges regarding data  collection, entry, management, and quality.  For instance, in regards to data entry, a large issue occurs with entity resolution and relationship awareness.  How will a user discern two individuals with the same name?  Answering these questions as well as exploring how to best visually represent this information to a user will be some challenges developers will confront. Regarding data quality, given that information may be coming from many different sources, data may overlap, be incomplete, or incorrect [5].  Determining how to overcome and compensate for these issues is an ongoing challenge for developers. Developers will have to determine how to fuse information collected from various types of data sources into meaningful information that will enhance human understanding without increasing user stress [3] and while compensating for any data errors [5]. 

The current topic seeks to address these challenges by developing and implementing a visual analytics technique for representing culturally significant information for enhanced tactical decision-making.  This will include developing a semantic model that can incorporate and parse elements of data into meaningful representations that are amenable to visual representation and manipulation.  Visual representations for sociocultural data that would prove critical for military operations regarding mission planning, hostile conflicts, and goodwill encounters.  Visual and computer analytics should be employed to develop soft information and multi-source data fusion techniques.  The tool should enable reasoning so that the sociocultural information could be applied to relevant mission scenarios such as route planning.

PHASE I: Define requirements for developing and implementing a technique for building a reasoning and display tool for enhanced visual representation of culturally significant information to promote commander decision making.  Requirements definition must include: a description of the model components and the supporting relationships, the computational processing technique that will be used and a description of the integration mechanisms, a determination of the types and characteristics of the metrics that will be captured and used, a detailed discussion of the specific domain to be represented, and a discussion of analysis and assessment techniques to be used.  Phase II plans should also be provided, to include key component technological milestones and plans for testing and validation of the proposed system and its components.  

PHASE II: Produce a prototype system based on the preliminary design from Phase I.  All appropriate engineering testing will be performed, and a critical design review will be performed to finalize the design.  Phase II deliverables will include a working prototype of the system, specification for its development, and a demonstration and validation of the ability to both accurately represent the model of the soft information fusion and the collaborative visual analytics representation of the data.

PHASE III: This technology will have broad application in military, government, and commercial settings.  Within the military and government, there is an increasing emphasis on understanding sociocultural norms and behaviors of communities in foreign nations that are potentially hostile to US and Coalition interests.  Currently, fusing information from these sources is extremely labor intensive and costly in terms of labor and time.  Developing collaborative visual analytics reasoning tools will be a powerful addition to strategic, operational, and tactical decision making.  The proposed effort will enable the delivery of more informed courses of action supported by tractable information sources in a display environment that provides multiple views into the problem space.  Commercially, the online social blogs and social networking sites have produced unprecedented amount of digital information and applications by which to sort, collect, and share data.  This sector has also witnessed a surge in analytic processing, dissemination, and display capabilities.  Harnessing these for multiple uses will reduce the cost of integrating these techniques and improve the human decision making process. 

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