I recently had the privilege of attending the 2016 International Conference for Information Systems (ICIS) to present my research on using neuroscience measures to detect cognitive states in e-learning sessions. For those who are not familiar with ICIS, it is the main conference of the Association for Information Systems (AIS), the professional body governing the Management Information Systems profession. MIS is a research subject normally taught in the business school, and concerns human behaviour and management technology. The conference was hosted in one of the most interesting conference centers, which looks conspicuously like a barrel.

Dublin Conference Centre

One of the most interesting things to come out of the conference was the realization that there is a Sig within AIS devoted specifically to geographical information systems. SigGIS (nerdspeak for Special Interest Group in Geographic Information Systems) is an active research body with around 60 members. After speaking to some of the senior members, we realized that there are some live research questions on the precise value GIS in business data visualization. Maps are generally regarded as being information rich yet familiar and easy to understand, and likely better than analyzing organic spreadsheet data. There was definitely strong interest in the prospect of exploring this hypothesis experimentally. We started wondering whether we can create an experiment using neurotechnology to measure how people perceive GIS differently.

At the Rowe School of Business, we are currently exploring this question using electroencephalography (EEG) and the galvanic skin response (GSR), which are basically electricity that your brain exhibits when you think (or not). Where conventional business research tools involve questionnaires asked after the activity, these tools allow us to see how users engage in real-time as they use GIS.  We can use these neuro-technologies to measure things like working memory and cognitive absorption, which show whether users are engaged. Though it’s still early days, we are finding that GIS may also be a good medium for conducting research into the neuro-technologies themselves!

We will update this blog with our progress over time. For those interested, the SIG GIS website can be found at https://siggis.wikispaces.com. In addition to collaboration, they run workshops during ICIS and the  Americas Conference for Information Systems (AMCIS), which are really great venues for research students hoping to present or publish GIS research.