13. – 17. April 2009, Dagstuhl-Seminar 09161

Generalization of spatial information


Sébastien Mustière (Institut Géographique National – Saint-Mandé, FR)
Monika Sester (Leibniz Universität Hannover, DE)
Frank van Harmelen (VU University Amsterdam, NL)
Peter van Oosterom (TU Delft, NL)

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Seminar Dates

Arrival: Easter Monday April 13, from 3pm (Easter Monday is an national holiday in Germany)
Seminar: Tuesday 14, 9am - Friday 17, 5 pm
Departure: Friday after 5 pm


From the early start of handling geo-information in a digital environments, it has been attempted to automate the process of generalization of geographic information. Traditionally for the production of different map scale series, but more and more also in other contexts, such as the desktop/web /mobile use of geo-information, in order to allow to process, handle and understand possibly huge masses of data. Generalization is the process responsible for generating visualizations or geographic databases at coarser levels-of-detail than the original source database, while retaining essential characteristics of the underlying geographic information.

All current solutions for supporting different levels-of-detail are based on (static) copies that are (redundantly) stored at these levels. This makes dynamically adapting the map to new information and to the changing context of the user impossible. Besides the classic geo-information visualization requirement (supporting different scales), which has been solved only partly, there are also new requirements for generalization, making it even more difficult: it should be dynamic and suitable for progressive transfer. Furthermore, the objects to be visualized have expanded in dimension: the emerging 3D and temporal data. In order to make further progress in automated, machine generalization both the semantics of the spatial information and the user needs should be (further) formalized. Methods and techniques from the semantic web might be useful in this formalization and tools from knowledge engineering could be applied in the actual generalization based on reasoning. Interpretation of spatial constellations or situations is a process that is closely linked to human capabilities and can be formalized using formal semantics (OWL, ODM, etc.). Making implicit information explicit is needed not only for many spatial analysis problems, but also for aspects of information communication.

Spatial data also pose exciting questions for the algorithms and data structuring communities. It is vital that computational geometers meet with the spatial data community to exchange ideas, pose problems and offer solutions. Most algorithmic problems arising in that field are indeed geometric. In this context it must be noticed that the focus is more and more on 3D (and 3D plus time) geometric computations. In this respect, generalization operations and the resulting data have to be understood as processes, which will allow a broader and more flexible usage and re-generalization when changes in reality have occurred. For a mass market (e.g. consumers of mobile maps) the human factors aspect is very important. The currently available (often mobile maps) solutions still have insufficient user-interfaces. Extremely important is the issue of context as the user gets ‘lost’ very easily on the small mobile displays when zooming and panning. Based on a selection of use cases (navigation, tourist support, etc.), User-Centered Design techniques should be applied to evaluate the interaction and the quality of the maps.

In this context, the main goal of the seminar was to bring together experts from digital cartography, knowledge engineering, computational geometry, computer graphics and cognitive science, to lead to a fruitful exchange of different – but very close – disciplines and hopefully to the creation of new collaborations.

The seminar brought together experts from digital cartography, knowledge engineering, computational geometry and cognitive science, with the goal to lead to a fruitful exchange of different – but very close – disciplines and to the creation of new collaborations.

The idea of bringing together researches from various community, from semantic web specialists to geometry specialists has been widely thought of as fruitful. This led to many discussions on links between those fields of research. Some particular issues to be tackled appeared in many questions and discussions, and may lead to further research, like:

  • How cognitive and semantic aspects could be integrated in the generalisation process that is (may be too much) geometry-oriented?
  • How to handle the notions of fuzziness or uncertainty in semantic web techniques?
  • Shall generalsiation bemore task-oriented? How to do that?
  • How to handle the notions of time and updates in both domains?

Dagstuhl-Seminar Series


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Computer Graphics
  • Computer Vision
  • Data Bases
  • Information Retrieval
  • Modelling
  • Simulation
  • Data Structures
  • Algorithms
  • Complexity
  • Mobile Computing
  • Semantics
  • Specification
  • Formal Methods
  • Society
  • HCI


  • Spatial information
  • Generalization
  • Aggregation
  • Web services
  • Formal semantics
  • Geo-ontology
  • User context
  • Constraint specification
  • Progressive data transfer
  • Computational geometry
  • Cartography
  • Mobile systems


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