Please read our student and staff community guidance on COVID-19
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

ACM Distinguished Speaker: Hanan Samet

Reading News with Maps by Exploiting Spatial Synonyms

Speaker: Hanan Samet – College Park, MD, United States
Topic(s): Information Systems, Search, Information Retrieval, Database Systems, Data Mining, Data Science
Time and location: 4 February 2020, 10:00-11:00, Room R0.21, University of Warwick


NewsStand is an example application of a general framework to enable people to search for information using a map query interface, where the information results from monitoring the output of over 10,000 RSS news sources and is available for retrieval within minutes of publication. The advantage of doing so is that a map, coupled with an ability to vary the zoom level at which it is viewed, provides an inherent granularity to the search process that facilitates an approximate search. This distinguishes it from today's prevalent keyword-based conventional search methods that provide a very limited facility for approximate searches and which are realized primarily by permitting a match via use of a subset of the keywords. However, it is often the case that users do not have a firm grasp of which keyword to use, and thus would welcome the search to also take synonyms into account. For queries to spatially-referenced data, the map query interface is a step in this direction as the act of pointing at a location (e.g., by the appropriate positioning of a pointing device) and making the interpretation of the precision of this positioning specification dependent on the zoom level is equivalent to permitting the use of spatial synonyms (i.e., letting spatial proximity play a role rather than only seeking an exact match of a query string). Of course, this is all predicated on the use of a textual specification of locations rather than a geometric one, which means that one must deal with the potential for ambiguity.

The issues that arise in the design of a system like NewsStand, including the identification of words that correspond to geographic locations, are discussed, and examples are provided of its utility. More details can be found in the video at which accompanies the ``cover article'' of the October 2014 issue of the Communications of the ACM about NewsStand which can be found at or a cached version can be found at