Additional Participants

Graduate Student

Adam Battson

Organizational Partner

Tufts University

Other Collaborators or Contacts

Matt Duckham, Department of Geomatics, University of Melbourne, Australia
Alex Klippel, Department of Geomatics, University of Melbourne, Australia
Kathleen Stewart Hornsby, University of Maine, USA

Project Period

September 1, 2003-August 31, 2006

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



This collaborative research project focuses on issues related to wayfinding, and is at the interface of geographic information science and human cognition. The research addresses the questions of the relationship between verbal and pictorial representations of geographic information, and how both representation modes can be successfully integrated in systems relating geographic information to users. To address this question, a theory of content and level of geographic detail is constructed that is independent of specific mode. The research is founded upon computational and cognitive theories of geographic information. The main idea is that theories of information granularity can be imposed on a 'canonical model' of dual mode information, enabling inter-modal comparisons and transformations to be made between levels of detail and information content. The level of detail that should be presented in each of the verbal and pictorial modes, and relationships between levels of detail in each mode, are important areas of investigation. The theory of information granularity should accord with human cognition, and a major part of the work will be the testing of the theory by a graded set of experiments with human subjects. The research will be evaluated through the construction of a demonstrator mobile 'wayfinding assistant' that will operate using both verbal and pictorial modes.

This project is motivated by the task of wayfinding in an unknown city, using a portable, mobile, digital wayfinding assistant, with two interaction modes, verbal and pictorial, and some locational and directional capabilities. With increasing use of multimedia, this research will help to formulate guidelines for effective presentation of pictoral and verbal spatial information. The research addresses fundamental questions such as: What should be the balance between modes of information supplied to the user? Should the information to be represented in each mode be complementary or supplementary? If it is necessary to 'switch off' a mode, how can this be done seamlessly, with the same level of detail presented? The ability to change flexibly between modalities may be especially appropriate for individuals with sensory impairments, as well as those whose tasks require both modes operating simultaneously, or those who need to switch seamlessly between modes (e.g. a driver of a vehicle who must switch from a visual display to audio cues because of the need to concentrate full visual attention on a traffic situation).

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