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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interactive visualization tools for spatial data & metadata Antle, Alissa N.

Abstract

In recent years, the focus of cartographic research has shifted from the cartographic communication paradigm to the scientific visualization paradigm. With this, there has been a resurgence of cognitive research that is invaluable in guiding the design and evaluation of effective cartographic visualization tools. The design of new tools that allow effective visual exploration of spatial data and data quality information in a resource management setting is critical if decision-makers and policy setters are to make accurate and confident decisions that will have a positive long-term impact on the environment. The research presented in this dissertation integrates the results of previous research in spatial cognition, visualization of spatial information and on-line map use in order to explore the design, development and experimental testing of four interactive visualization tools that can be used to simultaneously explore spatial data and data quality. Two are traditional online tools (side-by-side and sequenced maps) and two are newly developed tools (an interactive "merger" bivariate map and a hybrid o f the merger map and the hypermap). The key research question is: Are interactive visualization tools, such as interactive bivariate maps and hypermaps, more effective for communicating spatial information than less interactive tools such as sequenced maps? A methodology was developed in which subjects used the visualization tools to explore a forest species composition and associated data quality map in order to perform a range of map-use tasks. Tasks focused on an imaginary land-use conflict for a small region of mixed boreal forest in Northern Alberta. Subject responses in terms of performance (accuracy and confidence) and preference are recorded and analyzed. Results show that theory-based, well-designed interactive tools facilitate improved performance across all tasks, but there is an optimal matching between specific tasks and tools. The results are generalized into practical guidelines for software developers. The use of confidence as a measure of map-use effectiveness is verified. In this experimental setting, individual differences (in terms of preference, ability, gender etc.) did not significantly affect performance.

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