An Empirical Study on Pertinent Aspects of Sketch Maps for Navigation

An Empirical Study on Pertinent Aspects of Sketch Maps for Navigation

Jia Wang (Institute for Geoinformatics, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany) and Rui Li (Institute for Geoinformatics, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/ijcini.2013100102


Navigation systems which employ sequence-based directions have been found not effective in facilitating the spatial ability for humans to be aware of themselves in an environment. Traditional maps are found easily conveying the configuration of spatial objects but having difficulty to facilitate the correspondence to spatial objects in the real world. Sketch maps as schematic map-like representations have been suggested being a possible way of achieving goals of facilitating both navigation and spatial awareness. Moreover, sketch maps as externalizations of cognitive maps have been proved as reliable representations for human spatial thinking. In this study, the authors investigate the characteristics of directions given in two different forms: sketch maps and verbal descriptions (turn-by-turn instructions). The investigation addresses three aspects of spatial relations which are orientation, street topology and sequential order and their representations using existing qualitative reasoning calculi. The results of this study demonstrate sketch maps as a better direction-giving method and provide insights of applying sketch-map-like components for navigation.
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Traditional metric maps are developed through a data-driven approach where large amount of data are presented for various purposes. Human cognitive maps, however, are developed through a cognitively conceptual approach which builds on coarse, fragmented, and distorted spatial knowledge and refine over time (Klippel, et al., 2005). Studies on schematic maps, a similar form to sketch maps with simplified and distorted information, show that using fragmented, schematic, or distorted information on maps (while retaining local network structure) does not degrade the wayfinding performance as well as the development of spatial knowledge (Meilinger, et al., 2007). Recent studies (Chipofya, et al., 2011; J. Wang, et al., 2011) on alignment of sketch maps and metric maps have demonstrated the feasibility of using sketch maps as a reliable source to visualize survey knowledge of a local environment. In this study, we empirically assess navigational directions given in both forms of sketch maps and verbal descriptions in three aspects: orientation, street topology and sequential order. The results demonstrate the advantage and reliability of using sketch maps for navigation over verbal descriptions.

In this collaborative effort, the study initiates the understanding of how sketch maps represent spatial objects and their relationships, as well as implications to the design of maps for navigation. Specifically, we address the following two research questions:

  • What are the pertinent aspects of sketch maps that are keen to orienting and directing wayfinders?

  • What are the main differences between directions given in the form of sketch maps and those given in the form of verbal descriptions?

In the remaining of this paper, we introduce the background and related work that shed light on using sketch maps for navigation, the design and methodology of our experiment, the preliminary results, and the conclusions and future directions.

Sketch Maps

Cognitive maps are mental models that encompass the internal processes enabling people to acquire and operate information about their environment (Downs & Stea, 1973). Researchers in environmental cognition have depended largely on individuals’ hand-drawn sketch maps as externalizations of cognitive maps of their daily environments. Blades (1990, p. 327) carried out an experiment on sketch maps and found out that “the same subject will consistently produce the same map”. This result indicates that sketch maps are a reliable method for environmental representations.

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