ICC Programming

Thematic Cartography and Cognition

6707.1 - Psychophysics: The Foundation of Cartography

Thursday, July 6
4:10 PM - 4:30 PM
Location: Maryland B

Every aspect of the cartographic process involves psychophysics … the relationship between the characteristics of a stimulus and the response to that stimulus by the receiver. Simply, the stimulus is a map (which has been created by an author – the cartographer) describing some environment (and, generally, involving some task or activity). The response involves, in the most simple situation, a reading of the map and the application of the information gained to complete the task that the map was to be used to help accomplish.
Cartography became involved with psychophysics almost a century ago, when issues involving the creation of systems for symbolization on thematic maps were raised. These initial questions emerged without knowledge of the psychophysical work of G. T. Fechner (Elemente der Psychophysik, 1860) and others nearly a century before. In the midst of the twentieth-century growth of statistics in geography and the encouragement of cartographic design (A. H. Robinson, The Look of Maps, 1952) cartographers examined the organization of graphic symbols on maps. Individual studies began with creative and intuitive processes and results.
These mid-twentieth century activities did not at the outset involve Fechnerian approaches; the cartographic research was slow to recognize and adopt the approaches that had grown in the diverse research realms of psychology. The outset of psychophysical study of the processes involved in sensation and perception approaches preceded work in cognition (which came later). Much (and, possibly, most) of the work in cartographic psychophysics took little note of the evolution that was occurring in psychology. The contribution (perhaps, in some respects, a revolution) by S. S. Stevens (Psychophysics: Introduction to its Perceptual, Neural and Social Prospects, 1975) is important for cartography because it provides for those who create maps a basic structure for organizing the process of map design from the initial conception to the understanding of the user population operating in the culture in which the information has been organized.
There are a number of works that contribute clearly to this foundation position. Not as easily recognized is the fact that every map, and the stages of the process that operates from its conception to its use, its role in task completion and its contribution to its culture, involves the operation of the psychophysical process, the response by the user to the stimulus. Few of the Conference Themes can be listed as inappropriate venues for this topic. User Studies (T07), Cognitive issues (T08) and Design (T13) are closely allied with the consideration of the theory behind the basic idea. So, too, are T17 (Ubiquitous and theoretical) and T29 (Projections). Few, if any, of the others are not involved: simply because psychophysics ties the user tightly to the cartography process … think of environment and human behavior.

George F. McCleary

Assocoate Professor Emeritus
University of Kansas

Born, Springfield, Ohio, 1937. A.B. Yale University, 1959. M. S. 1963 and Ph. D. 1969. University of Wisconsin. Public Information Officer, U. S. Antarctic Projects Office, 1959-61. Cartographer, Clark University, 1966-1974, and University of Kansas, 1974-date.


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Jiří Pánek

Palacký University Olomouc

Jiří Pánek holds B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Geography and GIS from the Department of Geoinformatics and PhD from the Department of Development Studies, both Palacky University in Olomouc, Czech Republic. His research is focussed on GIS in development cooperation and humanitarian aid, with main focus on Participatory GIS (PGIS/ PPGIS). He has experienced mapping in Kenya and South Africa, studied GIS in India and currently he is developing participatory platform for collection perceptions about urban environment.


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6707.1 - Psychophysics: The Foundation of Cartography

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