Map-reading and wayfinding

Torgny Ottosson

Forskningsoutput: Typer av avhandlingarDoktorsavhandling

7 Nedladdningar (Pure)


The aim of the study is to make an analysis of map-reading as a cognitive phenomenon, with the use of a map for finding one's way as the specific focus. As a point of departure, the nature of human beings' knowledge of spatial relationships in their physical environment (here termed macro-spatial relations) is discussed. On this basis a conceptualization of cognitive functions as relational (human–world) phenomena is introduced. It is concluded that macrospatial cognition should be studied as conceptions of topographies. Some basic and general characteristics of maps are discussed. Two different aspects of maps, a referential and a structural, are distinguished and a view of map-reading as a harmonization of different versions of reality is developed. One main conclusion is that an analysis of map-reading should be based on an analysis of the map-reader's conception of the task. The research approach adopted is qualitative-descriptive and four studies of map-reading-for-wayfinding are reported. The first concerns children's map understanding. A total of 37 children, aged 5 to 12 years were individually interviewed and then observed while performing some wayfinding tasks. A result of that study is the identification of three different conceptions of the relation between map and reality: the map as a representation of presence, sequence, or structure. The remaining three studies concern map-reading by performers of the sport of orienteering. Among other things, three different wayfinding approaches are identified. On the basis of the theoretical view developed in the thesis, some implications for teaching map-reading and map understanding are discussed. It is argued that the "view-from-above" metaphor common in introductory map teaching is inadequate and that viewing the map as a miniature provides a better basis. It is recommended that introductory teaching of maps should not take symbolization and projection as its starting-point but, instead, the pupils' conceptions of topographies, as already present.

StatusPublicerad - 1987
Externt publiceradJa

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