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Articles | Volume 1
15 Jul 2019
 | 15 Jul 2019

Does Interactivity increase map user’s reasoning? A study with environmental map users

André Luiz Alencar de Mendonça and Carina Coelho Lyra

Keywords: Map interaction evaluation, Map interactivity, Map use and user’s analysis

Abstract. Concomitant to massive use of interactive maps the actual research agenda in cartography use and user’s issues address the need of evaluating interactivity for specific map uses and users (ROTH et al. 2017). There is established scientific discussion concerning spatial tools and cartographic representations effects on learning and on increasing user’s spatial capabilities and thematic knowledge which lead science of maps to develop methods for evaluating map user and use. This in order to better comprehend and quantify relationships around the extensive universe of map interactivity and contributing to advance a comprehensive theory in how to design interactions when dealing with spatial-temporal representations. As an area of growing interest for the last decade, this research field is being susceptible to technologic advances such as ubiquitous mapping, and map usage became a state-of-the-art study case for nearly all new interactive devices and systems.

There are several dimensions to comprehend interaction. This work presents a study case based on the concepts of map interface complexity model (Mendonça, Schmidt & Delazari, In Press) focusing on the interaction operators (Roth, 2013) and its effects on map reasoning (Olson, 1976; MacEachren and Ganter, 1990; Roth, 2012) and on cognitive workload (Hart & Staveland,1988) and SUS (System Usability Scale – Brooke, 1986), the later related to self-perception of usability, with both associated indicating better user experiences in the interaction with devices and interfaces (Longo and Dondio 2015; Borsci, Federici and Lauriola, 2009). Preliminary tests carried out with URUT usability remote evaluations showed more than 80% of usability issues can be assessed from workload and SUS forms (Mendonça, 2017)

The experience of the 1st author working with public sector and spatial analysis upon conservation of environment in the Amazonas state can be used to estimate that thousands of maps are produced every year to depict present and past situations of the subject, and these are being used by at least three main user groups: environmental professionals, which includes geographers, geologists, environment, forest, agronomic and fishing engineers, both in the public and private – including NGO – sectors; education professionals and students, including high school, technical, graduation and post-graduation levels; society in general, considering the appeal of preserving natural ecosystem in one of the most diverse tropical forests in the world. These groups are used to define the study users sample.

Since this study is focused in map use and user’s interaction, it carried out series of tests to measure and evaluate the role of interactivity in different levels of map tools interactions. Performance on better decision making and better understanding of environmental reality was stated and related to user interactions in order to answer if the variable level of interactivity can be related to better results on pointing out solutions to common maps ultimate goals: to support local and state policies on small scale issues like solid waste residuals disposal in small cities or analyze deforestation patterns together with forest fire focus against conservation units and the mosaic of protected areas. The study is part of a larger project which seeks to make better use of interactive technologies and to increase map use by different actors involved in the subject of monitoring Amazonas State environmental issues. This implies in identifying potential insights on environmental map use at local levels.

The research main goal was to answer if levels of interactivity will play direct role on increasing understanding upon environmental issues depicted in interactive maps. Secondary research questions include: 1) If environmental professionals consider using interactive mapping techniques when presenting results or studies related to the thematic, and if this can be perceived by means of their strategies of using their own maps or thematic interactive maps built for them. 2) What are current usability and acceptability gaps of proposed interactive map model considering the three evaluated user groups? 3) Will other continuum like the type of input device, user’s personal characteristic plays a more decisive role in the user’s performance? 4) Workload and Usability are related to task performance success when using interactive maps?

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