Analysing landmarks in nature and elements of geospatial images to support wayfinding

Pyry Kettunen

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    This dissertation applies the research and methods of spatial cognition in order to contribute to the development of wayfinding support in geospatial applications. The design and development of geospatial applications, such as interactive maps and mobile navigation applications, has been typically founded on the expertise of surveying, cartography and geoinformatics. This has often led to relatively complex expert tools that many users find difficult to use. The research of spatial cognition can provide elementary understanding about human thinking in the use situations of these applications and supplement the knowledge gained using the usability research. Perception of landmarks along routes in nature was studied in season and time-of-day studies with participants who walked nature trails in summer, winter, day and night while thinking aloud about the surroundings. The recall of the route was measured afterwards using sketch-map drawing and photo recognition tasks. The think-aloud protocols were analysed using classification of propositions and natural language processing. The importance of landmarks for the human route perception in nature was confirmed. "Structures", "Passages" and "Waters" were the most perceived landmark groups. Season and time-of-day significantly affected landmark perception and, based on the results, the adaptivity of geospatial applications in the studied conditions can be improved. The transfer of the empirically acquired knowledge of the landmark perception to geoinformatics was illustrated with a formal landmark ontology for hiking in nature. The measures of landmark recall were found unexpectedly similar in all the studied conditions. The similarity was explained by the salience of landmarks in nature and the structure of route-like sketch maps but also by the participants' conceptions on what should be drawn on maps. "Passages" and "Structures" were the most-often drawn landmark groups on the sketch maps. Support of geospatial images for wayfinding was evaluated using a literature-based evaluation framework. Visualisation of elevation was experimented with by rendering a 3D map, a derivative of which was compared to 2D elevation visualisations in an eye-tracking study. Vertical elements and elevation were found to be central wayfinding elements in geo-images and the aerial oblique vantage point the most effective image parameter for transferring spatial knowledge. The rendered 3D map was evaluated as cognitively demanding to look at but, however, showed potential in representing the terrain relief. The dissertation also considers challenges in the application of the methods of spatial cognition research and identifies directions for future studies.
    Translated title of the contributionLuonnon maamerkkien ja geospatiaalisten kuvien analyysi reitinkulun tukemiseksi
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Virrantaus, Kirsi-Kanerva, Supervisor
    • Sarjakoski, Tiina, Advisor, External person
    Print ISBNs978-951-711-311-3
    Electronic ISBNs978-951-711-312-0
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • wayfinding
    • landmark
    • spatial knowledge
    • route
    • nature
    • geospatial image
    • elevation
    • eye tracking

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