Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Geography and Planning

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, vii, 52 pages) : illustrations (some color), color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Rui Li

Committee Members

James E Mower, Alexander Buyantuev


Spatial ability, Space perception, Mobile geographic information systems, Mobile computing, Multimedia cartography, Visual perception, Visual analytics, Icons (Computer graphics)

Subject Categories

Geographic Information Sciences | Geography


More people are used to and comfortable using mobile devices compared to traditional paper maps. Multiple studies have suggested that user's spatial awareness tends to decrease as the user passively follows directions on a mobile device with diminished screen size. One way to overcome the shortcoming of the small screen is through displaying discrete off-screen objects (landmarks) located beyond the extent of mobile map displays. The current study empirically examines the effectiveness of using visual variables including size, fuzziness, and transparency to embed distance and direction information in implicit icons of off-screen objects. This study investigates the effectiveness of these visual variables on acquiring spatial knowledge as well as the actual user- device interaction. Participant’s interaction, performance in distance comparison, and distance and direction estimations were collected in this study. Using repeated measures ANOVA for analyzing each specific task, results showed that times of panning while using the App significantly increased in the size scenario than those of panning in the fuzziness and transparency scenarios. The visual variable size also had a significant effect on judging furthest distance with lower accuracy than other visual variables. Besides the visual variable, performance of judging distance between on-screen landmarks, between on- and off-screen landmarks, and estimating direction are significantly affected by another individual factor, spatial ability. This study provides an empirical assessment of the effectiveness of individual visual variables on learning spatial knowledge such as distance and direction as well as usability for improvement of this App.