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Dieberger Andreas

Navigation in Textual Virtual Environments using a City Metaphor
by Andreas Dieberger

This thesis researches the possibility to support navigation in computer systems with a user interface based on a city metaphor. The task of navigation is reviewed both in real environments and in computer systems, which are seen as virtual environments. Navigation essentially is an activity in space. Therefore the thesis starts with areview of the psychology of spatial perception and spatial memory. The city environment is looked at in more detail and the work of Kevin Lynch and other influential city-planners is reviewed. This review describes properties of the city environment which are important for navigating a virtual environment based on a city metaphor.

Virtual environments and principles of modern user interfaces are described. Spatialized user interfaces are a promising special case of modern user interfaces because humans use spatial organizing principles in their daily lives, are used to navigate space and to communicate easily about space. The city environment forms the basis for a novel spatial user interface metaphor - the Information City metaphor. This metaphor enhances the city metaphor with various "magic features" which provide navigational functionality not available in real cities.

Textual virtual environments are virtual environments that are based entirely on textual descriptions. An example of such environments are networked adventure games commonly played on the Internet. These environments use city metaphors to support navigation and commonly make use of magic features like planned for the Information City. These environment are the ideal research ground to research magic features in a virtual city. A study about navigation in such environments is described. Results from this work can b used to improve text-based virtual environments including a text-based implementation of the Information City metaphor.

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