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Raubal Martin MSc

Structuring Wayfinding Tasks with Image Schemata


Wayfinding is a basic activity that people do throughout their entire lives as they navigate from one place to another. Many theories of spatial cognition have been developed to account for this behavior. But most of the computational models focus on knowledge representation (e.g., cognitive maps) and do not consider the process of structuring wayfinding tasks and space. This thesis presents a methodology based on image schemata to structure people's wayfinding tasks. Image schemata are recurring mental patterns (e.g., the CONTAINER or PATH schema) that people use to understand a spatial situation. They are highly structured and grounded in people's experience.

The area of our attention is airport space which is used as a case study. Many airports are badly designed and passengers are often unfamiliar with the particulars of the situations. We compare two selected airports in regard to the ease of performing a common wayfinding task. In order to do so, the methodology of structuring space with image schemata is combined with a proposed wayfinding model. We show that sequences of image schemata are sufficient to describe wayfinding tasks in spatial environments at an abstract level. Therefore, they can be used to compare the complexity of wayfinding tasks for different airports.

The integration of image schemata into the design process of spatial environments such as airports (i.e., the implementation of our method in a computer system) will help to identify architectural problems with regard to wayfinding prior to construction. Our structuring methodology can be generalized and will, thereby, contribute to the design of future geographic information systems that are supposed to integrate elements of human spatial understanding.

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