An evaluation of cartographic visualization's utility in the spatial analysis of urban social dynamics
Beavers, Robert Maxwell
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The development of computer graphics technology has fostered a new paradigm in cartography. This advancement enabled the emergence of analytical cartography and geographic visualization, wherein map designers now engage in the use of cartographic displays for the analysis of spatial phenomena. Visualization allows for the exploration, analysis, and presentation of data, and is being touted as an important new companion to statistical methods for spatial analysis. This research project evaluated cartographic visualization's utility as a tool for the spatial analysis of urban social dynamics, specifically examining the human capacity for recognizing the strength of relations among urban social data via animated representations of a changing socioeconomic landscape. These representations were presented via a world-wide-web based survey instrument where subject responses were collected using Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripted forms. Correlations among selected data were used to provide a test value against which test subject estimates were measured. Fifty-five University of Georgia geography students were asked to view a series of ten animated thematic map pairs displaying socioeconomic data in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia from years 1960 through 1990 and visually estimate the correlations existing among the data. In addition, these test subjects were asked to provide a qualitative assessment of any spatio-temporal patterns that were observed. The correlation estimates were statistically evaluated both collectively (treating the results as a group) and individually (comparing responses for each test case), and the qualitative assessments were subjectively evaluated. This research provides evidence supporting the usefulness of visualization as a means for the exploration, analysis, and representation of urban population dynamics. Given the nature of the visualization process and the manner in which it is typically employed (by experts familiar with both study area and data), this research presents a strong case for the merits of cartographic visualization as a tool for urban spatial analysis.