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A sociocybernetic approach

to waynding map studies

The systems of people-map-space interactions
Christopher Kian Teck Kueh
Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
Purpose This paper seeks to apply a systemic approach to study human-map-space interactions
that will benet the design of a waynding map.
Design/methodology/approach This paper presents a case study that was based on
Van Bockstaele et al.s sociocybernetic theory as a research framework to map study.
Van Bockstaele et al.s theory suggests that an individuals behaviour derives from a cognitive
system that consists of latent (background thinking process) and patent (amplied language or action
that communicates with the public) action. To observe and understand an individuals action, the
observer must also consider cognitive systems. Applying this theory, the process of individuals using
maps to solve waynding tasks within the City of Fremantle, Western Australia was observed. The
study involved observing 30 international students who use three maps, each of which presents iconic,
symbolic, and iconic and symbolic representations, to locate four destinations in the city.
Findings Findings suggest that external systems such as maps and the actual environment affect
an individuals latent and patent actions, while their behaviour affects the way they perceive the
external systems.
Research limitations/implications This paper addresses the complexity of systems involved in
the process of an individual using maps to solve waynding tasks in the actual environment.
Practical implications This study provides graphic and information designers with a substantial
understanding of human-map-space interactions based on systemic perspectives.
Originality/value The application of sociocybernetics is uncommon in map studies. This paper
provides a link between the two disciplines.
Keywords Design, Research, Cybernetics, Feedback, Information research, Sociocybernetics
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Waynding refers to the activities and processes of individuals navigating and nding
their ways in an environment (Golledge, 1999, p. 24). A waynding map therefore is a
map that assists individuals in solving waynding tasks. The design of effective
waynding map has always been a challenge for graphic and information designers.
Disciplines such as cognitive science, geography, cartography, and
graphic/information design are involved in the studies of designing effective
waynding maps (Allen, 1999; Casakin et al., 2000; Correa de Jesus, 1994; Darken and
Peterson, 2001; Levine, 1982; Miller and Lewis, 2000; Passini, 1984, 1996; Talbot et al.,
1993; Tversky, 2000; Zipf, 2006). However, ndings about the usability of maps is still
inconclusive (Wood, 1993). This paper approaches the usability of waynding maps by
studying people-map-space as a social system. A social system is considered in this
paper not as a social organisation, but it refers to the process and structure of the ways
individuals respond to maps and built environment while solving waynding tasks.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Vol. 36 No. 9/10, 2007
pp. 1406-1421
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/03684920710827382
Sociocybernetics provides a systemic perspective in understanding the learning
process of an individual solving waynding tasks in a given built space by using a
waynding map. The application of sociocybernetics is currently uncommon in map
reading and waynding studies. The integration of sociocybernetics into map design is
benecial because it provides broader perspectives on how individuals function with
maps and the actual environment. This insight will assist designers in designing more
effective maps.
This paper presents a case study that applies a sociocybernetic framework to
investigate people-map-space interactions. Based on Van Bockstaele, et al.s (2000)
framework, the study investigated the relationships that individuals make between
external systems (actual space and maps) and internal cognitive systems (latent and
patent actions). Outcomes recognise that external systems such as maps and the actual
environment affect individuals latent and patent actions while their behaviour affects
the way they perceive the external systems.
2. Background: complexity of waynding and map systems
In this paper, a map is both an object and process that represents map users
understanding of the actual environment. It is an object because the user recognises it
as a physical form that contains information that he/she needs; it is a process because
the user develops her/his own understanding of the map by interacting with it,
constructing meaning from it, while relating its meaning to the actual environment.
Therefore, investigation into the understanding and improvements of the ways
individuals use map is a complex process that involves the relationships between
individuals internal and external representation of space. Such understanding is
signicantly important for designers to acquire and apply to the design of maps that
assist individuals to solve waynding tasks in built environments.
The issue facing the effectiveness of waynding map design is the lack of studying
and understanding of people-map-space interaction as a whole. Maps play an
important role in representing the built environment via visual information to assist
individuals, especially novice user of spaces, in better understanding and navigating
their surroundings. However, the effectiveness of current map design is challenged by
the following situations:
The body of knowledge that relate users responses towards the map design of
actual environments is underdeveloped and this contrasts with the increasing
opportunities provided by new technology in designing and presenting
waynding maps (Haraguchi et al., 2003; Kray et al., 2003 (online); McCarthy,
2005; Takase et al., 2003 (online).
There is insufcient research and studies directed at map design (Miller and
Lewis, 2000; Talbot et al., 1993).
Research and ndings from cognitive science (Casakin et al., 2000; Golledge,
1999; Tversky, 2000) and cartography (Ottoson, 1987) are not being adequately
applied in current map design.
There is a lack of unied theory that could underpin the design of more effective
maps. Although inter-disciplinary issues to individuals waynding behaviour
have been raised in the disciplines of design research (Correa de Jesus, 1994) and
architecture (Passini, 2002), the applications of theories are not explicit in the
practice of waynding map design.
The above issues suggest that a more holistic approach is needed to build stronger
links between research in those disciplines and the design of waynding maps.
Sociocybernetics provides systemic understanding to the learning process of a person
solving a waynding task in an environment using a waynding map.
The processes and systems involved in the use of map to solve waynding task are
complex. Classically, the major processes involved in a waynding task are:
decision making and the development of a plan of action to reach a destination;
decision execution, transforming the plan into behavior at the appropriate
place(s) along a route; and
perception and cognition (information processing), providing the necessary
information to make and execute decisions (Passini, 2000, p. 88).
Each of the above processes involves high-level interactions among individuals, their
mental models, their external memory aids (the maps), and their internal perceptions
of the environment. The external system refers to the real world environment and
waynding system while the internal system refers to individuals understanding of
map and the actual environment. External and internal systems are inseparable in a
waynding process.
In relation to individuals internal system, the notion of cognitive mapping is an
important aspect of the study. It refers to the image of the actual environment that
individuals conceptualise in their own minds (Allen, 1999; Casakin et al., 2000; Downs
and Stea, 1977; Golledge, 1999; Portugali and Haken, 1992; Robinson and Petchenik,
1976; Tversky, 1992). The study of cognitive maps started during 1930s in the
discipline of psychology and was concerned with animals learning and orientation
abilities (Csanyi, 1993, p. 23). As the research developed, Tolman (1948) recognised the
image of the spatial environment that humans structured in the mind as a cognitive
map. The concept showed that animals are capable of representing the actual
environment as image in the brain. Downs and Stea (1977, p. 6) further dened
cognitive mapping as:
. . . an abstraction covering those cognitive or mental abilities that enable us to collect,
organize, store, recall, and manipulate information about the spatial environment . . . Above
all, cognitive mapping refers to a process of doing: it is an activity that we engage in rather
than an object that we have. It is the way in which we come to grips with and comprehend the
world around us.
The concept of cognitive mapping therefore is a metaphor of the image that individuals
construct, in their minds, of the environment.
Studies in cognitive science have generated challenges and changes in the concept
of individuals understanding the actual environment by constructing images in their
minds. Tversky (1992, pp. 131-8) recognised that there was no one single cognitive map
that could capture individuals knowledge about a map or an environment. She
discussed that cognitive organising principles such as hierarchical organisation,
cognitive perspective, and cognitive reference affected the ways individuals
understand the environment. These principles explain that the ways individuals
arrange spatial information, position themselves in the environment, and interact with
spatial elements (such as landmarks and buildings) changed their impression of the
environment. Tversky (1992, pp. 135-7) also recognised that the rotation and alignment
of spatial elements (in individuals mind) were the results of individuals perceptual
and conceptual processes when they interacted with map or the environment. These
discussions depict various cognitive dimensions that contributed to the ways
individuals interacted and understood the actual environment.
The externalisation of individuals internal representation of the surrounding has
been proved valid. For example, city planners and developers have adopted cognitive
mapping to the eld of urban design. To understand spatial elements of city that are
the most distinct to people, Lynch (1960, pp. 47-8) conducted studies on three American
cities (Los Angeles, Jersey City, and Boston) that investigated the image that city
dwellers made out of the given cityscapes. By asking people to sketch rough maps of
the cities, he found out that people identify a city by recognizing ve main elements.
They were, respectively, paths, landmarks, nodes, edges and districts. These ndings
are important as they depicted the recognition of these spatial elements (in city and
town environments) that are of help in constructing the impression, or the image of
the built environment. Peoples interaction with the actual environment involves much
interpretation and recognition of spatial elements. In-depth understanding of these
ideas is critical for the design of functional maps.
Similar to Lynchs emphasis on the relevance of visual elements in urban spaces to
city and town design, Bentley et al. have published a book that functions as a manual
for planners and developers in the design of urban environments. The authors identify
and compared between appearances of different elements of buildings and cityscapes
that are important to the design of urban environments. The appearance of elements
such as windows, pillars, corners and edges of spaces, private and public areas, have
impact on the ways individuals respond to the built space. According to Bentley et al.
(1985, p. 9), the design of places affected individuals behaviour in many ways, such as:
(1) it affects where people can go, and where they cannot: the quality we shall call
(2) it affects the range of uses available to people: the quality we shall call variety;
(3) it affects how easily people can understand what opportunities it offers: the
quality we shall call legibility;
(4) it affects the degree to which people can use a given place for different purposes:
the quality we shall call robustness;
(5) it affects whether the detailed appearance of the place makes people aware of
the choices available: the quality we shall call visual appropriateness;
(6) it affects peoples choice of sensory experiences: the quality we shall call
richness; and
(7) it affects the extent to which people can put their own stamp on a place: we shall
call this personalization.
Bentley et al.s seven aspects of individuals responses to the built spaces draw
attention to the fact that the appearance and structure of space can affect individuals
movements. The points also show that urban spaces are environments which allow
individuals to make their own choices and decisions based on individuals experiences.
In other words, urban spaces are designed for individuals to function within them but
they need to be able to accommodate individuals subjective responses to these spaces.
3. Sociocybernetics and waynding
The design of waynding maps has an emergent dimension going beyond simply
providing information to map users. Waynding maps provide an opportunity for
efciently choreographing human interactions with the built world . . .
(Correa de Jesus, 1994, p. 36). They can be used to shape social behaviour, such as
to inuence where, when and in what order individuals will visit places. The alteration
of such social behaviour derives from the complex interaction between individuals
internal and external representation of the actual environment. The application of
sociocybernetics as an investigation framework is appropriate in observe the complex
systems involved in the ways individuals use maps to solve waynding tasks in a built
Sociocybernetics concerns about the observation of social systems and has been
applied to investigate various social activities. For examples, the study of
organisations and rms as systems (Biggiero, 2001); exploring the relationships
between computer-mediated spaces and society (Paetau, 2003); and the application of
self-referential social system to address environmental crisis (Connell, 2002). These
studies successfully address issues and phenomena within different social systems.
In relevant to observing individuals waynding and map-reading behaviour, this
paper applies Van Bockstaele et al.s (2000) sociocybernetic methods developed to
observe action in situ. The authors emphasised on action-actor relationship as a core
observation point to effectively understand individuals action. Van Bockstaele et al.
(2000, p. 19) recognised that individuals action derive from their internal cognitive
system. This requires the observer to observe individuals cognitive system as the
generator of such action. The authors hypothesise that there are two aspects of
cognitive system: latent action and patent action. According to them, a latent action is
the set of background processes that silently prepare for a patent action and amplify
cognitive activation so as to shape a public language (Van Bockstaele et al., 2000,
p. 22). This theory suggests that individuals behaviour and actions derive froma set of
cognitive system that is embedded and functioning in the mind. The application of
such knowledge is relevant to the design of an effective map because it allows
designers to understand how individuals derive at solving waynding tasks, and from
there to further determine the roles and congurations of maps.
Applying Van Bockstaele et al.s framework to the study of waynding and
map-reading, the case study addressed in this paper focused on the following
interrelated and complex sub-system processes:
(1) external system:
the map as a system and representation;
the waynding system of which the map is a part; and
the real world environment as a system.
(2) internal system: latent action
the individuals internal systemic representations of map, waynding
system, real world environment and relationships between them; and
(possibly, where individuals involved are in double-loop learning) the
individuals meta-level mental model of and reection on, their systemic
understanding of map, waynding system and real environment.
(3) internal system: patent action
individuals behaviour in solving waynding tasks as derives from reading
map and exploring the real environment.
The application of this framework to a case study will address the issue of complex
systems involved in a map-reading and waynding process.
4. Research methods
4.1 Observer researcher
As the researcher, I have conducted all the studies and observed the ways participants
used maps and solved waynding tasks. I have observed two relationships throughout
the studies: action-actor relationships and observed-observer relationships. The
observation on action-actor relationships provided me data on the relationships
between individuals external and internal system while the observation on
observed-observer relationships allowed me to observe the ways I document
participants and their behaviour.
4.2 Actors participants
As Van Bockstaele et al. (2000, pp. 13-14) mentioned that observation on action in situ
requires observer to analyse the actors interaction with internal and external systems,
the selection of appropriate actor in my observation is important. The study involved
30 international undergraduate and postgraduate students, aged between 18 and
35 years, living in Perth (Western Australia) metropolitan areas, for not more than ve
years. Not being local to Perth meant that they have not acquired the spatial
knowledge of the city through consistent interaction with it. They needed to learn
about and navigate in the built environment of Fremantle depending on the use of
given waynding maps. The participants were considered here as the actors of the
system as they determine the ways they were to relate map information to the actual
environment, and to decide how they were to navigate and explore the city.
Observations on the participants response towards waynding maps and the actual
space allowed me to learn about the relationships between external systems and
internal systems (both, latent and patent actions).
4.3 External system I places
This study focused on the relationships that individuals made between external systems
(actual environment and maps) and internal systems that generate both latent and patent
actions. The built environment is an important entity to the investigation of the systemin
people-map-space interaction. The study required participants to nd four places within
the City of Fremantle. These places were namely the Western Australian Maritime
Museum, the Round House, Fremantle Market, and Fremantle Prison. These places were
selected because of their locations that covered the main corners of Fremantle. This
situation offered signicant input for investigating the relationships in people-map-space
interactions because it required participants to explore most parts of the city.
It also allowed observations to be made on how participants relate map information to
large-scale actual environment.
4.4 External system II waynding maps
Map representations are important elements that could generate different cognitive
actions. Three waynding maps were selected for this study based on iconic and
symbolic representations. The reason of selecting maps with different representations
as study materials was that these representations are commonly used in waynding
maps for built environments. Observing the ways individuals create meaning
and respond to these map representations would generate in-depth understanding on
the relationships between individuals latent and patent actions based on different map
representations (external system).
The rst map was an iconic map that presented the city in elevated illustration
(Figure 1). It included the physical appearances of buildings as well as the visual
presentation of the spatial structure of the city. Second map was a symbolic map that
presented the City of Fremantle in simplied cartographic interpretation (Figure 2).
Places in the city were presented only by words. The third map was a map that
presented both iconic and symbolic representations (Figure 3). It depicted important
landmarks in illustrations while positioning them against a cartographic map. The
three maps offered clear distinction in map representations. This allowed observations
to be made on the different ways that individuals responded to these representations.
Figure 1.
The iconic map presents
information of the
congurations of
buildings and important
landmarks within the built
environment of Fremantle
Fremantle Trainstation
Ferry to Rottenest Island
E-Shed Market
Fremantle Maritime Museum
Source: Schoknecht (2003)
Round House
Shipwreck Museum
Cicerello's Restaurant
Esplanade Hotel
Fremantle Market (opens weekend)
Fremantle Prison
Multipel Storey Carpark
Fremantle Oval
Fremantle Council
Tourist Centre
Shopping Centre
Open carpark
4.5 The procedure
A total of 30 participants were asked to use three waynding maps in the study
(ten participants for each map). Each journey in the study involved one to two
participants (mostly one in each study). Every study required participant(s) to draw a
sketch map of the City of Fremantle, based on her/his previous experiences in the city,
before the journey required for the study. Observations were made on the way
participants drew the rst sketch maps. At the completion of the journey, he/she would
be asked to draw a post-journey sketch map as a representation of the way he/she had
understood the built environment of Fremantle after using the given waynding map
to explore the city. The collection, analysis of sketch maps and observation on the
ways participants drew them provided insight into participants latent action before
and after using a waynding map. Participants who were on their rst trip to
Fremantle were not required to draw the pre-journey sketch map.
Each participant was given a waynding map, and told to use it to locate four
recommended places in the city (Western Australian Maritime Museum, the Round
House, Fremantle Prison, and Fremantle Market). Each participant was told that
Figure 2.
The symbolic map
presents a simple
conguration that depicts
spatial information in
words and symbols
Source: First Fremantle n.d
he/she was to take the trip as a relaxing journey. He/she could end the trip anytime, and
could choose to not nd any of the suggested places. I followed the participants and
conduct observations and conversations during the trip to document the reasons each
participant conducted particular actions. Notes were made on the ways participants
turned the map, pointed at the map, relating street names and/or appearance of
buildings from the map to the actual environment, participants emotion in different
situations (lost or comfortably walking from one place to another), and participants
comments on the maps and the actual environment. The combination of observation
and conversations with participants provided understanding on how they relate
external waynding systems to their internal cognitive systems, and vice versa.
5. Findings
The outcomes of the research suggested that participants learn about the spatial
structure of Fremantle by interacting continuously with the given waynding maps
and the actual environment. This interaction required participants to relate internal
cognitive systems with external environment and waynding system. These complex
learning processes are presented in two learning stages:
(1) Stage one. Observations on how participants responded to different map signs
and the actual environment. These two learning processes took place
simultaneously on the same stage of a waynding process.
Figure 3.
The waynding map that
depicts both iconic and
symbolic representation of
the City of Fremantle
Source: Fremantle Shopper and Visitor Map (2003)
(2) Stage two. Observations on the ways participants relate different map signs to
the actual environment, and how they apply their understanding of the actual
environment to comprehend better with the map.
5.1 Stage one
Participants were observed to start their waynding activities by interacting
separately with the given maps and the actual environment before they make
relationships between the two entities. They were found to be engaging in cyclical
learning processes in both cases. It was obvious that maps and the actual environment
played important roles in structuring participants latent actions that later led to the
projection of patent actions. This was observed as participants behave differently
when they were given different maps and based on their own previous experiences
with the actual environment.
5.1.1 Cyclical learning on map signs. The observations showed that participants
interacted with the given maps by continuously constructing their own meanings via
looping processes. Participants were found to manipulate the order of map information
to suit their needs in understanding the map and to solve waynding tasks. They
pointed and drew on the given map to mark on the map information that
they considered as important to make it more dominant than other map information.
By pointing on the map, participants created a pointer that allowed them to focus on
only one part of the map interface. This action also allowed them to temporarily
disregard other map information that was not relevant to them at that moment. By
drawing on the map, the participant emphasised and made obvious the places that
were important to her/him, thus creating her/his own hierarchy of reading the map.
Observations revealed that participants drew circles and marked the places that they
wanted to visit, and they pointed on the routes that led them towards these places.
These acts indicated that the participants required clear and distinct indications of the
information to be displayed on map interfaces. Also, by pointing and drawing on maps,
participants were internalising map information to their cognitive system.
Participants behaviour of pointing and drawing on map interfaces differed among
different map representations. No participant was found drawing on the illustrated
iconic map while four of the ten participants who used the symbolic map drew on the
map. This indicated that participants required obvious indications and hierarchy of
information displayed on the highly symbolic map. The symbolic map was highly
schematic and presented only words, shapes, and lines to represent spatial structure of
the city. There was no difference (in visual forms) between the indication of Maritime
Museum and the Round House. Participants needed to emphasise map signs that
represented places that were important to them. The illustrated iconic map, on the
other hand, depicted distinctions, visually, among different buildings. Participants
were able to identify different buildings and places presented in the map. This
situation allowed participants to recognise different places (on the map) without the
need of drawing on the map to make the buildings/places more obvious than the others.
The above observations suggested that individuals engage in different cognitive
systems in response to different map representations.
5.1.2 Cyclical learning on the actual environment. The study found that participants
understood the built environment based on looping learning processes that involved
current encounters andtheir ownexperiences (prior to the study) withthe Cityof Fremantle.
Participants memories and experiences played important role in the ways they
responded towards the appearances of spatial elements within the City of Fremantle.
One participant stated that he/she had recollections of the look of some of the places
that he/she wanted to go but did not know the exact ways to reach the destination.
Another participant explained that he/she recognised the appearance of the Round
House based on the memory of her/his visit one year ago as a tourist. Two other
participants explained that they recognised the physical appearance of the Western
Australian Maritime Museum because they were told that it was the Maritime Museum
when they were on a ferry trip from Fremantle to Rottenest Island. The above
observations show that an individuals understanding of a built environment is
developed through continuous looping process of current and previous experience.
This further explains that the relationships between individuals latent and patent
action is a cyclical process. Their understanding of the environment based on trips
prior to the study was latent action that formed the base for patent action of exploring
the environment.
5.2 Stage two
Participants second stage of spatial learning processes was two-fold: exchanging the
spatial knowledge learned from maps to those from exploring the actual environment;
and exchange of external system and internal cognitive actions. The two aspects were
interrelated and cannot be discussed separately. The ndings on the ways people relate
external and internal system are therefore needed to be discussed within the ways
people relate map to the actual environment and vice versa.
5.2.1 Relating map to the actual environment. Participants responded differently to
iconic and symbolic map representations that shaped their internal understanding of
the actual environment. About 70 per cent of the participants who used the iconic map
related the map to the actual environment by referring mainly to the appearances of
landmarks as referencing elements, while 80 per cent of the participants who used the
symbolic map were relating symbolic information from the map to the actual
environment. This reected that the representations of spatial elements presented on
waynding maps had direct effect on the ways participants related the map to the
actual environments. Among the ten participants who used the symbolic map, four of
them were found to mentally replace the symbolic representation depicted on the
map (such as the label of a place in words) with imaged appearances of the place that
they knew. They were mainly using their memories of landmarks appearances from
their previous trips to Fremantle. Only then, they related the mental images of the
places to the actual environment. One of the participants who used the symbolic map
said that he/she recognised the appearances of some places based on her/his
experiences from previous trips. He/she referred to symbolic indications based on
learning about the street names from the map. He/she explained that he/she
incorporated the identication of both appearances and symbolic indications to assist
her/him locating the destinations.
The different relationships that the participants made between themselves and iconic
or/and symbolic representations were obvious in the observation of the participants who
used the waynding map that presented both iconic and symbolic representations. The
study found that when participants were given both iconic and symbolic
representations, they related iconic representation better to the actual environment.
All of the participants referred to iconic representation as means of relating the map to
the actual environment. Four of these participants also referred to symbolic
representation but they used this as only secondary information to the iconic
Four of the participants who used the symbolic map explained that they made
associations between map and the actual environment by identifying the character of
the spatial elements, such as the corners and curves of streets. These observations
suggested that curves of the streets and junctions were important spatial structure that
assisted participants to effectively relate map information to the actual environment.
This shows that external built environment is important forming individuals internal
cognitive systems.
5.2.2 Relating the actual environment to map. Despite the differences in the ways
participants responded to iconic and symbolic representations, the study found that
participants did as well learned about the actual environment by interacting directly
with it, and to apply such understanding to comprehend better with the given map.
It was recognised that participants experiences of the City of Fremantle prior to the
study were important latent action that later generate their patent actions in reading
maps and solving waynding tasks. Participants were found to respond especially well
to street names and landmarks as a means to relate the actual environment to map
signs. About 86.7 per cent of the total participants related street names from the actual
environment presented to the maps while 70 per cent of the participants took
landmarks as main referencing points between the built space and the maps. The
participants who used the symbolic map were found to be referring to street names as
means of associating the map interface to the actual environment. All ten participants
in this group used street names while 20 per cent of them were referring only to street
names to relate map signs to the actual environment. This situation showed that the
depiction of street names and streets on the map were understood and used by
participants mainly as symbolic representation. This also indicated that among the
spatial elements presented in symbolic representation, participants responded
effectively towards the depiction of street names and street on the map.
Landmarks were found to be important referencing points for participants to relate
to iconic map signs. The Fremantle Port Authority building, the shoreline, and
the E-shed Markets had been the most recognisable spatial elements. These were the
landmarks that they made association with to locate the Maritime Museum.
Observations and conversations with the participants suggested that the location of
the Maritime Museum was clear on the map but not in the actual environment. This
situation reected that the iconic map signs present clear impressions on the
appearances of landmarks but was not effective in communicating the complex spatial
structure. This also shows that map representations and interfaces have inuence on
the construction of meaning in the feedback learning process between map and space.
The participants who used the map that presented both iconic and symbolic
representation had the most numbers of individuals using both street names and
landmarks as means of relating map information to the actual environment. Nine of
these participants were referring mainly to street names and landmarks throughout.
Observation and conversations with the participants indicated that the participants
related street names on the map to the streets in the actual environment by
understanding their symbolic representation (words indicating streets), while
participants who related landmarks to the physical buildings/places were
apprehending with the depictive value (appearances) of these places.
Individuals had the ability to construct hierarchy in understanding the actual
environment by relating waynding map information to the actual space. One of the
participants who used the map with iconic and symbolic representation explained
he/she referred rst to the coastline, secondly the landmarks, and thirdly street names,
as elements that s/he related the map information to the actual environment. He/she
further explained that the coastline gave her/him the general impressions of her/his
approximate location within the city, while the spatial relationships between
landmarks assisted her/him to identify her/his bearing accurately. The association
between street names presented on the map and those posted in the actual environment
enabled her/him to identify her/his exact location.
Participants were referring to other spatial elements as a means of relating the
waynding maps to the actual environments. The group of participants who used the
symbolic map had the highest number of individuals referring to spatial elements other
than street names and landmarks while participants who used the iconic map had only
one person used roundabouts and junctions as referencing points other than street
names and landmarks. This observation indicates that the participants who used the
symbolic map required more visual clues from the map for them to relate to the actual
environment. This also suggests that because the symbolic map was highly
schematised and simplied, participants needed more information for them to relate
with, and understand, the actual space. In this situation, the omitted information from
the map is replaced by additional information that individuals can nd. This shows
that an individual learn about the built environment by internalising multiple external
systems, in which this case, relating map to the actual environment and vice versa.
6. Conclusion
The lack of understanding in people-map-space interactions as a whole is a major issue
in the research and design of waynding map. This requires investigation to be
conducted to understand how individuals respond to map and built space as a system.
Underpinned by a sociocybernetics framework that focuses on the relationships
between external systems and individuals internal cognitive systems, the eld study
presented in this paper demonstrated that the processes of knowing the environment
were not linear. Their waynding activities were underpinned by continuous exchange
of information between external systems (maps and the actual environment) and
internal cognitive systems (latent and patent actions). In other words, participants
knowledge of the city was informed by their map reading process, while their ability of
understanding the map was informed by the conceptualisation of the built
environment. This suggests that the system of people-map-space interaction is a
circular process rather than a linear one.
Participants waynding processes were found to have a main system:
people-map-space interactions, that consists of three sub-systems: maps and the
actual environment as external system, individuals cognitive process as latent action
(as a part of internal system), and individuals behaviour in solving waynding task
and reading maps as patent action (as a part of internal system). Each of these
sub-systems are looping systems that continuously providing feedbacks and allow
individuals to construct meaning between in maps and the actual environments.
Individuals responded to different map representations differently. The study found
that the pattern of individuals reading and making relationships between different
map representations and the actual environment are the same. However, individuals
require lesser looping and feedback process on the map representations that they can
relate more effectively with the actual environment. In the case of this study,
participants required lesser loops while interacting with iconic map signs, in
comparison with symbolic signs.
As conclusion, the application of sociocybernetic framework in waynding map
studies has generated valuable in-sights that reveal the complexity of individuals
navigation activities. The design of map is recognised here as a system that ts in a
broader system that consist of the actual environment and individuals cognitive
systems. The study presented in this paper therefore informs the designers on how
individuals learn about the actual environment via interacting with map and space.
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About the author
Christopher Kian Teck Kueh received his PhD in 2006 from the Department of Design (Faculty of
Built Environment, Art, and Design), Curtin University, Western Australia. His doctoral thesis
developed a user-centred design model that contributes knowledge for information/graphic
designers in designing effective waynding maps for city and town environments. His research
interests are on issues in contemporary design, and the relationships between new media and the
built environment. Christopher Kian Teck Kueh can be contacted at:
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