Doctoral Dissertation Research in Geography and Regional Science
David Mark Principal Investigator
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The development of geographic information systems (GISs) as analytic tools has been parallelled by attempts to create media that allow people with varied skills and backgrounds to manipulate and interpret computer-based spatial data. The construction of more effective general user interfaces has been inhibited, however, by the fact that people structure and deal with geographic relationships in different ways. Language influences the ways in which people perceive spatial relationships, but little attention has been given by scholars to determining how linguistic differences affect the ways in which people use GISs. This doctoral dissertation research project will examine different ways in which English-speaking and Spanish-speaking persons describe, structure, and manage spatial relationships. An oral questionnaire dealing with common spatial relationships will be administered to persons in Spain, Ecuador, and the United States; persons in those nations also will experiment with different types of GIS user interfaces to determine if different formats are more effective for person speaking different languages. This project will provide a valuable test of different GIS user interface formats in different linguistic settings, thereby helping to identify the degree to which linguistic differences must be accommodated in the development of "user-friendly" GISs. The study will enhance understandings of the ways in which language helps structure individual understandings of spatial relationships, and it will provide an excellent opportunity for a promising young scholar to continue to develop independent research skills.