Sound, maps, and the brain

Authors: Megen Brittell*, University of Oregon
Topics: Cartography, Behavioral Geography
Keywords: sonification, fMRI
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Roosevelt 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As sound capabilities emerged in the 1990s, cartographers started to explore the use of sound in maps (e.g., Cassettari and Parsons, 1993; Krygier, 1993). Over time, however, interest in audio-based maps has waned. While the use of speech-based displays have become common in navigation devices and sound capabilities in HTML allow cartographers to augment visual maps with sound clips, auditory displays that convey spatial information without relying on a visual or tactile graphic are rare. Yet, sonification, or the use of non-speech audio to represent data, has the ability to convey multi-dimensional patterns and has the potential to play an important role in supporting exploration and communication of geospatial data. In order to support the adoption of sonification techniques in cartography, a better understanding of auditory geographic map design and evidence of effectiveness are needed. I have used neuroimaging to investigate the influence of the level of coded data and temporal arrangement on map perception. Results indicate that an auditory map display, which codes spatial and attribute dimensions of the data, invokes greater activity in the visual cortex than an alternative design, which sequentially encodes only attribute data.

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