Visualizing Data Certainty: A Case Study Using Graduated Circle Maps

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elisabeth S. Nelson, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Several techniques have been proposed for displaying data certainty on maps, but few have been empirically tested for effectiveness. While it is important to make data certainty information easily accessible, the addition of such data should not unduly increase map complexity. Thus, it becomes important for cartographers to examine the available methods for displaying this aspect of metadata and to test each for its effectiveness. The focus of this study was the display of data certainty information on graduated circle maps. Four types of accuracy indicators were evaluated for their effectiveness in communicating data certainty information. Two were traditional accuracy indicators: reliability diagrams and legend statements. Two were bivariate in form, one using a value-size combination and the other mimicking the idea of focus by varying the line value of the graduated circles to suggest a fading of symbolization for least certain data. The study was designed to assess whether subjects could identify data certainty information on test maps, and evaluate how accurately and confidently they could extract and interpret both thematic and data certainty information. Mean accuracy and confidence rates were compared for maps using different accuracy indicators to evaluate their relative effectiveness. Results suggest that subjects had most difficulty identifying and extracting data certainty information using maps that employed legend statements. They were most successful when data certainty was wedded to thematic data on the map using the bivariate accuracy indicator that mimicked the concept of focus. Identification and extraction of thematic data values were not significantly affected by choice of accuracy indicator.

Additional Information

Cartographic Perspectives, no. 38: 19-36.
Language: English
Date: 2001
Certainty, Significance, Complexity, Evaluation, Symbols and representation

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