Sense of Place Evoked by Interactive Maps
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Maps are essential tools for providing tourism information. Hence, it is imperative for tourism marketers to understand how tourists perceive spatial information and sense physical places virtually presented in digital maps. Based on sense of place, spatial cognition, and virtual reality literature, this study constructed a conceptual framework to measure how different interactivity levels of a digital map interface affect potential tourists' experience when exploring maps. In addition, the study explored how individual characteristics such as place attachment and spatial ability affect virtual-spatial experiences. An experiment was conducted to test the developed Virtual Spatial Experience model. Google Earth maps were manipulated using two experimental conditions: low level (satellite view map only) vs. high level (three dimensional (3D) dynamic objects). The questionnaire included self-report items regarding perceived map interactivity, spatial ability, affective place attachment, spatial orientation, spatial imagery, and spatial presence. Responses from 211 students were analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM). The study results showed that map interfaces influence human perceptions of map interactivity. Perceived map interactivity positively affected virtual spatial experiences: spatial orientation, spatial imagery and spatial presence. Spatial ability positively influenced spatial orientation which in turn led to greater spatial imagery and ultimately greater spatial presence. The results further demonstrated that affective place attachment positively influenced spatial presence. The findings provided evidence that sense of place in the real world, such as affective place attachment to the experimental setting (Walt Disney World, Florida), influences spatial experiences of an environment virtually presented in the map. Therefore, by applying place attachment to virtual environment studies, this study expanded the scope of theories used in exploring human spatial experience. Moreover, evaluating the influence of map interactivity, this study provided practical implications for designing destination maps. By applying 3D dynamic objects as a design feature in an interactive map, tourism marketers can produce enhanced virtual spatial experiences. As this study used Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park presented on Google Earth as the experimental setting, the collected data also informs the understanding of virtual experiences and perceptions of the park.
SubjectSense of Place
Virtual Spatial Experience
Go, Hanyoung (2012). Sense of Place Evoked by Interactive Maps. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from