Spatial Information Theory Meets Spatial Thinking: Is Topology the Rosetta Stone of Spatio-temporal Cognition?

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19 Scopus citations


Topology is the most commonly used spatial construct to bridge the gap between formal spatial information theory and systems on the one side and (human) spatial cognition and thinking on the other. To this end, we find topological calculi in virtually all research areas pertinent to spatial information science such as ontological modeling, geographic information retrieval, or image analysis and classification. Manifold behavioral experiments have been conducted to assess the cognitive adequacy of topological calculi with varying results. Our contribution here is unique for two reasons: first, we are addressing, behaviorally, the role of topology in the crucial area of spatio-temporal information; second, we are evaluating the role of topology across different semantic domains. We report five experiments that were conducted in the framework we developed (Klippel and Li 2009), which combines critical constructs from spatial information theory and cognitive science. Topologically equivalent movement patterns were specified across five domains using paths through a conceptual neighborhood graph. This approach allows us to disentangle the role of topology from the influence of semantic context. The results show that topology plays an important yet not semantic-independent role in characterizing the cognitive conceptualization of geographic events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1310-1328
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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