How Do Children Use Representations of Space?
Understanding how children use representations of space and how the ability to use representations of space develops are fundamental problems for which geographers are ideally suited. Representations of space include maps, diagrams, verbal and written descriptions, and virtual environments, among many others. Representations of space are unique in the way they deliver spatial information, and can take many forms; some may use space as a device for communication (in the case of maps, diagrams, and virtual displays), while others use less spatial devices, such as text, symbols, and verbal communication. All representations of space share in common the objective of communicating information concerning the spatial relationships between and among phenomena in the real world (MacEachren 1995). There is a great deal for active research in geography concerned with representations of space (visualization, human-computer interfaces, cognitive models of space, spatiolinguistic devices, etc.) (Landau 1996; Mark et al. 1999). One of the most fundamental areas of this research examines how humans first develop an understanding of the relationship between a symbolic representation of space (map-like representations) and the representation’s reality-based referents. Interestingly, much of this research is being done by non-geographers, and as a result lacks some of the understanding of how important maps and other spatial representations are in how we look at the world around us (DeLoache 1989; Uttal et al. 1998; Uttal and Wellman 1989). At the same time, it is important to acknowledge the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to such an important problem.
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