Dr Paul Curzon

Paul Curzon's Home Page

Interaction, Media and Communication (IMC) Group

Department of Computer Science

Queen Mary, University of London

The Navigation Project

With Judy Wilson at Middlesex University Interaction Design Centre I am studying interaction design aspects of in-car navigation systems. An initial study into existing in-car systmes highlighted a wide-range of interaction design issues with respect to in-car navigation systems. One specific area that we are following up is that of supporting a person's cognitive map.

Supporting a person's cognitive map

As her PhD work, Judy Wilson is investigating the potential for computer navigation systems to support internal human processes for developing a mental model in a navigational context. Such representations are referred to as cognitive maps and are by definition instantly applicable and useful but also incomplete and inaccurate.

Initial research is focusing on the current use of artefacts when orientating ourselves: GPS systems, atlases, public transport information etc. The idea is to help design artefacts which will support rather than reduce our cognitive mapping facility so that people have a notion of where they are rather than blindly following a route. This should in turn support at a minimum our confidence that we are in fact going to the correct destination in a sensible and effective manner and can be certain that any errors are recoverable. Further dilemmas may concern the wider outcome of using artefacts which reduce the effectiveness of our internal mapping facility. Within whatever geographical scale the greater our cognitive map of that area the more effectively we can organise our journeying, for example, just following a given route from Place one to Place two does not allow us to make a choices concerning the order of journey's, the most realistic journey in given circumstances, what else can sensibly visited en route. Obviously, we can seek out this information given time and patience but artefacts which support our own cognitive mapping facility should remove unnecessary reiteration of planning and ensure confidence in our own ability to orientate ourselves.

Current consideration involves the development of observational strategies which focus on the activity of navigation: its planning, the activity and resulting alterations in a users' mental model of the traversed wide-scale space. Further research is needed into developing strategies in the field of distributed cognition and its application for HCI techniques in evaluation and requirements analysis. It is envisaged that such an approach will allow the development of an analysis framework both to evaluate and inform design. Such research should eventually lead to tangible results which may be quantitatively tested.


  1. P. Curzon, A. Blandford, R. Butterworth and R. Bhogal, "Interaction Design Issues for Car Navigation Systems", Proceedings Volume 2 of the 16th British HCI Conference , edited by Helen Sharp, Pete Chalk, Jenny LePeuple and John Rosbottom, pp38-41, BCS 2002. pdf
  2. Judy Wilson (2003) Computer Support for a Person's Cognitive map in a navigational domain. Proceedings, HCI 2003: Doctorial consortium. Designing for Society eds Phil Gray, Hilary Johnson & Eamonn O'Neill, Vol 2, pp 135-136.