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Department of Geography Geographic Information Visualization and Analysis (GIVA)

Beyond the blue dot: Try to get lost!

Instead of blindly following Google Maps, we should have a different kind of navigation system that helps us learn from the environment as we go, argues Sara I. Fabrikant. Ahead of her Robert Blumberg Distinguished Lecture in Cognitive Science at the University of Riga, she talked about the intricate interplay between digital navigation tools and human cognition.

Mental health challenges and digital platform opportunities in patients and families affected by pediatric neuromuscular diseases - experiences from Switzerland

What sparked your interest in this field?

I'm a geographer by training. I specialised in cartography early on because of my interest in graphics and visualisation. Cartography is the science, technique, and art of making maps. The science of cartography is not about making, but rather about studying maps. This includes the question of how people perceive maps and how to make maps that are optimal for users, which in turn leads to the question of how people perceive space, because that’s what maps actually represent. 

I used to be an avid map-creator and designer, but then I started focusing on how we know whether certain elements actually works. As I studied the empirical research and started testing the products, digital map interfaces, I made to test various hypotheses with users, I got more and more interested in spatial cognition. 

I'm not a psychologist or a neuroscientist, but a cartographer and geographer interested in producing representations of the environment that help people lead better lives, be more informed, and get to destinations faster and more safely. 

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