Combining Quantitative Eye-Tracking and GIS Techniques with Qualitative Research Methods to Evaluate the Effectiveness of 2D and Static, 3D Karst Visualizations: Seeing Through the Complexities of Karst Environments

Elizabeth Katharyn Tyrie, Western Kentucky University


Karst environments are interconnected landscapes vulnerable to degradation. Many instances of anthropogenic karst disturbance are unintentional, and occur because of the public's lack of understanding or exposure to karst knowledge. When attempts are made to educate the general public about these landscapes, the concepts taught are often too abstract to be fully understood. Thus, karst educational pursuits must use only the most efficient and effective learning materials. A technique useful for assessing educational effectiveness of learning materials is eye-tracking, which allows scientists to quantitatively measure an individual's points of interest and eye movements when viewing a 2D or 3D visualization. Visualization developers use eye-tracking data to create graphics that hold the observer's attention and, thereby, enhance learning about a particular concept. This study aimed to assess and improve the educational effectiveness of 2D karst visualizations by combining eye-tracking techniques with Geographic Information Systems, knowledge assessments, and semi-structured interviews. The first phase of this study consisted of groups of 10 participants viewing 2D karst visualizations with one category of manipulated visual stimuli. The second phase consisted of groups of 10-15 participants viewing 2D karst visualizations that were created based on the results from the first phase. The results of this study highlighted both effective stimuli in karst visualizations and stimuli that hinder the educational effectiveness of visualizations.