From third-person to first-person cartographies with immersive virtual environments
Recent cognitive research indicates that immersive virtual reality (VR) systems can increase the impact of visualization products through the formation of spatial presence, defined as a sense of “being there” in a virtual place. These findings make VR a highly interesting tool for cartography, but challenge the subject’s self-conception in different regards. The present article aims at highlighting the fundamental characteristics of geovisualization with immersive environments. We will approach the challenge of 1:1 representation with a typology borrowed from video game theory, where players can experience games from a first-person or third-person perspective. These two categories provide a useful framework to describe the basic difference between non-/low- and high-immersive geovisualization. In order to project the first- vs. third-person metaphor from a gaming to a cartographic mapping context, we will try to semiotically express the general process of map use in form of a triadic sequence, where the representation mediates between users and geospatial phenomena. Compared with common cartographic products, this mediation process is fundamentally different in VR systems, as immersive applications merge map user and map space. A set of future research questions and further considerations on first-person cartography will close the text. These considerations on first- vs. third-person visualization shall facilitate a conceptually better integration of IVE into current cartographic theory and practice.