DO THE VISUAL COMPLEXITY ALGORITHMS MATCH THE GENERALIZATION PROCESS IN GEOGRAPHICAL DISPLAYS?
Keywords: Visual complexity, feature congestion, subband entropy, generalization, maps
Abstract. In this study, we first develop a hypothesis that existing quantitative visual complexity measures will overall reflect the level of cartographic generalization, and test this hypothesis. Specifically, to test our hypothesis, we first selected common geovisualization types (i.e., cartographic maps, hybrid maps, satellite images and shaded relief maps) and retrieved examples as provided by Google Maps, OpenStreetMap and SchweizMobil by swisstopo. Selected geovisualizations vary in cartographic design choices, scene contents and different levels of generalization. Following this, we applied one of Rosenholtz et al.’s (2007) visual clutter algorithms to obtain quantitative visual complexity scores for screenshots of the selected maps. We hypothesized that visual complexity should be constant across generalization levels, however, the algorithm suggested that the complexity of small-scale displays (less detailed) is higher than those of large-scale (high detail). We also observed vast differences in visual complexity among maps providers, which we attribute to their varying approaches towards the cartographic design and generalization process. Our efforts will contribute towards creating recommendations as to how the visual complexity algorithms could be optimized for cartographic products, and eventually be utilized as a part of the cartographic design process to assess the visual complexity.