Differentiating Geographic Movement Described in Text Documents

Scott Pezanowski, Alan M. MacEachren, Prasenjit Mitra

Understanding movement described in text documents is important since text descriptions of movement contain a wealth of geographic and contextual information about the movement of people, wildlife, goods, and much more. Our research makes several contributions to improve our understanding of movement descriptions in text. First, we show how interpreting geographic movement described in text is challenging because of general spatial terms, linguistic constructions that make the thing(s) moving unclear, and many types of temporal references and groupings, among others. Next, as a step to overcome these challenges, we report on an experiment with human subjects through which we identify multiple important characteristics of movement descriptions (found in text) that humans use to differentiate one movement description from another. Based on our empirical results, we provide recommendations for computational analysis using movement described in text documents. Our findings contribute towards an improved understanding of the important characteristics of the underused information about geographic movement that is in the form of text descriptions.

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