The Spatial Information Design Lab is now the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. Visit our new site at c4sr.columbia.edu to find out about current projects and upcoming events. This site is an archive of work completed up to 2014.

Here Now: Social Media And The Psychological City

Here Now: Social Media And The Psychological City

Social media are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, from connecting with friends and sharing images to exploring cities through location-based applications. These new services have given us a different vantage point from which to understand, explore, navigate, and geographically record the places we live.

Social media are increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives, from connecting with friends and sharing images to exploring cities through location-based applications. These new services have given us a different vantage point from which to understand, explore, navigate, and geographically record the places we live.

Foursquare check-ins
Facebook check-ins
Foursquare venues and check-ins
A street land-use map based on Foursquare venues and check-ins
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Tokyo
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Moscow
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Mexico City
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Mumbai
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Rio de Janeiro
Foursquare venues and check-ins in Beijing
A comparison between Foursquare and Facebook check-ins
A comparison between Foursquare and Facebook check-ins

Sites such as Foursquare and Facebook allow us to spatially mark our explorations in the city, creating rich databases that hold digital imprints of our interactions. To analyze these traces, the Foursquare and Facebook Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) were used to access location-based data to determine where social media users broadcast that they are “Here Now”. Analysis of this geographic data exposed the psycho-geography and economic terrain of New York City’s social media users.

Social Media App users register far more than what they are doing, they also show what they are feeling. Users reveal when and where they are going through an emotional crisis, experiencing their own personal heaven or hell, an “apocalyptic” event, or simply having a good time. Overlaying this data with more traditional government data sets exposed the economic patterns inherent in the way these applications are used. For example the majority of “check in” data comes from areas in the city that have the highest ratios of commercial use.

The motivations behind these broadcasts vary between the two social media sites. Foursquare users tell us more about the mundane nuances of life – where their bed is, where they get their morning coffee, or where they work. While Facebook users tend to use the site to brag about the iconic places they have been to, Times Square, Little Italy, or the Empire State Building. Both sites tell us how social media users explore the city or more importantly how they broadcast their exploits.

Project Team

Project director: Sarah Williams
Project manager: Juan Francisco Saldarriaga
Research assistants: Georgia Bullen, Francis Tan and Noa Youse

Project Contact: jfs2118@columbia.edu
Type: Mapping, tagged: mapping, gis, APIs, social media