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.

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.

The latest iteration of WE ARE HERE NOW took place as part of an interactive exhibit in Beijing called Get it Louder mapping jiepang check-ins, the Chinese equivalent of Foursquare.

Spring 2013