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Exploring a City Through Social Media Snapshots

Exploring a City Through Social Media Snapshots
Arts & Culture

City data talks, and the creators of a On Broadway interactive project are listening

Janet Burns
  • 19 march 2015

First exhibited in December, On Broadway offers viewers a new way to explore and envision New York City through the gathered, organized, and near-countless recorded moments of its residents and visitors. Its creators suggest that modern cities ‘talk’ about their trends, functions, and foibles not just through shared statistical sets, but also via social media content and check-ins.

The project asks, then, “How can we use these new information sources to represent the 21st century city?”

on broadway

The work comes from Daniel Goddemeyer, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, and project lead Lev Manovich (aka the creators of 2014’s Selfiecity project, which assessed the people and methods behind the photo trend). Manovich explained to Fast Co. Design that the team sought to integrate new types of information into the project, but also to innovate the ways in which we interact with and process that info: “We wanted to avoid standard techniques like numbers, graphs, or maps,” and instead pursued “a visually rich image-centric interface with no maps and where numbers only play a secondary role,” he said.

on broadway

The browse-able project includes images, location data, and other info collected from 660,000 Instagram posts (all shared along Broadway during a six-month window in 2014), Foursquare check-ins reaching back to 2009, Google Street View images, and image-containing Twitter posts.

The team also factored in the time and pickup/drop-off data from 22 million taxi rides in 2013, and a range of U.S. census data. The resulting navigable data store is “a spine-like shape that is 21,390 meters (13,5 miles) long and 100 meters wide,” packed with many millions of stories — or, at least, slivers thereof — of city life.

on broadway

The project will be on display as part of the New York Public Library’s Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography exhibit through January 3, 2016, but the data-curious can also explore the same info and visuals via On Broadway’s site.

On Broadway

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