Locative Media and Social Data

Locating the Local/Mapping the Network by Alison Gazzard/ Meaningful landscapes: spatial narrative, pilgrimage and location based media by Megan Elizabeth Heyward/ How Locative Media art set the agenda for location-aware apps (and why this still matters) by Conor McGarrigle/ Demapping Location by Tapio Mäkelä/ The Rhythm of City. Geo-located Social Data as an Artistic Medium by Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet Sola
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 14:45 - 16:25
Chair Person: 
Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo
Alison Gazzard
Megan Heyward
Conor McGarrigle
Tapio Makela
Varvara Guljajeva
Mar Canet Sola

Locating the Local/Mapping the Network

by Alison Gazzard

Eric Gordon (2009) writes of “network locality – the experience of interacting with located data within the perceived infinity of global access” (p. 22). The smartphone, alongside the rise of digital mapping systems such as Google Maps and Open Street Maps, has seen the increasing need for people to locate their activities. Photographs can be geo-located, capturing places frozen in time, and we can now log-in to virtual equivalents of shops, work buildings, or our own homes with applications such as FourSquare and Gowalla. Each of these instances is only possible through an underlying network of global connections. However, in doing so, they are also changing the mapped narrative of local areas.

The map is more than a means of seeking directions, but allows for a visualisation of data in various formats. This paper will focus on mapped data collected from areas local to the GPS co-ordinates of each data collection. FourSquare places, ephemeral geo-located tweets and geotagged photographs will be visualised against a background of a local map. Each area will be defined in terms of a community or town, and will be viewed as an isolated snapshot, depicted as a miniature mapped landscape in amongst the surrounding area.

The project seeks to understand the changing landscape of each local area by analysing what John Pickles (2004) defines as "socio-spatial identities" that he sees to be the basis of many contemporary maps as "digital mapping has begun to influence many more domains of social life" (p. 10). Whereas most location-based applications seek to define the user’s position in amongst a global network, this project examines the changing narratives of the local area through numerous check-ins, tweets and images. The changing nature of the map is captured at different points in time as a way of analysing the ephemeral landscape of data depicting the opinions, locations and imagery left as digital memories or tokens by those within the area. The narrative of place takes precedence over the identity of the user as places and spaces are re-examined in light of this user-generated content.


Gordon, E. (2009). ‘Redefining the Local: The distinction between located information and local knowledge in location-based games’, in de Souza e Silva, A & Sutko, E. Digital Cityscapes. New York: Peter Lang.

Pickles, J. (2004). A History of Spaces: Cartographic reason, mapping and the geo-coded world. London: Routledge.

Meaningful landscapes: spatial narrative, pilgrimage and location based media

by Megan Elizabeth Heyward

In the ancient city of Llasa it is common to see a throng of people circumambulating the sacred precincts…I have followed the circular flow of the pilgrim’s movements …While walking and praying in the yak-butter-lit, mystical space, the pilgrims appeared transported into an enhanced, symbolic world – an augmented reality.” Czegledy, N. 2005. On Spatial Perception, Proboscis.

A range of recent location based media projects and practices involve navigating landscapes layered or augmented with personal, social or historical meaning. In what ways do they echo and intersect with older cultural practices involving spatialised narrative and the walking of a meaningful landscape the practice of pilgrimage? This paper will explore pilgrimage as a form of spatial narrative, in both European and Asian culture, and the ways in which earlier notions of walking a meaningful landscape might inform emerging location based and augmented reality practices. The paper will draw upon a range of walked, pilgrimage-style experiences, including the 88 Temple Buddhist pilgrimage on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and more secular practices describing journeys to sites of collective / cultural significance, as well as make reference to selected work-in-progress materials from Heyward’s current creative work, Pilgrim.

With the enormous rise in uptake of iPhone and Android enabled phones over the last eighteen months, increasingly museums and other cultural institutions are seeking to bring cultural contents to mobile audiences in meaningful ways. Easily accessible mobile apps such as Layar and Junaio readily allow virtual annotation of the environment, however, issues of engagement and motivation can be problematic for both practitioners and audiences. While FourSquare and SCVNGR utilise challenge and reward models to maximise audience participation, religious and secular pilgrimage practices across many cultures continue to engage people in complex and challenging conceptual and physical journeys, taking place across extended periods of time, and traversing considerable geographic spaces. This paper explores spatialised, walked narrative in location based media and in pilgrimage practice, and the potential intersections, echoes and challenges that artists and cultural practitioners might encounter in developing locative and augmented media projects.

How Locative Media art set the agenda for location-aware apps (and why this still matters)

by Conor McGarrigle

This paper argues that locative media art has had a significant role to play in the shaping of emergent location-aware technologies with this influence very evident in the latest generation of locative smartphone apps.

The paper presents case studies of early locative media art projects drawing connections to popular commercial location aware mobile applications. It will be argued that their influence goes beyond the specifics of similarities in approach between particular applications and artworks but rather represents a fundamental conceptual shift in thinking about location which has far reaching implications for the future of location-aware applications.

From its inception locative media has set itself the task of defining a mode of operation for emergent locative technologies. This approach emphasises the technology's ability to augment space through revealing hidden histories and layers of meanings and associations which foreground the rich lived experience of place. It will be proposed that this approach of locative media has shifted the locative agenda from an emphasis on cartesian position to a more user-centred focus on location as the locus of lived experience.

In the past year location-aware mobile phone apps and services have become mainstream with the rise of locative social networking services like FourSquare, place based narratives such as Soundwalks and a plethora of location-aware information services typified by Yelp. The paper will trace a connection between the user-centred idea of place at the heart of these applications and the concept of place espoused and developed in locative media art demonstrating that this approach stands in stark contrast to the native cartesianism of GPS and other locative technologies. I propose that this is not coincidental and in fact represents the agency of locative media in shaping these emergent technologies.

While location-aware services and applications may not have made their much anticipated breakthrough in 2010 there is no doubt that location will play a significant role in the future of the mobile internet. This paper argues that this agency of locative media points toward a framework for the consideration of art engaging with emergent technologies.

Demapping Location

by Tapio Mäkelä

Locative arts could be better described as relational arts, as very few artworks created using GPS or other location data address location as such, but rather movement, relationships between participants, relation to place and its multiple histories. As such, locative arts conceptually demap location as a Cartesian dot on a geographical scale and suggest that sites are experienced as they are performed, visited, and played at.

Paradoxically, locative used to mean stationary, not in movement in military discourse. In several languages the locative case indicates "a place where". And indeed, locative arts share that preposition, bringing participants to places where they play, discover, learn, and communicate. In other words, to experience locative arts, you have to be on the move, and not locative.

In my talk, based on three years of research I will discuss locative art projects by Blast Theory, Christian Nold and Esther Polak as practices of demapping location and offering ways to perform sensory and social relations.

The Rhythm of City. Geo-located Social Data as an Artistic Medium

by Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Canet Sola

The growing amount of user-generated data is a sign for the society’s dependence on digital networks. Not surprisingly the rapid development of technology is mirrored as well in arts. The virtual environment is an inspiration and as well a working medium for many creative people.

The aim of the paper is to introduce a different approach for the interpretation and usage of geo-located social data and real-time web. To be more precise, the art project described here can be categories as a real-time and mixed reality art piece. We are proposing an innovative and artistic way for applying geo-located social data for describing a city’s pace of life. Our concerns are about the malleability of the digital world to the physical one, and the interpretation of social data for artistic purposes.

The goal of the art project is to metaphorically describe the locations by extracting geo-tagged content and translating it into a rhythm of physical metronome in real time. In short, a metronome represents a city. The installation consists from the 10 modified metronomes whose rhythms correspond to the selected cities’ the digital pace of life of. The audience is given a chance to discover and experience an alternative way of perceiving different locations through a continuous performance of 10 metronomes.

To put in a nutshell, “The Rhythm of City” is an art installation that explains in original way digital geo-located social content and characterizes cities. Even more, the work is an ongoing performance that embraces different locations, digital social data, and physical kinetic motion.

The second part of the paper aims to introduce real-time web as an artistic medium by discussing a number of related artworks.