Social Mapping the City

In this TED talk, Dave Troy presents some social maps of cities that he created by analyzing users’ Twitter data and locations. He analyzed the primary interests of each user, color coded it, and mapped it to their location, drawing lines between any connection between two users. What he found was that, in each city, primary interests of users tended to clump geographically; in a way, the primary interests of users created interest boroughs, of sorts.

Given that his map of Baltimore specifically designated the “Geek” area as also the “TEDx” area of the city, it seems that his intended audience for the TED talk is comprised of other data geeks and TED enthusiasts. In addition, I think that the maps could be useful for urban sociologists and those who study the connections between online social behavior and offline location, culture, and behavior.

Troy’s research and presentation aim to examine the social separation within cities, which he views as a social construct which we could choose not to do. While I feel that the data visualizations, taken without comment, provide useful information, I do not agree with his conclusion. Though he mentions gentrification in his talk, he does not seem to acknowledge that many of the people in the cities he examines (specifically, those being pushed out due to gentrification) literally cannot afford to move into other areas of the city because it is too expensive. His presentation is not effective in explaining for this.

I do, however, feel that the data visualizations themselves do effectively show the separations of and connections between different interest bubbles in the cities. It would be interesting if he could somehow incorporate income distribution into the visualizations, as I feel there may be significant correlation and may help show some of the economic underpinnings of these bubbles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *