Locative social media: location means more than space

Relationship emerges used to relate with physical places – sociality based on location. Since mobile technology enables individuals’ communication goes beyond geographically constraint, which can be seen that mobile phones are not merely a extension of the landline but also being a sophisticated and convergent media portal. This trend evolves the person-to-person relationships become more sophisticated in terms of being physically present at a certain place and digitally connected at the same time. In the age of Web 2.0, social media, a virtual platform for people maintaining relationship, are experiencing a phenomenal growth which vanish the border of online and offline. At the same time, with the high usage of smartphone, a research (2009) shows that people globally use data to communication more than voice via their smartphones, these social networking sites become portable. In another world, sociality strongly attaches to mobile media.

A new kind relationship between physical and digital place and spatial and social relations is emerging with these locative social media platforms raised. And most findings show locations is also taking important position in online social interaction. For instance, Sutko and De Souza e Silva (2011) introduced the idea of ‘presentation of place’ and later De Souza e Silva and Frith (2012) revealed the concept of ‘presentation of place’ might enhance homophily, bonding and trust between users who regularly show up at certain locations and engage themselves in location-based social media. Moreover, diverse motivations behind using locative social media can be lead to socially driven decisions (Schwartz and Halegoua, 2014). Therefore, the personal digital narratives through information is about space and place, in another word, individual representations of physical places on social media connect to certain locations would have social meanings.

With locative service well established and wide applied into mobile technology, locative social media fast become a ubiquitous platform for communication. Social interaction no longer limits with text and images, these new trend social media allows mobile users present their physically activities with various implications. As Hinton and Hjorth (2013) states, our understanding of the hybrid physical world as well as our social world constitute our social connections. Research from Sutko and de Souza e Silva (2011) suggested that when users share their location to contacts within social network, the chances of coordination and communication among them would be increased. These underneath meanings reveal that locative media is affecting the sociality in social media,

Many findings have revealed that locative media has strong connection with social interaction. Such previous findings revealed that people naturally navigate their peers’ locations to observe their activities and see if they might enjoy as well. By knowing their frequent physical location and the comments or ratings they left to know how the majority perceive a specific place. Due to ubiquitous mobile media, these social navigation behaviors have shift to virtual spaces. A research of Jie Pang (a Chinese version of Foursquare) (2012) revealed that the main purpose to use this application is ‘to both see where their friends are and to report on new ‘‘cool’’ places’ (Hjorth and Gu, 2012). And locative media provides a new perspective for users to gaze their peers’ offline activities indirectly. As analyzed above, locations attach other values, once people admire their one certain peer, location becomes an essential element to follow up as well.

Jurgenson found (2012) that social media sites affect people’s behavior even they are offline. This also applies to locative social media. When users sharing their locations in online social media are sending the cues to their audiences the relation between these physical places and the network. Sometimes, to cater their online network audiences would be another reason that users go to these specific places. On the contrary, hiding location information is another reflection of the location influence. For example, some users would choose not to share the places in online social network which make them feel embarrassed – those places would affect their public impression that they intend to maintain constantly.

Photo-sharing social media with location service

Photography records physical places objectively and subjectively at the same time. In terms of social interaction, photos can convey emotional information. Milne (2010) noted postcards with vision of similar places which captioned by particular sender can create social and spatial presence at certain moments. With the rise of smart phone with high quality camera, a new relationship between amateur photographers and surroundings filtered by them emerged (Ito and Okabe, 2003). Photographic social media with location-based service has become a notable trend in latest five years. Since a location means something, smart phone platforms such as ios or android make photo geocode more visible to users, at the same time users tend to name their physical locations when posting their offline activities on online social media. According to Van House (2009), posting photos in online social network is a kind of narrative performance. And photography with geocoded information enhances the influence of locative social media. In this perspective, camera is used as a tool for users to engage themselves in various social media platforms.

Looking at the photomap feature in Instagram, it presents the user’s self-presentation and network connection. Hinton and Hjorth (2013) point out,

“In each location, camera-phone images are overlaid onto specific places in a way that reflects existing social and cultural intimate relations as well as being demonstrative of new types of what Pink calls ‘emplaced’ visually, in which locative media emplace images within the entanglement of movement (2011).”

Moreover, photos with tagging another users can be seen as offline social bond embedded in online network.

Intagram’s Photomap collects each photo’s locative information and displays as many dots in a map. Each user has his/her unique photomap that attracts users take pictures in this platform in order to build up an attractive or ideal self-identity in this platform. When it comes to show the name of a specific location, Instagram provides users flexible options. Users can either display their locations with official names, for example ‘The University of Sydney’ or create special names such as “my college”. Moreover, while users create such unique titles behalf their physical locations, they are not tied to provide accurate geographic information. Specifically, users can drop a pin in any points of the map with their special names or adopt other existed titles name by previous comers. Users can achieve highly self-presentation and avoid leaking privacy at the same time.

This photomap on one hand represents users’ life trajectories, on the other hand provides a clue for users to follow their networks’ activities without communicating directly. Someone may argue this is lurking, however, this does contribute to social tie maintenance, for example keep their knowledge of weak ties update regularly.

Although locative media has shown some advantage, however, there are some critical issues. The most notable concern relates to privacy issue, as Lambert (2013) questions the future of intimate physical spaces, would them be abused? His concern based on the theory that privacy is the essential structure within ‘surveillance society’, that is public normally do not have awareness they are being surveillance in most circumstances. For example, as most users have no clues how and where would their geo data be used. On the other hand, the easily surveillance may turn users into more lurkers rather than communicating directly.


  1. Ito, M., and D. Okabe. 2003. Camera phones changing the definition of picture-worthy. Japan Media Review, Retrieved from http://www.ojr.org/japan/wireless/1062208524.php.
  2. Jurgenson, N. When Atoms Meet Bits: Social Media, the Mobile Web and Augmented Revolution. Future Internet 2012, 4, 83–91.
  3. Lambert, A. (2013). Intimacy and friendship on Facebook. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  4. Larissa Hjorth & Kay Gu (2012) The place of emplaced visualities: A case study of smartphone visuality and location-based social media in Shanghai, China, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 26:5, 699-713
  5. Milne E (2010) Letters, Postcards, Email: Technologies of Presence. New York: Routledge.
  6. Schwartz, R. and Halegoua, G. (2014). The spatial self: Location-based identity performance on social media. New Media \& Society.
  7. Silva, A. and Frith, J. (2012). Mobile interfaces in public spaces. New York: Routledge.
  8. Sutko DM and De Souza e Silva A (2011) Location-aware mobile media and urban sociability. New Media & Society 13(5): 807–823.
  9. Van House NA (2009) Collocated photo sharing, story-telling, and the performance of self. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 67: 1073–1086.

Shuyuan Lin 440439042


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s