With the vast rise in social media sharing has become second nature to the human race and with mobile media being more accessible than ever the consistent, constant sharing of people is more rife than ever. Even moreso, sharing where you are, what you’re doing is more apparent as well. This is referred to a locative media and changing the dimension of social networks making it less virtual based and arguably more tangible by using location and space. The interchangeable use of mobile and locative media we are able to connect all day, everyday and everywhere.
It is predicted that by 2019 there will be over five billion mobile users worldwide (Statista, 2016) and with the current population at 7.5 billion people that means by 2019 five out of seven people in the world will be a mobile user. No wonder location based services (LBS) with mobile apps are rising rapidly and such apps are “blending our social relationships with geography” bringing that sense of place and time to social media making it tangible in the physical world, referred to as a “hybrid space” by Sam Hinton and Larissa Hjorth (Hinton, S. Hjorth, L. 2013: 123). Such technology in media makes the possibilities endless for connecting with people across the world anytime and anywhere, creating new communities all over.
Modern day society and the lives of individuals have always thrived on our social interactions. As Pierre Bourdieu has argued that the sense of reality is a social construct and for us to exist is to exist socially (Bourdieu, P. 1984). Our place is society is determined by the amount of “social capital” we have to offer whether that is built up through personal relationships, cultural relations, workspace relations, economic or political means (Bourdieu, P. 1984). This is all still relevant to our society today but social media has completely changed the dynamics of how we build this social capital, where we do it and when. Arguably, nowadays our social capital could be based on how many likes, shares, follows and comments one has at any given time.
Social media has transformed the way we have interacted in society and is a “revolution in thinking” (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 30). It has empowered individuals to be able to communicate freely across boundaries and barriers and accessibility is ever increasing with people being able to connect via mobile media from anywhere through the use of LDS and locative media (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013). It has also transformed the way organisations and corporations market and how the business/consumer relationship works.
In this transformation for private corporations there has become the development of a complex relationship between those corporations and internet users (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 18) to be able to use the rise of web 2.0, mobile media and locative media to profitable advantage. Location-based services encompass the fastest growing sector in the technology industry and give endless possibilities for businesses to grow and market (Wilken, R. Goggin. G. 2015: 5). The market penetration that comes with LBS and mobile media is unfathomable with the possibilities (Rossiter, N. cited in Wilken, R. Goggin, G. 2015: 218). It is now possible to track an individual’s searches to promote brands and nowadays it is common to market directly to where one’s location may be.
However, despite this positive transformation for both businesses and consumers Hinton and Hjorth note social media can simply be a part of a broader capitalist gain exploited for corporations (Hinton, Hjorth, 2013: 2). Google now has an extension called “Marauder’s Map” where they are able to track searches made on Google and other apps on your device that use LBS. Corporations have access to searches people have made and are able to specifically target people who have made those searches (Thompson, C. 2015). Users are essentially a commodity. Evidently, there are major privacy and ethical issues that arise with this as there are many not aware of this or even that apps are able to track one’s location.
Linking back to Bourdieu’s idea of social space and social capital. Locative and mobile media now is arguably an extension of the self, by geotagging ourselves on the go with whichever app of choice it puts into context our sense of space merging it with that of the physical world. As George C Vollrath notes that by revealing our space on social media we are mediating that space or place in the virtual world but making it tangible by linking it to the physical world (Vollrath, G.C. 2016: 3). By creating this sense of “hybrid social space” users interact through and about places creating new connections with others through photographs, comments, likes and shares (Liao, T. Humphreys, L. 2014). Tony Liao and Lee Humphreys note how this has become a practice in everyday urban life and manages to shape the relationship and interpretations of spaces people are around (ibid). People can connect with others who may be at the same coffee shop they are at or search a place on the opposite side of the world but know a specific person has been there at a specific time through the use of geotagging and LDS and what’s more represent themselves through the sense of time and space.
However, with making ourselves so readily available to a plethora of people globally come issues with the public/private binary. Why do we feel the need to share so much? And when does sharing become too much? Safety issues also come into this. With the need to feel connected and the want for likes, shares and follows and making ourselves present through space and “the boundaries between public and private are something that people are constantly revising as a perpetual work in progress” (Hjorth, Hinton, 2013: 46). Instagram and Facebook are well-known for “checking-in” or tagging where you have been and often, especially on Instagram, is able to gain followers and likes from similar accounts or from people have been to similar places.
In one “social media experiment” example by Jack Vale, a YouTube online media personality, conducted an experiment where he searched a specific location he was in in Los Angeles and would find the person who tagged themselves at that place on Instagram and went up to them like he knew them because he could find out so much personal information about them simply from their Instagram profiles. While essentially a “prank” on YouTube it does highlight concerns about what we make public on social media. Rowan Wilken notes, specifically related to Facebook, how there are many “privacy implications of aggregating users’ location data” (Wilken, 2014: 4). Other apps that include location-based services which blur the public/private binary include dating apps such as Happn. Essentially when you cross paths with someone a notification will appear on your mobile device. Hard to decide whether it’s verging on stalker? All jokes aside it does raise these questions.
My social media campaign was largely based around locative and mobile media as Seize Your Sunday encouraged people to take pictures of where they were in NSW and tag where they had explored that Sunday. In addition, using the hashtag ‘Seize Your Sunday’ to note that they were partaking in that community. I think this is where the use of mobile and locative media can be really beneficial to build a community of likeminded individuals doing similar things together but as outlined in this analysis there are dark sides to locative social media.
To conclude, it is evident there are advantages and disadvantages to all social media. It is being able to find that balance of when sharing too much becomes apparent and always being aware that not everything on social media is real. Furthermore, ethical issues arise from corporations being able to take advantage of LDS and the tracking of potential consumers’ whereabouts. We need to be aware as great as sharing can be with friends and followers it sometimes is better to live in the moment and be present in the “real” side of life and turn the virtual off, even if just for a moment.
Bourdieu, P. (1984) ‘The Habitus and the Space of Lifestyle’ in Distinction: A social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Harvard University Press
Happn – https://www.happn.com
Hinton, S. Hjorth, L. (2013), Understanding Social Media, London, Sage Publications Ltd.
Liao, T. Humphreys, L. (2014), ‘Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space’, New Media & Society, accessed on 20th April 2016, available at – http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/03/18/1461444814527734.full.pdf
Statista, (2016), ‘Number of mobile phone users worldwide from 2013 to 2019’, accessed on 20 April 2016, available at – http://www.statista.com/statistics/274774/forecast-of-mobile-phone-users-worldwide/
Thompson, C. (2015), ‘Social media apps are tracking your location in shocking detail’, Business Insider, accessed on 20th April 2016, available at – http://www.businessinsider.com.au/three-ways-social-media-is-tracking-you-2015-5?r=US&IR=T
Vollrath, G.C. (2016), ‘Digital phenomenology and locative infrastructures in location-based social networking’, New Media & Society, accessed on 20 April 2016, available at – http://nms.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/02/02/1461444816628511.full
Wilken, R. (2014), ‘Places Nearby: Facebook as a location-based social media platform’, New Media & Society, 16(7), 1087-1103
Wilken, R., Goggin, G. (2015), Locative Media, New York, Taylor & Francis.
YouTube, (2013), Social Media Experiment, accessed on 20th April 2016, available at – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P_0s1TYpJU