Assessment 3

Locative Media, Place and Online Social Media Sites

Jingyan Liu (440419457) / Thursday 12-2pm- Fiona Andreallo


The rapid development of locative media is creating greater interactions between individuals and ‘place’ (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 126-130). The scholars Sam Hinton and Larissa Hjorth effectively define place as the human meaning given to space, such a meaning that without would make the space just another geographical point on a map (2013, pp. 126-127). The development of smartphone driven locative media and its adoption by online social media is enabling users to interact with place on levels not previously accessible with past human artifacts, such as maps and photographs (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 121-124). Furthermore, online social media sites through their structure and approach are facilitating ‘localised’ bonds, wherein small groups of family and friends are bounded together through their shared experience of place (Evans 2016, pp. 102-110). Also in rarer circumstances online social media sites become the grounds for large movements, which are the amalgamation of many localised groups loosely united through shared feelings towards a place (Keane 2010). Yet, as online social media sites begin taking greater interest in locative media, the future of locative media will largely be focused on the ordinary user (Wilken 2014, pp. 1089-1098).

Locative Media

Locative media is changing how users understand place. In particular, smartphone driven locative media is creating ever present places regardless of whether the user is actually physically present in them (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 121-124). Through the development of Internet supported smartphones, users are able to use the Internet from virtually anywhere (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 121-122). Therefore, users can be co-present in the physical space, while also being present in online places that are geographically miles away. This copresence in the physical and virtual place is especially challenging to traditional conceptions of place (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 121-126). Before the invention of the Internet and smartphones, copresence still could be achieved through artifacts, such as maps and photographs, albeit in a far limited form. For maps, people were influenced by the structure of the map, seeing distant places as culminations of contours, lines and degrees. The person was simultaneously present in the place the map was found, while also being present in the particular contours, lines and degrees of the place being viewed on the map. For photographs, people were physically present within the photograph’s visual depiction of place, while also being present in their memories of that place, memories which were triggered by the photograph.

Yet, this copresence is limited by the artifact’s bias. The bias is the perspective provided to the user by the technological limitations of the artifact. For example, the map’s bias is the way it presents place solely through contours, lines and degrees. Similarly, the photograph’s bias is how it offers only a snapshot of place, without text or video to enrich it. On the other hand, present locative technology allows users to experience physically unbounded places at anytime through the Internet and in greater than before sensory degrees, including through attached text, video, and sound (Hinton & Hjorth 2013, pp. 126-130).

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 02.14.38

(An example of smart-driven locative software)


Locative Media and Online Social Media

Online social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide the platforms for virtual displays of place in addition to providing users a platform to share their feelings about such virtual representations of place (Evans 2016, pp. 108-110). User’s feelings are expressed in a variety of ways, all of which depend on the specific structure of the online social media site. These ways include: commenting, sharing, reproducing, photo-editing, campaigning, liking, subscribing and even pirating. These ways of interacting with virtual representations of place were not possible before the invention of online social media. Moreover, online social media through its navigable networking platforms and simple facilitation of shared content enables users to rapidly share with family and friends their thoughts and feelings about the place being represented (Evans 2016, pp. 107-111). For example, imagine an Instagram user posting a video of themselves enjoying the view on the Eiffel Tower. Once the user posts this video, their Instagram friends can then like and share the video. The user’s friends may comment on this video, sharing similar experiences they have had on the Eiffel Tower. A bond then develops between the user posting the video and the friends who commented on it. Instagram therefore has facilitated shared connections to place, which is enabled through its network software and facilitated through its communication programs that let users post, like, share and comment.     

Yet this bond is localised. It is localised because it exists only with the user and their friends (Evans 2016, pp. 102-110). Although other Instagram users may post similar video posts about the Eiffel Tower, these posts will likely be shared only between their own Instagram friends and thus more localised bonds will develop. This is not to say that localised groups cannot be joined together through online social media and become movements, however it is less common.  For example, when the Muslim organisation, The Cordoba Initiative, planned on building a mosque in close proximity to where the World Trade Centre once stood, Twitter became a firestorm of rhetoric for and against building the mosque (Keane 2010). The Cordoba Initiative hired a social media expert, Oz Sultan, to organise people through Twitter who felt the mosque was a positive step towards reconciliation (Keane 2010). Yet, Oz Sultan supportive stance towards constructing the mosque was opposed by prominent politicians representing the views of the 70% Americans polled by the CNN, who all disagreed with the mosque’s construction (Keane 2010). Even fringe groups expressed their opposition to the mosque’s construction through Twitter, such as the Jewish newspaper Haaretz and apparently from even groups claiming to be Amish (Keane 2010).

Therefore, the place where the World Trade Centre once stood in relation to the place where the mosque’s construction was proposed, polarised multiple localised groups from the Haaretz newspaper operating within Tel Aviv to the followers of Oz Sultan and his team (Keane 2010). Although this polarisation of Twitter groups for and against the mosque’s construction unlikely created a unity of ideas, as religious, political, cultural, social and ethical arguments were different focuses of different groups, the feelings of these groups were mutual (Keane 2010). The place where the World Trade Centre once stood is for many people a sombre reminder of the devastation that took place on 911 and those groups opposing the mosque through Twitter likely shared sensitive feelings of anger, apprehension and disgust towards the mosque’s construction nearby (Keane 2010). For people supporting the construction of the mosque through Twitter, they likely felt that the mosque’s construction would be a symbol of reconciliation and reharmonisation between Muslims and Americans and would help heal the rift following 911 (Keane 2010). Therefore, the large culmination of groups for and against the Mosque’s construction shows how in some circumstances localised online social media groups can be amalgamated into movements unified through generalised, but shared feelings. Also, this large-scale Twitter debate shows how place can be a powerful motivator for public protest and divide, as the site of the old World Trade Centre is still a sensitive area.


(The Place where the Mosque was to be built)


The Future of Locative Media and Online Social Media

Online social media is gradually realising the commercial value of using locative media (Wilkens 2014, pp. 1088-1095). For example, Facebook, which is the largest and most successful online social media company greatly recognises the commercial benefit in developing locative software for its site (Wilkens 2014, pp. 1089-1092). Facebook has reaped large revenues from the data it accrues (Wilkens 2014, pp. 1095-1097).  Being the largest and most successful online social media site, Facebook has access to a large expanse of user data. Yet, in recent years Facebook has been challenged by companies, such as Foursquare and Yelp, which has gathered lucrative locative data on the places users are most interested in (Wilkens 2014, 1088-1090). Facebook has come to realise that enriching its data through adding geo-markers to it increased the commercial value of such data would increase. Although Facebook has been slow to recognise the value of locative data, it has recently launched locative software through its release of Facebook Places and its successor Nearby (Wilkens 2014, pp. 1090-1093). Both Facebook Places and Nearby encouraged users to share their location through posts and through users automatically showing their location when signing in through a mobile device (Wilkens 2014, pp. 1090-1093). As online social media sites, such as Facebook place greater value on locative data, their customer base, which exists of mainly ordinary people and advertisers will become the primary targets of future locative software.

(An example of Facebook’s locative software)

It is likely that Facebook will continue developing its locative software, perhaps enabling users to piece together coherent narratives based on their geo-marked data (Evans & Saker 2016, pp. 1-5). However, these narratives can only be produced through Facebook and other sites similar to it retaining geo-marked data and releasing it to ordinary users. Furthermore, Facebook and other online social media sites will probably explore ways to represent this data in ways, which are controlled by the users themselves (Evans & Saker 2016, pp. 3-7). If no software was available for users to organise their geo-marked data, then the users would find masses of time-stamped data senseless. However, if users had access to programs, which can organise this data in flexible ways, then such data would be of importance to the user (Evans & Saker 2016, pp. 7-9). Interestingly, Foursquare has already begun experimenting with data retention for individual users (Evans & Saker 2016, 3-5). Although this data come unsorted, except for being time stamped and geo-marked. Users still have to journal and organise this data manually. The scholars Michael Saker and Leighton Evans interviewed Foursquare users on their views towards Foursquare locative data retention (2016, pp. 4-7). Interestingly, some of the users interviewed, such as Martin and Ellie used this data to journal their lives from a temporal and locational perspective (Evans & Saker 2016, p. 7). Both Martin and Ellie commented on how they want to remember all the significant places they visit, so they can better understand themselves (Evans & Saker 2016, p. 7). For Martin and Ellie, retained locative data enables them to develop their self identity through analysing their day-to-day movements (Evans & Saker 2016, p. 7). Although Foursquare is yet to develop software that allows ordinary users to process and organise their locative data in meaningful ways, Foursquare does offer a window into the future for how users will interact with locative data.



Evans, L. (2016). “Sharing Location with Locative Social Media.” Locative Social Media: Place in the Digital Age. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 86-116.

Evans, L. and Saker, M. (2016). “Locative Media and Identity: Accumulative Technologies of the Self.” SAGE Open, 6(3), 1-10.

Keane, M. (2010). “Social Media Lessons from the Ground Zero Mosque.” Econsultancy.<>. (Accessed 23 April 2017).

Hjorth, L. and Hinton, S. (2013). “Social, Locative and Mobile Media.” Understanding Social Media. London: SAGE, 120-135.

Wilken, R. (2014). “Places Nearby: Facebook as a Location-Based Social Media Platform.” SAGE Open, 16(7), 1087-1103.

Images in order of appearance

Google Maps. (2017). “Google Maps Phone.” bhdreams.<>. (Accessed 23 April 2017).

Noel, Y. (2010). “Planned Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center Near the World Trade Center Site Spurs Controversy.” NYC loves NYC. <>. (Accessed 23 April 2017).

Jolly, L. (2012). “Locative Media and Anonymity.” A Media and Communications Blog. <>. (Accessed 23 April 2017).


One thought on “Locative Media, Place and Online Social Media Sites

  1. This article systematically introduces the concept of place, locative media and social media. When a place is combined in both physical and virtual space by technology, it earns a boarder and more abundant meaning. However, technology also creates limitations. According to different program and artifact, place has unique statuses. Also, place is localized in the social media sites. Users can construct a place, by using image, video or message, only between their friends and themselves. Nevertheless, people can gather numerous definitions to one place as well when the place become a focus point. The mosque example has well illustrated this situation.

    Moreover, some social media sites treat users’ geographical location information as information with great value because it helps them to advertise accurately. Foursquare and its geo-data organization are mentioned in the article, which reminds me of a concern about privacy. An app named ‘Girls Around Me’ used Foursquare to determine users’, especially girls’, location information. Once you identify a girl you’d like to talk to, you can contact her through Facebook with accessing to her full name, profile photos. We actually provide location information to companies without charge to exchange free services. The ideal situation is we are protected by them. However, apps like ‘Girls Around Me’ illustrate that we are actually naked online sometimes. It is important for companies to think more about lock down information disclosure which may cause severe problems, but not focus on providing accurate promotion services only.


Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s