The place and space in the mobile media

Yuxi Li


Tutorial: Thursday 12-3pm, Fiona Andreallo


In recent years, with the continuous development of science and technology and network, a new era is created that is the information age. Social media as the main product of this era, it has become an indispensable tool in people’s lives. Among them, there is a technique that is Location Based Services (LBS), it was well integrated and used in the social media (Hjorth & Hinton, 2013). This geolocation contains two concepts, place and space. The two concepts are defined in social media differently from their original meaning, and the meaning of place and space in social media will be discussed in this article.

Core concept

Place and space as the two basic concepts of geography, these two concepts were seemed to be different, in fact, they are complementary (Tuan 1977; Goodchild 2015). In the general cognition where the place is a concrete concept, while the space is treated as an abstract concept. The place can also be called the location, the physical location in the real world. Space is difficult to define, Agnew (1987) suggested that it can be called regional settings, such as a regular work or entertainment area (the room that is composed of the wall). With advances in technology, social media has also begun to increase the geographical positioning of the function, which makes the place and space have another meaning. The place changes from a physical location in reality to a virtual map that is positioned by Global positioning system (GPS), and space becomes cyberspace.


In Chapter 7 of Understanding Social Media, authors Hjorth and Hinton discussed the integration of social and positioning technology in mobile devices and said that the presence of geographic location in the device could help people build their social space on social media. This function will be virtual and reality, social and personal combination, at the same time, the development of social media positioning is having a significant impact on cultural practices, place market and changes in relationships (Hjorth & Hinton, 2013).

Case studies

“Geographical factors have long been known as drivers of many aspects of people’s social lives, as spatial proximity implies opportunities for social interaction” (Shi, et al. 2016). With the large use of social media such as Weibo, WeChat, and Instagram, they become the primary tool for sharing information. These social media through the LBS to form the user’s physical space and social networks in the trajectory and interaction. By identifying the location on the mobile map, it not only gives the place a different meaning, from the physical location into a meaningful location, but also provides a cyberspace to communicate, the specific meaning of the space. For example, in the Weibo, one of the features is “nearby,” it through GPS positioning, people can search nearby users to share information, such as food, activities, and their lives. As the following picture (see picture 1), through the opening of the “near” this option, you can see a South Korean star concert was held around Sydney last night. In this case, the users who use the positioning system share these messages with their domestic or in Sydney friends and the surrounding people, and their friends and people around them can communicate with the user in the following comments. This feature creates new ways to show places and co-exist, not only blurred the location, but also provides a space for communication, in the increase of the degree of intimacy while leaving a commemorative significance (Hjorth et al. 2012).


(Picture 1)

The second example is about WeChat, which is well known as a very popular social media in China. Until 2016, the micro-channel users have reached 889 million (“Number of,” n.d.). WeChat is a powerful social media, and it is not only a tool for communication, you can keep your friends and family links, but also through the function of making friends to make new friends. This function is called People Nearby, it is the use of the user’s location to locate other people who are using WeChat who are around you (see picture 2). In the WeChat’s “People Nearby” is different from Weibo’s “Nearby,” it focuses on allowing users the users to use this feature, it will automatically follow the distance push new friends to users. The users can click on the person’s name and send a greeting if you want to start a conversation with that person. In this way people can use LBS to make friends to the local, so that can help them quickly understand the local culture. From the concept of place, the same place will increase the resonance of each other, for the network of this large space, the exchange has become simpler.


(Picture 2)

The last example is about Instagram, it is one of the most popular social media in recent years, which launched from 2010, now it has more than 150 million upload pictures. Instagram can allow users to shoot, edit and add location to share photos (Hjorth & Hinton, 2013). As shown below (see picture 3), when the users edit the photo and the published this picture in the Instagram that can be added photo shoot location which according to the GPS. Simultaneously, users can also click on this location to view other users posted on this location of the pictures and information. This will not only document and share location information in this way, but also the geographical location is specified, and people can carry out some of these places a general understanding, even if their will not reach the geographical location.


(Picture 3)

There is also a very attractive feature in Instagram that is the photo map, but it has been stopped using in 2016. As shown in the photo (see picture 4), the photo wall will show your photos on the map. This is a very interesting function that similar to the diary; people can publish photos and places to record where they have been.


(Picture 4)

Development and discussion

Through the analysis and discussion of the three social media, the conclusion is LBS are important for the social media. It combines the place and space in the social media and gives two new meanings. For the users, this feature can record life; you can make new friends, also can change the relationship of intimacy. Through LBS this function people can also create their social space. Geolocation has many advantages for the user, and it is also possible for business purposes, such as Facebook will be based on the user’s location to push the local activities related to the news. This not only promotes the local activities, but also enriched the lives of consumers. Of course, for these social media to find a business road. In addition to the article mentioned three social media have LBS of the function, there are many other social media also increased this function, this feature is promising in the future, it is worth to be developed.



Agnew J (1987) Place and politics: the geographical mediation of state and society. Allen and Unwin, Boston

CNNIC (2011) Statistical Survey Report on Internet Development in China. Retrieved from http://www1.cnnic.cn/IDR/ReportDownloads/201209/P020120904421102801754.pdf.

Goodchild, M. F. (2015). Space, place and health. Annals of GIS, 21(2), 97-100.

Hjorth, L., Burgess J. and Richardson I. (eds) (2012) Studying Mobile Media: Cultural Technologies, Mobile Communication, and the iPhone. New York: Routledge.

Hjorth, L., & Hinton, S. (2013). Social, Locative and Mobile Media. In Understanding Social Media (pp. 120–135). London: SAGE.

Number of monthly active WeChat users from 2nd quarter 2010 to 4th quarter 2016. (n.d.)  Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/255778/number-of-active-wechat-messenger-accounts/

Tuan, Y. F. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. U of Minnesota Press.

Shi, L., Wu, L., Chi, G., & Liu, Y. (2016). Geographical impacts on social networks from perspectives of space and place: An empirical study using mobile phone data. Journal of Geographical Systems, 18(4), 359-376. doi:10.1007/s10109-016-0236-8

Tuan, Y. F. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. U of Minnesota Press.