Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman

Geolocation:  Tributes to the Data Stream

We use publicly available embedded GPS information in Twitter updates to track the locations ​of user posts and make photographs to mark the location in the real world. Each of these ​photographs is taken on the site of the update and paired with the originating text. Our act of ​making a photograph anchors and memorializes the ephemeral online data in the real world ​and also probes the expectations of privacy surrounding social networks. We select texts that ​reveal something about the personal nature of the users’ lives or the national climate, while also ​examining the relationship to physical space and the ways in which it influences online presence.

Twitter estimates there are over 400 million tweets daily, creating a new level of digital noise. ​Clive Thompson uses the term ambient awareness to describe this incessant online contact in ​his New York Times article, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.” According to Thompson, “It ​is. . . very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the ​little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye.” ​Our collaborative work is a means for situating this virtual communication in the physical realm. ​We imagine ourselves as virtual flâneurs, ethnographers of the Internet, exploring cities 140 ​characters at a time through the lives of others.