Exploring urban social media: Selfiecity and On Broadway
User-generated visual media such as images and video shared on Instagram, YouTube, Sino Weibo, VK, Flickr and other popular social media services open up amazing opportunities for the study of contemporary visual culture and urban environments. By analyzing media shared by millions of users today, we can understand what people around the world imagine and create; how people represent themselves and others; what topics, styles and visual techniques are most popular and most unique, and how these topics and techniques differ between locations, genders, ages, and many other demographic characteristics. In a number of projects completed between 2012 and 2015, we analysed large number of images shared on Instagram by people in urban areas. This article discusses two of these projects: Selfiecity (2014) and On Broadway (2015). In Selfiecity, we compared patterns in self-representations using a collection of “selfie” photos shared on Instagram by people in five global cities. In On Broadway, we focused on a single street in NYC – part of Broadway running through Manhattan for 13 miles – and analysed images shared along Broadway on Instagram and Twitter, Foursquare check-ins, taxi rides, and selected economic and social indicators using U.S. Census data. The article presents our methods, findings, and unique interactive interfaces for explorations of the collected data we constructed for each project.