Location-based services, conspicuous mobility, and the location-aware future

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114 Scopus citations


The production and consumption of geographic information is becoming a more mobile practice, with more corporate actors challenging the traditional stronghold of Esri- and government-based geospatial developments. What can be considered a geographic information system has expanded to include web-based technologies like Google Earth/Maps, as well as more recent developments of Microsoft's Bing Maps and the mobile version of ArcGIS available for the iPhone. In addition to these developments, a discursive shift toward 'location' is occurring across the Internet industry. Location has become the new buzzword for social-spatial strategies to target consumers. As reported in 2010, venture capitalists have, since 2009, invested $115. million into 'location start-ups' - software companies that provide location-based services to mobile computing consumers (Miller and Wortham, 2010). Applications like Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, and most recently, Facebook Places allow users to 'check-in' at restaurants, bars, gyms, retail outlets, and offices, thereby sharing their location within their social network. These developments enable consumers to (re)discover their proximities to products, while feeding a desire for making known one's everyday movements. Here, I discuss the development of location-based services as the proliferation of a peculiar form of geographic information: conspicuous mobility. Through discussion of a recent gathering of location-aware software professionals and through analysis of discourses that emerge over a battle between 'check in' companies, I sketch an area of study that explores the implications of these emerging geographic information 'systems', and new everyday cartographers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1266-1275
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Critical GIS
  • Location-based services
  • Mobility
  • Technology
  • Urban
  • Where 2.0

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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