Social media and the city: Rethinking urban socio-spatial inequality using user-generated geographic information

Taylor Shelton, Ate Poorthuis, Matthew Zook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

274 Scopus citations


Big data is increasingly seen as a way of providing a more 'scientific' approach to the understanding and management of cities. But most geographic analyses of geotagged social media data have failed to mobilize a sufficiently complex understanding of socio-spatial relations. By combining the conceptual approach of relational socio-spatial theory with the methods of critical GIScience, this paper explores the spatial imaginaries and processes of segregation and mobility at play in the notion of the '9th Street Divide' in Louisville, Kentucky. Through a more context-sensitive analysis of this data, this paper argues against this popular spatial imaginary and the notion that the Louisville's West End is somehow separate and apart from the rest of the city. By analyzing the everyday activity spaces of different groups of Louisvillians through geotagged Twitter data, we instead argue for an understanding of these neighborhoods as fluid, porous and actively produced, rather than as rigid, static or fixed. Ultimately, this paper is meant to provide a conceptual and methodological framework for the analysis of social media data that is more attentive to the multiplicity of socio-spatial relations embodied in such data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-211
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Big data
  • Critical GIS
  • Mixed methods
  • Socio-spatial theory
  • Urban planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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