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How to Build a Map for Free: immaterial labour and location-based social networking
Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives, Pages: 189 - 199
Swansea University Author: Leighton Evans
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In April 2011, I happened to find myself in the beautiful city of York, Northern England, on a Wednesday evening, ready to deliver a paper to a conference the next morning. While there is much to admire in York – beautiful architecture, plentiful culture and wonderful scenery – I had only one object...
|Published in:||Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives|
Institute of Network Cultures
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In April 2011, I happened to find myself in the beautiful city of York, Northern England, on a Wednesday evening, ready to deliver a paper to a conference the next morning. While there is much to admire in York – beautiful architecture, plentiful culture and wonderful scenery – I had only one objective in mind. On this evening, I wanted to watch Manchester United play Chelsea in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. I support neither team – and downright loathe Chelsea – but I really wanted to watch the match: I wanted to watch it in a bar, with other football supporters, with cheap beer and plentiful screens to see the action. In the past, this would have involved tiresome seeking out of bars in the city, walking from place to place and possibly missing the action. On this evening though, I missed nothing and found the perfect place, and I achieved this in seconds with the use of my iPhone and the application Foursquare: I hit the Foursquare app button; pulled up the list of places near to my location in the centre of York; started going through the venues to find bars, and read the comments and tips left by other customers; and found a nice place with student discounts for beer and lots of screens. The game was a routine 1-0 win for Manchester United, but the bar was great, a hidden gem in York, and found by utilising the power of smartphone technology and the social tips left by other likeminded people. I used the check-ins and comments of other users, stored in a database, to make decisions about somewhere I didn’t know anything about, and when I checked-in there and left a comment – “a great place to watch football and great offers on beer!” – I contributed to this database and map of places as well. This is the world of location-based social networking (LBSN), a map of places created by users: what is called a “bottom-up” system, where users create the information rather than being given the information from above in a “top-down” system. This type of mapping has been incredibly useful to me, but it poses a very important question to be considered: what happens to the data I produce for the LBSN? This essay looks at how the data produced by user-generated databases of places is a very valuable commodity produced for free by the users, and while the database or map is very useful, we should also be aware of how our activities using such services are made into commodities for the companies that provide these services.
This publication is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).
mapping, LBSN, location-based social media, political economy
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences