Location-aware mobile media and urban sociability.

Sutko, D. M., & de Souza e Silva, A.

Go to article

Sutko, D. M., & de Souza e Silva, A. (2011). Location-aware mobile media and urban sociability. New Media & Society, 13(5), 807–823. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810385202

Cell Phones , Communication , Coordination , Interfaces , Location-aware Media , Locative Media , Mobile Technologies , Sociability , Social Networks , Urban Spaces

Location-aware mobile media allow users to see their locations on a map on their mobile phone screens. These applications either disclose the physical positions of known friends, or represent the locations of groups of unknown people. We call these interfaces eponymous and anonymous, respectively. This article presents our classification of eponymous and anonymous location-aware interfaces by investigating how these applications may require us to rethink our understanding of urban sociability, particularly how we coordinate and communicate in public spaces. We argue that common assumptions made about location-aware mobile media, namely their ability to increase one’s spatial awareness and to encourage one to meet more people in public spaces, might be fallacious due to pre-existing practices of sociability in the city. We explore these issues in the light of three bodies of theory: Goffman’s presentation of self in everyday life, Simmel’s ideas on sociability, and Lehtonen and Mäenpää’s concept of street sociability.

Main finding
Location-aware mobile media applications can be structured to function in very different ways depending on the goals of the application. This study attempts to categorize different classes of location-aware mobile applications, and find that they generally map social networks onto physical spaces, but also key differences exist between them especially related to: (a) eponymous functions that encourage users to communicate and coordinate with each other, and (b) anonymous functions which tend to emphasize transforming urban spaces into playful experiences but in which users do not share information with each other. The researchers also find that many such applications are used for communication and coordination among existing friends as opposed to meet new people, which indicates they may support social molecularization and conflict with common assumptions about applications of this nature supporting new social connections.

Description of method used in the article
Theoretical analysis of location-aware social media platforms with the purposes of: (a) classifying different sub-categories of such interfaces, (b) challenging common assumptions about their use, and (c) framing them within existing sociological theories. Locative mobile social networking (LMSN) applications are framed as primarily anonymous (i.e., do not identify users, but aggregate them into location-based metrics) or eponymous (i.e., they identify users to others, either known or unknown).

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Theoretical (Delete me)
Physical types