The spatial self: Location-based identity performance on social media.

Schwartz, R., & Halegoua, G. R.

Go to article

Schwartz, R., & Halegoua, G. R. (2015). The spatial self: Location-based identity performance on social media. New Media & Society, 17(10), 1643–1660.

Facebook , Foursquare , Identity , Instagram , Location-based Social Media , Performance , Social Media , Spatial Self

As a growing number of social media platforms now include location information from their users, researchers are confronted with new online representations of individuals, social networks, and the places they inhabit. To better understand these representations and their implications, we introduce the concept of the “spatial self”: a theoretical framework encapsulating the process of online self-presentation based on the display of offline physical activities. Building on previous studies in social science, humanities, and computer and information science, we analyze the ways offline experiences are harnessed and performed online. We first provide an encompassing interdisciplinary survey of research that investigates the relationships between location, information technology, and identity performance. Then, we identify and characterize the spatial self as well as examine its occurrences through three case studies of popular social media sites: Instagram, Facebook, and Foursquare. Finally, we offer possible research directions and methodological considerations for the analysis of geocoded social media data.

Main finding
This study examines user behavior on social media platforms that employ location-based information. Drawing from associated fieldwork of how people use such platforms in public and private spaces, the authors introduce the concept of the "spatial self” as a way to categorize the common and growing practices of "geocoded representations on locative and social media" (p. 1653), which refers to online and offline documenting, archiving, and displaying of experiences or mobility within space to represent or perform aspects of identity to others (p. 1647). The authors argue that the lens of spatial self can be valuable in understanding (a) individuals (as markers of identity and actions), (b) physical places (i.e., the character of physical space can be learned about the aggregate representations such as comments, tips, photos, videos, etc.), and (c) social networks (e.g., individual actions can help reveal collective geographic patters of social networks).

Description of method used in the article
Case studies of the expression of the “spatial self” in relation to three types of social media platforms: (a) photographic (i.e., Instagram), (b) mixed-use social networks (i.e., Facebook and Twitter), and (c) location-based social media (i.e., Foursquare) in relation to public and semi-public spaces. Analysis of the use of these platforms in relation to the “spatial self” relates to the intentional socio-cultural practices of self-representations.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories