Since its start in 2004, Flickr has been one of the most popular photo-sharing platforms on the Internet. There are other widely used image sharing services but Flickr has the deepest historical record of geo-coded photographic content.
We've long been interested in static maps of social network activity in cities, and how the coordinates aggregate into discernible geographic structures whilst other spaces are left as a void. In addition to this we wanted to explore the historical dimension of urban data, to unearth to what extent different kinds of events and phenomena are recorded - a kind of archaeology of Flickr data.
In this release we have produced an interactive application that expresses the spatial configurations, temporal changes, and taxonomies of the data.
We've selected a cross-section of world cities as case studies. Flickr is obviously used more widely in some countries than others, so usage isn't likely to reflect the population size of a city. We have data for the largest Megacities by population, so that it’s possible to compare the urban activity of the Flickr community in different parts of the world. We also have sets for the Americas and Europe where Flickr use is more concentrated. For the cities with large datasets we are using a years worth of data - 2012. Where possible we are looking at larger date ranges from 2005 - 2012.
We've used the Flickr API to generate temporal city level maps. Like the archaeological record, these traces and mappings are never complete and always highly contingent:
To explore some of these questions the timeline interface enables us to select and see different time ranges and 'play' the sequence of locations, visualising the order in which the photos are taken. The rhythms of activity may be as a result of an individual or group social activity, and are mostly played out in public space - the accretion and accumulation of photographic data renders the grid iron of the city street layout visible in the popular centres of cities.
This release allows us to explore the geography of the data further by selecting different metrics from the 'map' dropdown.
We have added a tab which shows the first 1000 Flickr user ID's by numbers of uploaded photos that are geotagged in each city map. This gives us a further way of viewing locations according to who has taken and uploaded a photo. The different spatial configurations of user photo locations very quickly highlight the different usage patterns of how individuals see and respond to the city. The selection of images below are from Berlin in 2012, the metric displayed is time of the day, which gives further insight into when users are active.