MIT Media Lab

How "walkable coffee shops" might foster a better sense of community.

If every independent coffee shop in San Francisco had a gang color and territory, what would you get?

To start, one of the most effete turf wars in history, with skinny bearded guys trying to kneecap each other without spilling their macchiato. But also this splendid, rainbow-colored cartography of coffee shops and the neighborhoods they serve, created by the data-viz magicians inside MIT's Social Computing Group.

The map is part of MIT's "You Are Here" project, an ambitious attempt to make a data-based map every day for a year. Based on Google's API troves, it shows the shops as red dots surrounded by multihued auras representing a "region which is walkable to a specific coffee shop (within one kilometer or 0.7 miles)." According to the MIT folks, the ability to stroll to a coffee shop is an important part of a healthy city. They explain:

Independent coffee shops are positive markers of a living community. They function as social spaces, urban offices, and places to see the world go by. Communities are often formed by having spaces in which people can have casual interactions, and local and walkable coffee shops create those conditions, not only in the coffee shop themselves, but on the sidewalks around them. We use maps to know where these coffee shop communities exist and where, by placing new coffee shops, we can help form them.

The map shows what probably could've been predicted: a dense clumping of coffee shops in the downtown area, SoMa, and North Beach, with a booming canyon of java stretching down into the hip Mission District. There are fewer shops in farther-out communities like the Sunset District and Bayview, and the visionary entrepreneur who will build a Philz on top of Twin Peaks hasn't arrived, yet.

To see how San Francisco stacks up to other cities in terms of coffee-shop distribution, MIT also made this map of Brooklyn:

 

There's also this one for Cambridge:

Maps courtesy of the Social Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Why New York City Stopped Building Subways

    Nearly 80 years ago, a construction standstill derailed the subway’s progress, leading to its present crisis. This is the story, decade by decade.

  2. The central business district in Beijing, one of the world's emerging tech hubs
    Life

    The Rise of the Rest (of the World)

    American cities still have the edge when it comes to high-tech startups and venture capital, but other parts of the world are rapidly catching up.

  3. Villa 31, an informal settlement in Buenos Aires
    Equity

    The Global Housing Crisis

    Scarce, unaffordable housing is not a local problem in a few places, but is baked into the 21st-century global city. It’s time for cities, nations, and global leaders to start acting like it.

  4. Equity

    Barcelona Forces Banks to Turn Repossessed Homes Into Affordable Housing

    To address a housing shortage, Spain’s second city says bank-owned properties can no longer sit empty.

  5. Cars sit in a traffic jam while cyclists ride by in Central London.
    POV

    London's Congestion Charge Is Showing Its Age

    After 15 years of existence, London’s method of congestion charging is dated. It needs to be bigger, longer, and greedier.