Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
In six global cities.
For years, the location-tracking app FourSquare has been amassing an enviable well of data on how people spend their time, where they go, and what these patterns reveal about their commuting and entertaining behaviors. If you're on one end of the app, checking in on your smart phone at a neighborhood dive bar, the tool is a handy way to broadcast your whereabouts to your friends. From the other end – from FourSquare's point of view – each logged location contributes to a much larger picture of the life of whole business districts and cities.
Today, FourSquare is releasing a series of timelapse videos spanning a year's worth of data in six cities where the app is particularly popular. Each video covers an aggregated 24-hour period in the life of each city (when you're looking at 4 p.m. in Chicago, for instance, the picture reflects activity in the city at 4 p.m. across an entire year).
The check-ins are color-coded: red for residences, green for food, blue for nightlife, teal for travel and transport, etc. As a result, you can watch what FourSquare is calling the "pulse" of each city, the rhythms and geography of people waking up, traveling to work, going out at night, and returning home.
As always, bear in mind that these patterns represent a self-selecting group of people (those who own smart phones, who have downloaded FourSquare, and who actually use it on a regular basis), and not the movement of each city's entire population. That bias is particularly evident in San Francisco. Still, the videos are pretty bewitching.
New York City:
Foursquare check-ins show the pulse of New York City from Foursquare on Vimeo.
Foursquare check-ins show the pulse of San Francisco from Foursquare on Vimeo.