Martín Echenique is an editorial fellow at CityLab, formerly at CityLab Latino. His work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Clarín, Univision, El Espectador, La Tercera, El Nuevo Herald, and other outlets.
Hoodmaps asks which neighborhoods attract hipsters, tourists, and students, and more.
You probably know where the hipsters, students, or rich people people hang out in your city. But when you’re traveling somewhere new and want to know the same thing, where can you go to figure it out?
Hoodmaps might have your back. Launched in July, this crowdsourced, color-coded map features more than 2,000 cities around the world, letting users draw and highlight parts of each city depending on what kind of urbanite they think is most likely to be found there.
Each city is divided into six color-coded categories: hipsters, “normies,” suits, tourists, “uni” (students), and rich. Users can also add tags wherever they want to say something that goes beyond one of the six categories.
Pieter Levels, the developer behind Hoodmaps, said in a recent blog post that the project was fueled by how hard it was for him to find an original, local scene while visiting a foreign city. “I very often end up in the tourist center. I’m originally from Amsterdam and I know 90% of tourists will never get any idea about the ‘real’ Amsterdam because they just stay in the tourist center.”
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Because Hoodmaps is fairly new, it still has plenty of gaps. So far, New York City leads the board with more than 2,700 users who have drawn and colored the neighborhoods, or submitted tags for them.
Other top cities include urban centers like London, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Many cities in the U.S.—including Cincinnati, Syracuse, Providence, San Antonio, and Sacramento—still lack sourcing, and their maps are skewed toward the opinions of only a few dozen contributors.
The platform is solely based on user input, and users can vote for or against tags submitted by others—the bigger the tag is, the more validation it has from users. If an area is overlapped by two or more colors, the most popular category will prevail.
Of course, Hoodmaps runs into a common problem with open-source, user-driven projects: it’s limited to contributors’ biases. This runs the risk of promoting negative stereotypes, much like the case of SketchFactor, an app that was shut down after accusations of encouraging prejudice against Latinos and African Americans. Hoodmaps could fall into this trap, too—especially through its tagging tool.
The categories users can choose from are also quite limited, not to mention white-centric. The stereotypes speak mostly to how wealthier, white people might see a neighborhood—the ”hipster” label is especially common in lower-income and more diverse parts of cities, while “normies” is so vague that it’s nearly useless for understanding anything about an area. These broad strokes in particular brush over the varied realities within a city’s neighborhoods.
Still, it’s hard not to give in to the curiosity about how people who know your city would choose to stereotype it. And if you’re checking out a new city, maybe Hoodmaps can show you where to find people like you, whether you’re a hipster, a suit, or a just another normie.
Check out some of the cities here:
New York City: