A world map made of millions of geotagged tweets show the spots where locals—and tourists—flock.

Data artist Eric Fischer creates gorgeous maps of human movement across cities by plotting the social media trails of the world's denizens. Among other projects for Mapbox, where he currently works, Fischer recently released "Locals & Tourists," a searchable world map that visualizes the tweets of city residents versus out-of-towners. Using Gnip's archive of geo-tagged tweets from September 2011 through May 2013, Fischer designated "locals" as those who'd been tweeting from the same city region for one month or longer. Their tweets are blue spots on the map. "Tourists" (red spots) were those who'd been tweeting in that city for less than a month, and who seem to be "locals" in another city.

Remarkably, the tweet-points are not overlaid onto an existing world map; rather, they manifest into recognizable urban geographies. This becomes apparent when you zoom in tight or all the way out: neighborhood, county, and national boundaries simply aren't there. In these maps, the world is a sum of its tweets.

In a way, "Tourists & Locals" updates an older project of Fischer's, where he mapped tourists and locals in than 130 international cities using geo-tagged Flickr photos. In those maps, blue dots are locals, red dots tourists, and yellow dots are those who Fischer couldn't determine.

Locals & Tourists of London. Courtesy of Eric Fischer via Flickr
Locals & Tourists of Las Vegas. Courtesy of Eric Fischer via Flickr

Looking back, Fischer compares how the different data sources affect the distribution of residents and visitors across cities. With the Flickr-based series, Fischer says "there were cities like Las Vegas and Venice with almost no photos posted outside of the areas where tourists go, challenging my expectation that every city would have places that were meaningful to locals but that tourists don't know about." The tweet-based map, meanwhile, is "probably more representative of a broader slice of life and of local neighborhood concentrations."

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Passengers line up for a bullet train at a platform in Tokyo Station.
    Transportation

    The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

    The nation’s famed mastery of rail travel has been aided by some subtle behavioral tricks.

  2. Solutions

    Are ‘Pee Beds’ a Fix for Public Urination?

    In an effort to clean up popular sites of outdoor urination, researchers studied the mind of the man who pees in public. Their work could make stadiums and festival grounds smell a lot fresher in the future.

  3. An interior view of operator Rafaela Vasquez moments before an Uber SUV hit a woman in Tempe, Arizona, in March 2018.
    Transportation

    Behind the Uber Self-Driving Car Crash: a Failure to Communicate

    The preliminary findings into a fatal crash in Tempe by the National Transportation Safety Board highlight the serious “handoff problem” in vehicle automation.

  4. Equity

    What Is Loitering, Really?

    America’s laws against lingering have roots in Medieval and Elizabethan England. Since 1342, the goal has always been to keep anyone “out of place” away.

  5. POV

    What Surfers Understand About Gentrification

    When it comes to waves, newcomers are not wanted.