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. Design

    The Rivers of the U.S., Collected Into a Nifty Subway Map

    A designer who spent his youth floating on rafts has conjured up a delightful transit guide to America’s waterways.

  2. Equity

    Why Some Women Don't Actually Have Privacy Rights

    A law professor explores the reasons why women who need government assistance are forced to divulge intimate details of their lives.

  3. The Salk Institute, near San Diego
    Design

    This Is Your Brain on Architecture

    In her new book, Sarah Williams Goldhagen presents scientific evidence for why some buildings delight us and others—too many of them—disappoint.

  4. Transportation

    5 Reasons to Be Wary of Elon Musk's Hyperloop

    High-speed vactrains might be the ticket for a Martian colony. As a practical transit investment for Earth, the technology has a long way to go.

  5. Transportation

    Why Some Brits Are Fuming Over London's Crossrail

    A massive new commuter rail project is stoking centuries-old resentment in Britain’s north-south divide.