The Information Preserves project

Possible visualization of Information Preseves

In my previous post, I talked about the implied geographic knowledge that can be inferred from social data. This brought me to revitalize an idea I had some time ago, and which I have now named Information Preserves. (informatiereservaten in Dutch)

Social data – data shared through the social web –  is sometimes explicitly linked  to places: photos can have location metadata added to them by the camera or phone, twitter users can opt to add their current location to their tweets. If you dig beneath the surface, even more social data can be linked to a location. With some effort, you could aggregate a stratum of social geodata for, say, one city and make a nice map out of it. This has been done (here for Twitter) and it provides some insight into where people tweet from.

Interesting, but still somewhat boring to me. What if we could overlay various clouds of social geodata – photos, blog posts, twitter, check-ins on foursquare, facebook, this list goes on – and  look at the urban voids of social data. The places that people do not tweet from, blog about, take pictures of or go out in. The Information Preserves. People live there, they are part of the urban and social fabric, but somehow are left behind in the torrent of the social data revolution.

There could be all kinds of reasons and explanations for the existence of Information Preserves. Possibly, they house mainly social strata that don’t engage as much with the technology of social data: internet, smartphones, digital recording devices. The physical urban fabric may provide a partial explanation for the location of the Preserves. They may be difficult to reach for lack of public transport or access roads. They may be of low aesthetical appeal or harbor little entertainment and amenities.

These and other qualities, or lacks thereof, are known to be interdependent in influencing the urban social dynamics. Because of this interdependency and the multitude of spatial, social, political and economical factors involved in urban social dynamics the negative effects of these social dynamics, most importantly social and racial segregation, continue to be a difficult challenge for local policy makers.

The visualisation of Information Preserves based on social data that is just out there for anyone to pick up and use can help to fuel the urban debate from a social media perspective. I envisage this idea evolving something like this:

  • Make an inventory of suitable social and other open data sources.
  • Gather data for Amsterdam, the pilot city.
  • Generate different visualization ideas based on different definitions and conceptions of “An Information Preserve”. Play around with the available data.
  • Identify the Information Preserves in Amsterdam and visit and document them. Take photos, videos. Talk to people who live there and people who run them.
  • Discuss the validity and value of the Information Preserves idea with social media experts and Preserve stakeholdes.
  • Create a publication, possibly in the form of a travel guide.
  • Guided tours of Information Preserves for local policy makers.

I am now at step 1. For the rest, I need time and money.