[ISEA2011] Paper: Alison Gazzard – Locating the Local/Mapping the Network


Eric Gordon (2009) writes of “network locality – the experience of interacting with located data within the perceived infinity of global access” (p. 22). The smartphone, alongside the rise of digital mapping systems such as Google Maps and Open Street Maps, has seen the increasing need for people to locate their activities. Photographs can be geo-located, capturing places frozen in time, and we can now log-in to virtual equivalents of shops, work buildings, or our own homes with applications such as FourSquare and Gowalla. Each of these instances is only possible through an underlying network of global connections. However, in doing so, they are also changing the mapped narrative of local areas.

The map is more than a means of seeking directions, but allows for a visualisation of data in various formats. This paper will focus on mapped data collected from areas local to the GPS co-ordinates of each data collection. FourSquare places, ephemeral geo-located tweets and geotagged photographs will be visualised against a background of a local map. Each area will be defined in terms of a community or town, and will be viewed as an isolated snapshot, depicted as a miniature mapped landscape in amongst the surrounding area.

The project seeks to understand the changing landscape of each local area by analysing what John Pickles (2004) defines as “socio-spatial identities” that he sees to be the basis of many contemporary maps as “digital mapping has begun to influence many more domains of social life” (p. 10). Whereas most location-based applications seek to define the user’s position in amongst a global network, this project examines the changing narratives of the local area through numerous check-ins, tweets and images. The changing nature of the map is captured at different points in time as a way of analysing the ephemeral landscape of data depicting the opinions, locations and imagery left as digital memories or tokens by those within the area. The narrative of place takes precedence over the identity of the user as places and spaces are re-examined in light of this user-generated content.


  1. Gordon, E. (2009). ‘Redefining the Local: The distinction between located information and local knowledge in location-based games’, in de Souza e Silva, A & Sutko, E. Digital Cityscapes. New York: Peter Lang.
  2. Pickles, J. (2004). A History of Spaces: Cartographic reason, mapping and the geo-coded world. London: Routledge.
  • Al­i­son Gaz­zard is a Post-Doc­toral Re­search Fel­low in New Media at the Uni­ver­sity of Bed­ford­shire, UK, where she also holds the po­si­tion of Ed­i­to­r­ial As­sis­tant for Con­ver­gence: The In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Re­search into New Media Tech­nolo­gies. She was awarded a PhD from the Uni­ver­sity of Hert­ford­shire ti­tled ‘Paths, Play­ers, Places: To­wards an Un­der­stand­ing of Mazes and Spaces in Videogames’ and an MA in 3D Com­puter An­i­ma­tion from the Na­tional Cen­tre of Com­puter An­i­ma­tion at Bournemouth Uni­ver­sity. Her re­search on videogame spaces, play­ers, map­ping and lo­ca­tion-based media has been pre­sented at var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences as well as being pub­lished in jour­nals such as Game Stud­ies and the Jour­nal of Gam­ing & Vir­tual Worlds. Her cur­rent re­search in­ter­ests in­clude play, paths, jour­neys and time in both real and vir­tual world spaces.

Full text (PDF) p. 926-931