Making Sense of Cities Using Social Media: Requirements for Hyper-Local Data Aggregation Tools

Examples of geo-tagged social media data visualizations mockups. Clockwise: geo-tagged topic groupings, keywords appearance graphs, volume graph and heat map

Schwartz, R., Naaman M., Matni, Z.

As more people tweet, check-in and share pictures and videos of their daily experiences in the city, new opportunities arise to understand urban activity. When aggregated, these data can uncover invaluable local insights for local stake holders such as journalists, first responders and city officials. To better understand the needs and requirements for this kind of aggregation tools, we perform an exploratory study that includes interviews with 12 domain experts that utilize local information on a daily basis. Our results shed light on current practices, existing tools and unfulfilled needs of these professionals. We use these findings to discuss the requirements for hyper-local social media data aggregation tools for the study of cities on a large scale. We outline a list of key features that can better serve the discovery of patterns and insights about both real-time activity and historical perspectives of lo-cal communities.

The research was published in Proceedings, WCMCW at ICWSM 2013 on 7/1/2013. The research is supported by the Brown Institute Magic Grant for the project CityBeat.

Access the paper:
To contact the authors, please send a message to