What does the famous street artist Banksy has to tell us about the relation between physical places and their social media representations?
In this paper we define hyper-locality on social media by looking at the relations between physical places and their social media representations. To do this, we use a particular case study – social media photos tagged and shared on Instagram during the anonymous British graffiti street artist Banksy’s month-long residency in New York, October 2013.
Banksy installed a new work nearly every day in different locations in the city, and announced them by posting photos of the works on Instagram and on his personal dedicated website (banksyny.com). He then asked his followers to post their own photos of the works with the hashtag #banksyny. In many cases, the only way to detect the location of the works was to search for their earlier representations online, tagged to #banksyny.
Joining Banksy’s artistic experiment, thousands of people flocked around the city in an effort to catch a glimpse of the works and photograph them before they disappeared, defaced or painted over. At the same time, the social media outcome of this experiment was a unique dataset of photos and metadata that exemplifies various spatial, temporal and content patterns in each of the locations.
Using computer vision techniques we clustered the dataset into groups of photos that document each of the artworks. We then used these clusters to analyze and visualize the dataset in various ways. For example, by plotting the clusters on a map we showed the difference in geographical spread of each of these specific works:
In another example, we compared the visual attributes of Banksy’s photo to those of his followers to measure the distance between the “original” image and its “copies”.
Our paper combines quantitative and qualitative methods, and employs for the first time perspectives from the fields of Digital Humanities and Art History in social media research. Based on our theoretical and historical analysis of Banksy’s case study, we offer to characterize hyper-locality on social media as: fragmented, temporalized, and nomadic.
Want to learn more?
Check out our ICWSM presentation (On Hyper-locality: Performances of Place in Social Media) or contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nadav Hochman, History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh
Lev Manovich, Computer Science, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Mehrdad Yazdani, California Institute for Telecommunication and Information