smart cities on Twitter: or, urban / cultural / visual / digital

I’ve been trying to work on a paper about how smart cities look on Twitter over the past few works.  One answer is this:

trial 3 brightness_median vs hue_median copy small.jpg

That’s a trial run I’ve done, working with the 900-odd images attached to a range of smart city-related hashtags, scraped over a week last month by my OU colleague Alistair Willis, and run through Lev Manovich’s ImagePlot software.  Saturation increases closer to the centre of the image, and hue is distributed much like a colour wheel.  Yes, smart cities are mostly either blue or orange!!

This is part of my effort to think about different visual methods that can respond – even if only partially – to the sheer scale of image circulation in digital visual culture now. It doesn’t touch on the dynamics of their circulation, but it does suggest, I think, a possible effect of the speed and numbers of images on social media platforms and the casual way in which they’re often seen: that we might see a certain sort of city as a colour field that enacts smart (for example) rather than a set of images that represent it. So the blue and orange mean almost nothing (though not entirely). What they might suggest, though, is something about the feel of the notion of the smart city, as it’s performed through Twitter.

What I’m now doing is digging a bit deeper into that ‘feeling’: what does a smart city hashtag on Twitter do with both smart cities and with the hashtag followers? What kinds of affect does it intensify?  I think I’m kind of getting towards an answer, but of course I need to do some more reading.  And here is my pile of books that I hope will help me think about what thousands of images of smart are and do, getting me away from smart and Twitter specifically and more towards thinking about the intersection of the urban, visual, cultural and digital. I’m also looking forward to reading a roundtable in the online journal Mediapolis, on the urban as an emergent key concept for media theory.

IMG_1635.JPG

(I was going to make a snarky comment about it obviously being compulsory to use grey, black, red and white when designing the covers of these sorts of books – but then I realised that my workspace is pretty much the same colours….)

 

 

2 thoughts on “smart cities on Twitter: or, urban / cultural / visual / digital

  1. Hello, I wondered how you sourced the images systematically from Twitter? I am considering doing a dissertation on climate change discourses on social media, but I’m not sure how to practically source the texts/images? I love the colour wheel of images!

    • Hi Alice and thanks for the enthusiasm about the colour wheel! I worked with someone in the Computer Science Department at my university – Alistair Willis – who wrote some code to download tweets as they were made. He’s done similar work for other social scientists and uses Python to hook into Twitter’s API. I understand there are other ways to download images but this way I got exactly what I wanted. One question I have been asked though is what about the tweets’ text – which I have but I haven’t incorporated into my analysis. It’s not possible to analyse images and text together as far as I understand… good luck with your work.

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