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These Maps Visualize Social Media Utopias Using Foursquare Check-Ins

“Generating Utopias” maps out topologies based on the frequency of check-ins in cities.

A data visualization of a German town called Würzburg, using Foursquare check-ins. Image by Stefan Wagner.

A data visualization of a German town called Würzburg, using Foursquare check-ins. Image by Stefan Wagner.


Winner of :output’s 2014 Grand Prix design scholarship, “Generating Utopia” is a data visualization project by German interaction and motion designer Stefan Wagner. The real-time application takes Foursquare check-ins and uses them to create correlative topologies in the cities Foursquare users call home.

Wagner explains that the aim of the project is to “show what human habitats could look like if it was possible to transform them depending on the location-based behavior of their residents.”

The visualization begins with a bird’s-eye view of an existing city’s topology. It then spouts mountains and tubes as its residents check in to Foursquare locations. What eventually develops is a type of social media-based utopia, as the city morphs into the patterns in which it’s used.

The project takes practically all of its data from the web. Buildings are downloaded from the openstreetmaps.org API as outlines, then translated into 3D models and rendered into place on the map. This allows for the app to be used on any earthly location.

“Some people want to show their job is important to them, so their workplace grows a huge pile, filling its surroundings with red tubes,” explains Wagner. “Others want to show they are always on the go, so their landscape will fill with dozens of small hills and links in all colours. Some residents are mostly focused on the center of their city, building huge but compact structures; other spread out and integrate the city’s borders into the web.”

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