Environment

Heartache on Twitter, Tracked to its Source

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Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

So, what does happen when a tweet is reconnected with its location? When the invisible world of social media is anchored to the physical world? These anticlimactic, understated images are void of people--the viewer imagines the people sending the messages.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

Larson continues:

"With the #HowToKeepARelationshipWithMe, we shot all 20 of the tweets that had both that tag and GPS coordinates around the NYC metro area while we were looking for about a week in the middle of July [2012]. We picked that tag because of the strange mixture of vulnerability and bravado, as well as the implications for contemporary relationships playing out in a public forum."

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

The sites become like mini-monuments to the tweet; the barren locations come alive with the pathos of the disembodied messages.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

Images from the series Geolocations will featured in an exhibition at the Light Factory in Charlotte in January, and in a public artwork for a video screen at the Indianapolis International Airport that will premiere next summer.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

One almost expects to to see the tweet memorialized on a placard, physically embodied in its virtual space.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

The collaborators begin by looking at trending topics on Twitter, and then track the locations of those with GPS coordinates, paying special attention to tweets that respond to relationships and feelings of isolation. They then physically photograph the spots where these tweets were sent, thus far encompassing Chicago, Baltimore, Rochester, Syracuse, Washington DC, Atlantic City, and various New Jersey suburbs.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

Where does a tweet actually originate? What do the landscapes where they were created look like? Locating tweets geographically, by using publicly available GPS metadata, photographers Marni Shindelman and Nate Larson are answering that question in cities across the country.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

The project, called Geolocations, is about two years old. It originated when the New York-based Shindelman and the Maryland-based Larsen met at a conference in 2007 and began corresponding about the idea of telepathy.

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

Larson says about the images:

"The last I checked, there were somewhere in the ballpark of 250 million tweets a day, and they slip away so quickly into the vastness of the internet. We see the project as preserving a small fragment of them before they are lost in the digital noise."

Photo Credits: Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman

Larson thinks technology can function as a kind of telepathy--social media creates "echoes of thoughts across the American landscape." In this way our digital life can give another layer of detail about our lived reality--what the writer Clive Thompson called "ambient awareness."

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