Geotagged photographs across the region of both Locals + Tourists.
left: Geotagged photographs attributed to Locals, right: Geotagged photographs attributed to Tourists
Central Vancouver: Locals + tourists geotagged photographs of Vancouver overlaid with approximate neighbourhood outlines and public parks.
Edge vs Centre: Locals + Tourists spend time along the edges of the city
Transit: Transit doesn’t take Locals + Tourists to all the places they like to go.
Landmarks: Tourists + Locals

Image of the City


Vancouverism 2.0 should attempt to reflect the perspective of its citizens. Through mobile photo capture and sharing, Vancouverites and visitors document their perspectives on the city every day. Massive amounts of geo-referenced data are gathered, and the data depicts a unique image of Vancouver. Through this project we have sought to explore geotagged photo data to consider how we can make the best use of this information for improving the planning and design of our city.


About the maps

The points shown on the maps represent photographs that have been geotagged on Flickr and Picasa between 2002 and 2010, with the majority taken between 2008 and 2010. Geotags were either generated automatically using the GPS receiver in the camera or phone, or manually by whomever uploaded the photos.

The LOCAL vs TOURIST distinction was based on the photo-taking habits of the photographer. Photos were assumed to be by LOCALS if the photographer took other pictures in Vancouver over a period of a month or more. Photos were assumed be taken by TOURISTS if the photographer seemed to be a local of a different city, and if they took pictures in Vancouver for a period of less than a month.

In February 2009, Flickr reported that about 3% of the photos on their servers were geotagged. Thus, we can assume that the photos shown on these maps represent about 3% of the total photos taken in Vancouver during this time span.



In this project we have begun to explore methods of using a socio-spatial geotag dataset to evaluate how people interact with public space in the city, and to understand what areas draw the most locals and tourists. Observing the distribution of photos taken across Vancouver reveals an “experience map” of the city created by residents and visitors.

Some interesting patterns emerge when analyzing the maps and comparing the “density” of photos taken by locals and by visitors. It is interesting to observe, for example, the commonality of “landmarks” that are well-loved by both tourists and locals alike. We also observe a high density of photos around Robson Square, leading us to question whether there could be a better-defined central public gathering space there.

The collection of such spatial data is growing exponentially. What should we be doing with this information and what does it tell us? As this data becomes available in greater resolutions it will be interesting to see the life of public spaces at a more detailed scale. Where do people sit? What are the patterns of movement? When compared against other spatial data sources and plotted over time other patterns will start to emerge.

Are the patterns identified by locals and tourists consistent with your image of Vancouver? What experiences are visitors to Vancouver missing? What does this information tell you about how Vancouver is used? Through this exploration we hope to raise discussion about the best use of socio-spatial information to help the public, politicians, designers, and planners make better decisions regarding the planning and design of our city.



The base map for these diagrams was created by Eric Fisher ( walkingsf) in June 2010 and expressly shared with us for this project. Eric Fisher obtained the geotag information for his base map from open source Flickr and Picasa API data, which spanned 2002 to 2010.

The base maps for city parks, parcels, and shoreline utilizes open data obtained from the City of Vancouver VanMap open data catalogue.

Transit information was obtained from Translink.

Neighbourhood outlines were derived from a combination of sources, including the city’s various Business Improvement Associations (BIAs), the City of Vancouver’s official neighbourhoods map, the Downtown South planning study, and our common knowledge about approximate neighbourhood boundaries.

This entry was posted on March 11, 2012 at 1:39 am, filed under 04 Propose, Designer, Involvement, Project process, space2place. Bookmark the permalink. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.