Map Critique – On Broadway


Considering my focus on Fifth Avenue in NYC for the final project and the topic of “deep mapping,” I chose a map that shows layers of different types of data by providing multiple ways to look through it with a focus on navigating Broadway. Broadway has its unique characteristic as the curvy spine of New York City. Tourists explore the city from the rich cultural heritage of the Dominican neighborhood of Inwood to the heart of Chinatown. We can learn how a big city’s infrastructure is related to our daily life by excavating the hidden correlations between the city’s representation in social media data. By doing so, the map shows unique analysis of the data gathered by various social media beyond representation.

The sheer number of books and conferences and exhibitions on the “city in photographs,” the “cinematic city,” and the “digital/ smart/ sentient city” indicates that most of our attention— at least within the fields of media and design theory and practice— has focused on these modern media technologies’ relationships to the city. The representation of the city in these modern media continues to be a prominent theme. /Shannon Mattern. (2015). Deep Mapping the Media City

Map:    Website:

On Broadway is an interactive data visualization that represents modern city life along New York City’s Broadway with people’s social media data. The map provides a unique look at all 13 miles of the famed street through a compilation of user-generated images and open data. It’s an endeavor to show a “new type of city view, created from the daily activities of large numbers of people” by displaying hundreds of thousands of geo-tagged social media photos produced by people within Broadway. Users can scroll up and down the interactive web application and explore vertical slices of the multi-faceted cityscape of Broadway. Each 13-layer slice includes data from Instagram images, Google Street View images, Twitter posts with photos, Foursquare check-ins, 22 million taxi pickups and drop-offs in 2013, and U.S. Census economic data by neighborhood.

The project team, led by Lev Manovich, a world-renowned innovator and media theorist, divided up 13.5 miles of Broadway into 30 by 100-meter intervals and then mapped each interval with data from the aforementioned social media sites and official sources. The visualization lets users examine the relationship between each interval’s average household income, social media activity, and taxi pick-up and drop-off points. The whole project can be seen on the website; it was also displayed at the Public Eye exhibition at the New York Public Library in 2014.

The project was inspired by Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip  (1966), an artist book that unfolds to 25 feet (8.33 meters) to show continuous photographic views of both sides of a 1.5 mile section of Sunset Boulevard.


Modern writers, painters, photographers, filmmakers and digital artists have created many fascinating representations of the city life. Paintings of Paris boulevards and cafés by Pissarro and Renoir, photomontages by Berlin Dada artists, Broadway Boogie-Woogie by Piet Mondrian, Spider-Man comics (Stan Lee and Steve Ditko), Playtime by Jacques Tati, and Locals and Tourists data maps by Eric Fischer are just some of the classic examples of artists encountering the city.

The datasets include 661,809 Instagram photos shared along Broadway during six months in 2014; Twitter posts with images for the same period in 2014; 8,527,198 Foursquare check-ins, 2009-2014; 22 million taxi pickups and drop-offs for al of 2013; selected indicators from US Census Bureau for 2013 (latest data available).


The map makers assumed that a significant proportion of shared images in Broadway come from tourists since the street passes through lots of famous landmarks and shopping districts like SoHo.

To examine this, the researcher identified the four most active areas by analyzing the locations of shared photos on Instagram throughout a six-month period. It turned out that all those areas correspond to public parks or squares, and three out of four correspond to popular tourist landmarks. The top areas in terms of photos shared on Twitter were similar: parts of Time Square and City Hall Park.


After exploring all of the New York City data, the researchers produced a few charts reflecting what most New Yorkers already know: Upper Manhattan (Broadway above 110th street, defined by the researchers) is much less touristy than downtown and midtown areas. In Times Square, tourists posted a full 5% to 9% of total images; downtown it was more like 2.5% to 3.5%; and even less uptown. Downtown and Midtown were also busier (by social media activity and taxi trips) and wealthier. The fact that all of this data is tightly correlated could be interpreted as a sign of how the “digital divide and income inequality are closely tied together,” the researchers write.


I think the significance within this project is its “real-time” representation of our city. We can see what’s going on in the city at a glance by navigating through the photos shared on Social Networks every microsecond.




“The goal of our [On Broadway] project was to let citizens see how many types of urban data relate to each other, and let them relate massive city data to their personal experiences (places where they live or visit),” explains computer scientist Lev Manovich, a researcher with The City University of New York’s Graduate Center.


The goal was to create a new understanding of NYC without using maps or graphs. The result? “Like a spine in a human body,” ON BROADWAY anchors the city in the living, breathing symphony that is visualized data.  


Critical Thinking

What do the colors behind the photos stand for?

How are those data related to each other?

What is the significance behind correlations between different datasets?

What’s the effect of displaying the Instagram photos?

How are those entire datasets and media creating a whole map?

What’s the significance of “the new type of city view” by displaying multi-layered photo data vertically instead of cartographically?

Deep maps are finely detailed, multimedia depictions of a place and the people, buildings, objects, flora, and fauna that exist within it and which are inseparable from the activities of everyday life. These depictions may encompass the beliefs, desires, hopes, and fears of residents and help show what ties one place to another. A deep map is a way to engage evidence within its spatio-temporal context and to provide a platform for a spatially-embedded argument. The essays in this book investigate deep mapping and the spatial narratives that stem from it. The authors come from a variety of disciplines: history, religious studies, geography and geographic information science, and computer science. Each applies the concepts of space, time, and place to problems central to an understanding of society and culture, employing deep maps to reveal the confluence of actions and evidence and to trace paths of intellectual exploration by making use of a new creative space that is visual, structurally open, multi-media, and multi-layered.

Ideas / Prototype

Idea 1. Mapping old photos along with the current street views.

Idea 2. User-generated map “Where do you come from?”


One of my previous works: Participatory Mapping.


Idea3.An Interactive Heatmap Generated by People’s Instagram Data (Sentiment Analysis + Mapping)

By looking at On Broadway project, I wondered what the color data stands for. To make a further meaning and interaction with the color data extracted from Instagram photos and street view photos, I created this prototype. Because the map itself is generated by people’s daily data, I think there is room to focus more on user-oriented interaction beyond just representation of the color data.




 Precedents: Microsoft Holo Lens Type Playground create by Dongyoon Park



Idea 4

Realtime Hashtag Mapping with Augmented Reality

When I thought about “deep mapping,” It reminds me of a kind of mixed reality that has multiple layers of multi-faceted information. I imagined an augmented user interface that user can navigate through the existing spaces in Fifth Avenue with hashtags that appear on the place. it’s a map as media that would be empowering people to take a look deeply in the urban lifestyle and infrastructure;

(Precedent – Microsoft Hololens Type Playground App created by Dong Woon Park)


screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-4-30-26-pmPicture Source:


Cited Works (Bibliography)

Bodenhamer, David J., John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris. Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.

Daniel Goddemeyer, Moritz Stefaner, Dominikus Baur, Lev Manovich. “On Broadway.” ON BROADWAY. Accessed November 16, 2016.

“Lev Manovich.” Lev Manovich – Selected Press. Accessed November 16, 2016.

Mattern, Shannon Christine. Deep Mapping the Media City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

Expected Uses of Technology

Microsoft Hololens for Mixed Reality

Google Place API:

Google Map API: