Geoforum: Location-based services, conspicuous mobility, and the location-aware future

My AAG presentation in 2011 has been accepted for publication and is forthcoming in Geoforum! Download the preprint version, here.


The production and consumption of geographic information is becoming a more mobile practice, with more corporate actors challenging the traditional stronghold of Esri- and government-based geospatial developments.  What can be considered a geographic information system has expanded to include web-based technologies like Google Earth/Maps, as well as more recent developments of Microsoft’s Bing Maps and the mobile version of ArcGIS available for the iPhone.  In addition to these developments, a discursive shift toward ‘location’ is occurring across the Internet industry.  Location has become the new buzzword for social-spatial strategies to target consumers.  As reported in 2010, venture capitalists have, since 2009, invested $115 million into ‘location start-ups’ -- software companies that provide location-based services to mobile computing consumers (Miller and Wortham, 2010).  Applications like Foursquare, Loopt, Gowalla, and most recently, Facebook Places allow users to ‘check-in’ at restaurants, bars, gyms, retail outlets, and offices, thereby sharing their location within their social network.  These developments enable consumers to (re)discover their proximities to products, while feeding a desire for making known one’s everyday movements.  Here, I discuss the development of location-based services as the proliferation of a peculiar form of geographic information: conspicuous mobility.  Through discussion of a recent gathering of location-aware software professionals and through analysis of discourses that emerge over a battle between ‘check in’ companies, I sketch an area of study that explores the implications of these emerging geographic information ‘systems’, and new everyday cartographers.

Keywords: location-based services, mobility, critical GIS, where 2.0, technology, urban


  1. everyday cartographers, conspicuous mobility, check-in companies! Love it! Thank you for giving us a new lexicon for this emerging GIS. Congrats!


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