Twitter's Geodata Revolution And The Soft City

Two days ago Twitter platform developers announced to launch a new, revolutionary component in Twittersphere: location. A geodata team is working on an API that makes it possible to map tweets physically. The idea is explained on the official Twitter blog:

“We’re gearing up to launch a new feature which makes Twitter truly location-aware. A new API will allow developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. (…) With accurate tweet-level location data you could switch from reading the tweets of accounts you follow to reading tweets from anyone in your neighbourhood or city — whether you follow them or not.”

Flickr Geotag Visualisation, Barcelona

Twitter will get closer and closer to real life. In the near future tweets can be reconsidered within a physical context and, therefore, could contribute to a revalued perception of public and private spaces and spheres. Imagine how this might be interesting at events, or even something like an earthquake. “There will likely be many use cases we haven’t even thought of yet which is part of what makes this so exciting”, the Twitter team says. Think of heat maps giving insight in the perception of neighbourhoods by instantly mapping certain activity. For example, see in which regions most people suffer from specific illnesses.

More and more information profoundly integrates with the real world, revaluing the absolute perception of the Soft City. Recent developments in ubiquitous computing, geotagging and Augmented Reality manifest a slightly growing renewed interest in a Constructivist approach to urbanism. It’s not buildings and other vast structures that make a city, it’s how people actually experience the urban realm. It’s not the bricks and concrete walls, but new digital layers of all kinds of geocached user-generated information on top of the old, static structures. How big is this new episode in the data revolution going to be? And what will this mean to the ‘Hard City’ professions of architecture and urban design?