Locals vs. Tourists


We’ve always known there is a gulf between the city as experienced by tourists and the city lived in by locals. Now we have a fun visual representation of that divide. Using various types of data from Flickr, one user of the photo-sharing website, Eric Fisher, has created maps that indicate the spots photographed by tourists and those shot by locals. Local photographs are blue, tourist photos red and undetermined photos yellow.

There are some problems in the methodology. Whether a Flickr user is a local or a tourist is determined by whether they photograph a given location over a long period of time (like a local would) or in just a few days (like a tourist would). That seems fair enough, but not everyone geotags their photos, which could possibly skew the results one way or another. One person who obsessive geotags all of his or her photos could have a disproportionately large representation on the map. You can see this in Vancouver, where one person’s geotagged cycle routes are prominently displayed.

Still, just by looking at the maps you get a strong intuitive sense that they are close to reality. In the Montreal map, tourists overwhelmingly stick to Old Montreal, St. Joseph’s Oratory and the Olympic Stadium while locals take photos throughout downtown and the Plateau, with an especially notable cluster of local shots around Lafontaine Park, Maisonneuve Park and the Botanical Gardens (which, interestingly enough, are right across the street from the Olympic tourist hub).

The pattern is even more clear if you look at the New York, London or San Francisco maps. In New York, tourists stick to Midtown, Central Park, the Financial District and Brooklyn Heights, while largely avoiding the East Village and Williamsburg, which are heavily photographed by locals. Amusingly, if these maps are accurate, tourists prefer going to Yankees games while locals flock to see the Mets.

New York

There’s less of a distinction between locals and tourists in some cities. Hong Kong’s map is hard to decipher, partly because the city is so compact that everyone is taking photos in the same small areas anyway, and partly because it has a lot of yellow dots. Still, it’s remarkably easy to get a sense of the typical tourist itinerary just by looking at this map: shopping in Causeway Bay, tram ride to Central, up to the Peak, across the harbour by Star Ferry, up Nathan Road to Temple Street and Mongkok, where tourists stop at the Flower Market and turn back.

Hong Kong

Some European cities seem to be almost entirely photographed by tourists: check out Amsterdam, Prague and Rome to see what I mean. Others, like Taipei and Toronto, seem to have very few tourists but lots of local photographers.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday June 10 2010at 08:06 am , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Canada, Europe, Maps, Society and Culture, United States and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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