Location Based Services – Reflections and Observations in the Context of Net.Locality

‘Net locality’ can be understood as a dual on and offline, interactive, engagement and communicative practice. “Now, what is being organised is not just information, but the physical world that contains it” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:7). We no longer ‘enter the web’ (2011:7) from a fixed locale, we exist within a continual hybrid space; “… physical space has become the context for […digital] information” sharing (Gordon & de Souze a Silva 2011:9), mediating public and private spheres, real and ‘virtual’ or ‘digital’ spaces throughout our daily practices, behaviours and communications. [1]

LBS Image 1

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By ‘checking in’ and ‘sharing a location’ one sends out the message that they are happy for others to know their location and potentially ‘join them’ in a social space, a café, at university, or even at home. Humphrey’s argues that LBS and subsequent interactions “makes the public social life of a city [and arguably any environment where you are connected] more familiar” (2010:775) and can “build and reinforce social ties” (2007:764).

 “The web now extends to physical locations […] The new organizing logic of the web is based on physical location. Increasingly, the types of information we find and access online depend on where we are […] opening themselves up to the environment” (Gordon and de Souza e Silva, 2011:7-11).

From LBS Image 1, ‘checking in’ made a “presence though markers on a map” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:86), and in turn opened ‘others up to the environment’ through a positive recommendation, encouraging others to comment and remark on their experiences of the environment (see the comment by a friend). This LBS and networking are described by Lofland as ‘parochial spaces’ “characterized by a sense of commonality among acquaintances and neighbours who are involved in interpersonal networks” 1998:10). A ‘highly contextual’ realm; similarly demonstrated by the interpersonal networks and interactions within the below image (LBS 2).

LBS Image 2


My ‘showcasing of the aesthetic of the public realm’ (Humphreys 2010) encourages a family member to comments on the image; “I know exactly where you are”. Such recognition and familiarity is only made possibly by the inclusion of the above image to ‘represent’ my space and presence in the countryside as one cannot always ‘check in’ at a specific ‘site’ or ‘location’. This further enables a ‘parochialisation’ and familiarisation of the public but rural, non-mapped digital space. As Lefebvre (2001) recognizes, “reconfiguring spaces means reframing the social interactions within them” (in 2011:79), made possible through the ability to ‘attach information to places’ (2011:79), in this case the photographic snapshot of ‘place’.  Therefore, LBS further blurs the ‘hybrid space’[2], the connected co-presence (Licoppe 2013), or if we are to critique these spaces, the ‘absent presence’ (Gergen 2002). Therefore the digital ‘sphere’ and the present space are ‘blurred further, once distinctive and separate ‘public’ and ‘private’ spheres, now creating an dualism and further layering of the ‘hybrid space’.

Net locality is “not the product of specific technologies, but is instead emerging out of a cultural need to contextualise ourselves within a growing network of information” (Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:13). If we are to agree with this social shaping view of technology, are the reasons to why we engage with such locational devices then, to mark our individual, personalised stamp upon the Internet, to have a presence amongst the vast layers of information in which we encounter? Williams (1983) suggests that there is a humanistic desire for mobility and communications, and as such it could be argued that ‘net locality’ practices demonstrate the online (and quantifiable) representation of such intrinsic human behaviours.



De Souza e Silva, A, 2006, ‘From Cyber to Hybrid: Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces’ In Space and Culture, Vol 9: 3 pp. 261-278.

Gergen, K. 2002. ‘Cell phone technology and the realm of absent presence’. In Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Gordon, E. & Silva, A. de S. e, 2011. Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Humphreys, L. & Liao, T., 2013. Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday, 18(11)

Licoppe. C. 2013. ‘Merging mobile communication studies and urban research: Mobile locative media, ”onscreen encounters” and the reshaping of the interaction order in public places’. In Mobile Media & Communication Vol. 1 no. 1 122-128


Further Readings/Resources

Dawes. S. 2011, ’Privacy and the public/private dichotomy’, in Thesis Eleven Vol 107: 1 pp. 115–124

Humphreys, L, 2013. ‘Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities’ in Mobile Media & Communication Vol 1: 20 pp. 20-25.

Humphreys, L. 2007. Mobile social networks and social practice: A case study of Dodgeball, In Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Vol 13:1 pp. 341–360

Humphreys, L. 2010. ’Mobile social networks and urban public space’, in New Media Society, Vol 12: 5 pp. 763–778.

Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Licoppe, C. 2004. ‘Connected presence: The emergence of a new repertoire for managing social relationships in a changing communications technoscape’. In Environment and Planning: Society and Space, 22, 135–15.

Further Reflections

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Within the above image showing a ‘check in location’ accompanied by a photograph, below right is an advertisement for an upcoming concert for a band the user has ‘liked’ on Facebook. “We are where are devices are, and we are perpetually leaving behind data traces that can be mapped to our physical world” (2011:2). Therefore, initially this advert appears seemingly unrelated to the ‘location’ update but on further inspection we can recognize the triangulation of data; ‘checking in’ at a location in London, where the advertised concert is taking place, alongside the other information willingly volunteered on Facebook and selected a ‘preference’ to. Does such willingness to share such personal information demonstrate changing perceptions and acceptance of a lack of privacy, as acknowledge by Gordon and de Souza e Silva (2011), and assume an acceptance of such targeted advertising?

[1] It is perhaps no surprise that location-based services (LBS) are the fastest growing sector in web technology ($13.3 Billion in 2013 ABI research 2009 in Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:9). Within this sector personal navigation services “that allow users to access and share location and information with friends – is the fastest growing area (2011:9) with a focus now from ‘web virtuality to mobility’ (2011:8).


[2] Hyrid spaces are “social situations in which the borders between remote and contiguous contexts no longer can be clearly defined” (de Souza e Silva 2006 in Gordon & de Souza e Silva 2011:86)

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