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These Maps Replace Subway Station Names With Popular Nearby Instagram Hashtags

See a city from social media’s point of view (which is mostly from tourists going to the worst places).

In a future world where everything is controlled by social media, maps may look a lot different: The Louvre in Paris becomes #monalisa, London’s Covent Garden and, New York’s 86 St both become #shakeshack, and Berlin’s Pankow becomes #abandoned. That’s the vision of the Tags and the City is a project which replaces–or rather augments–the metro-station names of several cities with the most popular nearby Instagram hashtag.

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The project is a collaboration between journalist Martin Fisher and programmer Andrea Rohner, both based in Berlin, and Paris-based architect Jug Cerović, who designed the maps. You may recognize Cerović’s name from these pages, where we wrote about his amazing atlas of the world’s metros.

To create the maps for Berlin, New York, Paris, London, and the San Francisco Bay Area, Fisher and Rohner choose the 100 most popular stations in each city. Then, they calculated the most significant hashtag at each location, using data from Instagram. One drawback is that Instagram no longer makes current data available, so these tags are sourced from 2014. But as you can see, it makes little difference–the majority of the hashtags refer to landmarks, tourist spots, restaurants, and bars.

Some hand-curation was involved in the choice of hashtags. The #monalisa was hand-picked for the Louvre, because #louvre–the most popular tag–doesn’t offer anything over the station’s real name. To qualify, a tag must have been used more than 100 times, by different Instagram accounts. That way, one person posting over and over wouldn’t influence the results.

The maps offer a surprisingly useful reflection of the city. If you know the cities well, you might be surprised at some of the choices of restaurant, but you have to remember that restaurants and bars are often Instagrammed not by locals, but by tourists and visitors. The other hashtags, though, are sometimes depressingly accurate, Camden Town in London is summed up by #camdenmarket, a popular local blight, for instance. And some are rather comic. Paris’s Gare du Lyon station, for example, is tagged #train, and Berlin’s Frankfurter Tor is tagged #humana, for its multi-floor second-hand clothing superstore.

People really love subway maps, and they not only form part of there identity of their city, but their familiarity makes them ideal ways to share extra information. “The subway map is one of the few things all people living in a city really share,” Cerović tells Co.Exist. “It is common to everybody and everybody accepts it as a neutral and reliable tool. We tend to question everything–aesthetics, politics, transit–but the map remains a sanctuary of trust. I think we somehow understand it, unconsciously, and it makes us feel comfortable.”

The maps are surprisingly entertaining, although the San Francisco and New York versions are a little sterile compared to the European cities. You can also buy them: the maps are available as posters, pillow slips and other novelty gift-type items.

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I asked Cerović for his favorite hashtags. Berlin’s Naturkundemuseum and New York’s 59st-Columbus circle both share a #dinosaur tag, and in Paris, Bir Hakeim is tagged #inception. “I understood this one only after watching the movie,” he says.

And ironically, nowhere in San Francisco has an #instagram tag.

About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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