Mapping The Collective Experience Of A City

Designers capture the more subjective qualities of a city by charting Instagram hashtags.

City maps are handy for negotiating streets and subway stops, but they tell us little about the character of a place and how people use it.


To capture the favorite collective experiences of a city, journalist Tin Fischer, software engineer David Goldwich, architect and map maker Jug Cerović, and graphic designer Andrea Rohner created the website Tags and the City. It features transit maps from New York, Berlin, Paris, and the San Francisco Bay Area labeled according to the most popular Instagram hashtags near each station.

Fischer analyzed the tags within a 1,000-foot radius of a station and listed them on the map. He decided to skip over tags related to temporary events or installations, station names, and neighborhood names to really get at the heart of what people are photographing time and again.

New York‘s map essentially outlines food trends: #Cronut near Dominique Ansel’s SoHo bakery, #Eataly near Mario Batali’s Flatiron food hall, #RedRooster near Marcus Samuelsson’s Harlem restaurant, and simply #Pizza near Di Fara in Midwood. (It should be noted that the data is a bit out of date and based on information from 2014; Instagram changed its open data policy after that and Fischer wasn’t able to access anything more recent.) Bay Area denizens are fond of Blue Bottle Coffee and Philz. American export Shake Shack is popular in London. Parisians are more fond of cultural landmarks, like their beautiful bridges and gardens, than food.

Fischer was intrigued by hashtags of a different sort, however. “What always surprises me is how popular it is to go and see filming locations from movies, like the fire station from #Ghostbusters in New York or the high rail from #Inception in Paris,” he says.

Explore the maps, and the stories about collective experience that they tell, for yourself here.


[Photo: Zach Miles via Unsplash]

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.