- Geo-social networks and the understanding of the dynamics of the city: the case of Rio de Janeiro’s boundaries of formal and informal neighborhoods   click here to open paper content1158 kb
by    Torres, Yuri & Costa, Lucia | torres.yuri@gmail.com   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
Geo-social networking reflects how cities are dynamic, while empowering the
concept of social and collaborative involuntary creation drawn in the
digital space. The overlapping of formal and informal boundaries within Rio
de Janeiro can be mapped by that, raising discussions on how this data can
become fruitful for planning practices.
The dynamics of a contemporary city are shaped by very diverse and complex
factors. Recently ubiquitous experiences towards the city have dramatically
changed our concepts and perceptions of its territory. Widespread geosocial
networking systems have been playing an important role in shaping the
digital space based on the real interactions between citizens and the urban
landscape. These networks opened up new possibilities of exploring the city
combining the preciseness of mobile location estimation services with
personalized content, full of cognitive and perceptive clues. Additionally
they empower the concept of social and collaborative creation, important
for the local identity and community engagement.

The understanding of this personalized city, enriched by evaluations,
recommendations and images, is an important research field to address
problems and solutions to the city planning practices, specially in rapid
growth contexts like metropolis in the developing world, where formal and
informal settlements live side by side and are target differently in the
planning practices. This study stands on the fields of social sciences and
urbanism, aligned to traditional theories of citizens perceptions over the
territory and their interactions (Jacobs 1992; Milgram 1977) and more
recent investigations on the weakening effects of mobile technologies over
the physical boundaries of the city (Schwartz 2012; Rainie and Wellman

This study analyses the shaping of the digital urban territory through
geosocial networking systems, ultimately Foursquare and Twitter.
Methodologically it proposes tracking public profile check-ins to spots
that suggest access of immediate services and use of public spaces in the
most representative boundaries for the formal-informal neighborhoods of the
city of Rio de Janeiro. Case studies in four different zones (the bounds of
notably Rios more important slum areas: Rocinha, Maré, Alemão and Cidade de
Deus) are conducted as paradoxical examples of how digital paths can be
taken into consideration while analyzing and reconceptualizing the dynamics
between neighborhoods within a city.

The study concludes delineating the extension of existing formal-informal
overlapping services in those neighborhoods through the analysis of open
digital data generated by citizens of both sides of the bound, that proves
the daily life interdependence relation of formal and informal
neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro. That being said, this study also suggests
that the existence of more cross-social tolerance in the city may empower
integrated discussions of those neighborhoods on the policies and planning

Jacobs, J. 1992. The death and life of great American cities. New York:
Random House.

Milgram, S. 1977. The Individual in a Social World: Essays and Experiments.
London: Longman Education.

Rainie, L., and Wellman, B. 2012. Networked: The New Social Operating
System. The MIT Press.

Schwartz, R. 2012. The networked familiar stranger: An aspect of virtual
and local urban anonymity. In Cumiskey, K., and Hjorth, L., eds.,
Seamlessly Mobile? Mobile Media Practices, Presence & Politics. Routledge.
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