Location-based social media increasingly mediates social and interpersonal interactions in urban settings. Such practices become coded in software representing both the log and content of social interactions and the location to which they relate. Therefore a digital “cloud” of social interactions becomes embedded into the physical reality of the city, of its neighbourhoods, public places, cafés, transportation hubs and any other location identified by social media users (by user-initiated “check-ins” or by the content that they generate, such as photographs) and by the tools they use (for example, through automatic geo-tagging). Two sets of issues to be investigated are emerging: firstly referring to how such localised interactions are populating the algorithms and infrastructures provided by the software: how are the platform of location-based social media framing people's perceptions and identifications of locations? How is code both facilitating and representing a set of social interactions relating to various spatial configurations?A second set of issues regards the re- materialisation of such cloud of interactions in the physical world: could it be made somehow perceivable and/or tangible in the physical world by the way in which certain environments are designed?
Overall, could new approaches to urban planning and environmental design become concerned with accommodating and facilitating these social interactions as they do so by supporting in-presence, analogue ones?
This paper will attempt to define and discuss these issues drawing both from interaction design and human-computer interaction literature on physical/digital interactions and from two preliminary empirical studies of location-based social media use in two cities.