Revaluating urban space through tweets: An analysis of Twitter-based mobile food vendors and online communication

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Published in: New Media & Society, vol. 18, issue 8, 2015.


The rise of mobile food vending in US cities combines urban space and mobility with continuous online communication. Unlike traditional urban spaces that are predictable and known, contemporary vendors use information technology to generate impromptu social settings in unconventional and often underutilized spaces. This unique condition requires new methods that interpret online communication as a critical component in the production of new forms of public life. We suggest qualitative approaches combined with data-driven analyses are necessary when planning for emergent behavior. In Charlotte, NC, we investigate the daily operations, tweet content, and spatial and temporal sequencing of six vendors over an extended period of time. The study illustrates the interrelationship between data, urban space, and time and finds that a significant proportion of tweet content is used to announce vending locations in a time-based pattern and that the spatial construction of events is often independent of traditional urban form.