By Jami Gibson

“A city is the sum of the relationships of the people that live there.” This quote by software developer and entrepreneur, Dave Troy, perfectly wrapped up his TED Talk about social mapping. A resident of Baltimore, Dave was curious about the people who lived in the city, to whom they were connected, and what was important to them. There was no better place to gather that information than from Twitter. He created a social map of what Baltimore residents were tweeting about and how they were connected, and it was a great visualization of the intersections and segregations of the city.

Dave mentions that segregation is a social construct, and that if we can see how people arrange themselves within a society, we can begin to break down barriers and reshape our cities to be more diverse, and therefore, more capable of solving tough problems that arise. On the more positive side, the maps show us how different sets of people are brought together by sports or music. These intersections bridge the divide between social groups.

What would your community look like on a social map? Mapping a community’s social media activity can keep your finger on the pulse of what’s important to the residents, which may change frequently. Also, by documenting connections, communities can find the best avenues for outreach. What other trends and characteristics can these maps show us?

View Dave’s TED Talk below: