Digital Facets of Place: Flickr's Mappings of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
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Human social interactions imbue the world with meaning, transforming abstract spaces into lived places. Given the digital conduits of much modern social interaction, online narratives increasingly affect material places. Yet the emerging glut of online information demands new methods of investigating place narratives at multiple scales. Drawing on novel geographic visualizations of the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of photographs of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands posted on the website Flickr, this study shows that online portrayals are 1) highly uneven in terms of distribution, visibility, and content, 2) fundamentally influenced by "real-world" geographies, 3) often culturally reductive, and 4) made to appear unduly exhaustive by the naturalizing visual slant of the internet as a medium of communication. These processes stand to influence how places are constructed in the information age, especially given the presence of "digital divides" that work against internet access for much of the world's population.