Twitter and Foursquare Data Can Be Used to Spot London Gentrification

By James O Malley on at

London is getting posher at an almost terrifying rate. As the pound shops turn into trendy bars, which in turn transform into the faceless corporate mediocrity of Pret, Wahaca and Benugo, it raises the question: How can we measure this phenomenon of gentrification?

It turns out the answer is Twitter and Foursquare.

Wired reports on a new study by academics at Cambridge University using data collected from Twitter and check-in app Foursquare. By mashing the data together with more census, crime and house price data, they were able to see a link between the number of people checking into locations and the gentrification of a given area.

According to the study, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Hammersmith and Lambeth are all the next prime targets on the hipster hit-list. "There is a cluster of neighbourhoods which have very high urban social diversity according to our metrics and have extremely high deprivation", Desislava Hristova, who led the study said, explaining how this combination is an early warning that it won't be long until a high-concept restaurant opens in a given area.

To measure this diversity, the academics took Foursquare check-ins and tweets and compared data on whether people were checking in together with friends or alone, and what sorts of places they were checking into. As Wired notes, in normal population studies social media data isn't very useful, as it tends to be biased towards the affluent - but in terms of measuring gentrification, this bias can actually be a good thing for spotting the exact thing that they need to.

So next time you're going to a converted warehouse 'space' to watch some experimental theatre, don't forget to do the academics a favour and check-in on Foursquare first. [Wired]

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