Visualizing spatiotemporal trajectories of mobile social media users using space-time cube

Chen Xu, Han Qin, Manzhu Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The implementation of social network applications on mobile platforms has significantly elevated the activity of mobile social networking. Mobile social networking offers a channel for recording an individuals spatiotemporal behaviors when location-detecting capabilities of devices are enabled. It also facilitates the study of time geography on an individual level, which has previously suffered from a scarcity of georeferenced movement data. In this paper, we report on the use of georeferenced tweets to display and analyze the spatiotemporal patterns of daily user trajectories. For georeferenced tweets having both location information in longitude and latitude values and recorded creation time, we apply a space-time cube approach for visualization. Compared to the traditional methodologies for time geography studies such as the travel diary-based approach, the analytics using social media data present challenges broadly associated with those of Big Data, including the characteristics of high velocity, large volume, and heterogeneity. For this study, a batch processing system has been developed for extracting spatiotemporal information from each tweet and then creating trajectories of each individual mobile Twitter user. Using social media data in time geographic research has the benefits of study area flexibility, continuous observation and non-involvement with contributors. For example, during every 30-minute cycle, we collected tweets created by about 50,000 Twitter users living in a geographic region covering New York City to Washington, DC. Each tweet can indicate the exact location of its creator when the tweet was posted. Thus, the linked tweets show a Twitter users movement trajectory in space and time. This study explores using data intensive computing for processing Twitter data to generate spatiotemporal information that can recreate the space-time trajectories of their creators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-83
Number of pages9
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
StatePublished - Aug 10 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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