Rethinking Urban Space and Time through Tweets: An Analysis of Tweet Communication in Mobile Food Vending Practices

The recent rise of food vending in U.S. cities combines physical mobility in urban space with continuous online communication. In contrast to traditional forms of urban space that have predictable and planned spatial locations, mobile food vending generates temporary forms of urban social activity mediated by websites such as Twitter. Given the unique nature of this emerging phenomenon, new forms of analysis are needed that explore and interpret online communication as a critical development in the assembly of urban social life. Using six mobile food vendors in the city of Charlotte, N.C., we apply a mixed methods approach to investigate vendors’ tweet content as it informs their daily operations as well as their physical spatial and temporal sequencing throughout the city for a period of four months. We find that (1) a significant proportion of tweet content is used to announce events, (2) events are announced multiple times in a predictable time- based pattern, (3) the spatial construction of events is often independent of traditional urban gathering spaces in cities. 


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