Strava, segments, and tracking

A few years ago, Strava visualised the GPS co-ordinates in their data and displayed the locations of secret bases. A change of privacy settings later and, apparently, all was secret again. The Guardian has just run a story on using segments and GPS locations to show individuals within the bases through re-purposing the segment function.

One question that does arise is the re-presentation of the exercise route. At one level this is down to Strava or whatever mapping system being used. I am waiting for Nate Tkacz‘s Being with Data for further reading here. A second one is: what does social running mean here? Are we dealing with running with others and the question of social within a network science consideration, where we are all parts of the graph. From what I understand, the segment allows one to define a social area and then device users (and I doubt this crosses devices) become nodes that can be connected and so made social. If the latter, then my social connections are being defined by the algorithm(s) and not by my own connections. For example, I may run near someone on a regular basis but we have never met and may not even acknowledge each other’s presence as we are too busy listening to music devices and focussing. The segment provides the conditions to apply a social nature that does not exist.

May be there is some mileage in looking at the Strava API, and others, to see what they allow and how they allow it. Critical theory might then be applied to it. There are privacy and security concerns here but, for me, it gestures to here to a post-cookie tracking environment where devices provide more detailed data about the person and contextual data through understanding GPS and placing the data in context. Facebook’s Beacon and Pixel are bad enough in the browser, yet these devices raise both DH and computational social science questions about being human in both big data and the metaverse.

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