Pointing the Way with Locative Media

Locative media and location-based services are digital media applications or websites, often delivered via a mobile device connected to the Internet, that use the geographic position of the device to deliver geographically relevant content to the user.


This website is based on years of research on this topic conducted by me, Glen Farrelly.  It offers a place to share my research on the history, technology, and typology of this emerging medium.

Locative media must then by definition be location aware and able to deliver geographically relevant content.

It generally is also 1) portable and 2) offers ubiquitous access.

It may also be:

  1. Context sensitive (e.g. light levels, accelerometer, time of day, etc.)
  2. Diverse sources of information
  3. User customizable
  4. User-generated content (both to read and to create)
  5. Interactive


  • Automatic positioning is not a necessity – users can select their location themselves, for example via scanning a coded image, selecting from a list, or entering a specific number, or a combination of methods
  • Graphical user interface, multimedia, and user interaction – bare-bones, single modality applications can be quite effective, for example SMS-based info, audio-only guides
  • Content form is open – it can be information, news, social media, personal communication, entertainment, gaming, maps, directions, reviews, etc.

A Unique Medium?
Having studied media for a long time now, I’m hesitant to declare anything a new phenomenon. However, other than talking to a particularly knowledgeable person who follows one around, I’m unaware of any other experience that offers at least the first four characteristics, let alone all of them. Please feel free to contradict me or add additional facets.

Difference between locative media and location based services
There are some slight differences that can be seen in the words themselves. Location-based services imply a service framework that is consistent with computer science and thus used more by developers and industry. Whereas, locative media focus on the media and its role and is used more by communication and media scholars. Locative media was adopted by new media artists and thus the terms often carries with it the association of offering artistic experiences rather than the “service” type info (e.g. directions, contact details) of LBS.