In this working paper, Irene Bronsvoort and Justus Uitermark use their detailed case study of a shopping street to show how social media are implicated in gentrification.
As digital platforms are woven into urban life, they increasingly mediate the urban experience and shape urban change. Here we examine how representations on digital platforms reflect and shape urban change. Which groups produce and share these representations? What places do they picture? What are their aesthetic registers and norms? And what are the material consequences of these representations?
Elaborating the concept of ‘discursive investing’ introduced by Zukin, Lindeman and Hurson (2017), we address these questions in a case study of Javastraat, a shopping street in a gentrifying neighbourhood in Amsterdam East. On the basis of an analysis of Instagram posts, street observations and interviews, we show that gentrifiers use social media to express elective belonging and aspirational consumption. As a result of their efforts to express their identity and boost their status, the gentrifiers’ posts serve as advertisements for the recently opened establishments that cater to gentrifiers. Meanwhile, other establishments are largely absent from digital platforms, with the notable exception of a number of shops that changed their aesthetic to appeal to gentrifiers.