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Vancouver's Geography of Desire

Or: Finding Vancouver's most romantic location?

...from the you "can-map-anything-column", this week's blog post is devoted to everyone's least favorite Hallmark holiday: Valentines day! What I wanted to map this week was the geographic expression of Vancoverites desire for one another. Thankfully, there is an amazing data source that reflects this from the Georgia Straight's "I Saw You" feature. Truth be told, I am big fan of I Saw Yous, they perfectly reflect Vancouver's alienated passive aggressive dating scene, they are super geographical, and are rather sweet and thus speak to my romantic nature. And, most importantly, I Saw You posts are also a treasure trove of semi-unstructured data!

A typical I saw you reads like this:

"I saw you at the southeast end of Sunset Beach Park walking your cute sausage dog. You were wearing a black coat with a furry hood. You are a beautiful brunette and you took my breath away as I walked by you. I saw you again later on sitting on a log at the beach and you gave me a glance as you got up and left. I was wearing shades, black jacket and pants, nearly shaved head and a beard..." - February, 13th, 2017

From this post we can clearly understand that shaved head / beard guy clearly desired cute dog-walking woman at Sunset Beach on or around February 13th, 2017. As most posts are written in a similar fashion, we are able to extract from them: Space, place, time, gender, orientation, mode of transportation and a clear sense of longing for a connection. These data can be mapped and analysed to reveal hidden truths about our urban environment.

The set up:

  • After no small amount of labour, I managed to transcribe and locate about a year's worth of I Saw Yous in the Vancouver Area

  • I didn't map ambiguously located posts, or any posts outside of the City of Vancouver.

  • For posts which referenced bus rides (about 60% of all posts) I tried to intuit the location or simply used the starting point of the trip (A lot of posts refer to individuals staring longingly at each other for entire bus rides to Burnaby!).

  • Finally, I segregated each post into Man seeking man/woman or Woman seeking woman/ma

The results:

Given the readership of the Georgia Straight, it is not surprising that key locations for finding attractive people are centered around Main and Broadway, Gastown, English Bay and all of Commercial Drive (Man seeking are the blue hearts and Women seeking are the red hearts). I've offset clusters of love to highlight dense areas of desire). Now, there is not much going on in Kits, West Point Grey, any of Vancouver's breweries, Yaletown and basically everything south of 16th Avenue. This suggests one of two things: (1) folks in these areas are more forward and actually talk to people they are attracted to; or (2) there are no attractive people in these areas!

Now, there are some very interesting differences between how men and women long for other persons:

Accounting for exactly half of the posts, Women-seeing points cluster massively around Main and Broadway (or should we call it Man and Broadway?) and secondarily around Commercial Drive Skytrain and Waterfront Station/Gastown. Women also seem to see people they are attracted to at physical locations like concerts and stores instead of on the bus or walking around town. In terms of outdoors locations, women prefer to check out attractive people at English Bay and Trout Lake.

Men, however have completely different people-seeing behaviors. First, their posts do not cluster like Female-seeking posts. Men seem to check out attractive people along streets and on transit. Specifically Men love to seek people all along Commercial drive, Water street, Granville street, Denman Street and 4th Avenue. Men seem to really enjoy watching people they are attracted to on the bus and at Skytrain stations. According to my data, If you are a straight women and want to get looked at by a gentleman then you should start taking the bus to Kits Beach, Stanley Park, or Commercial Drive.

Take a gander at the maps below to compare (move the slider to the right to reveal what Woman saw, and to the left to reveal what men saw):

Naturally we should understand that there are two biases at play with this data which should colour our interpretation:

  • The first: is to understand that that the Straight's readership are typically hip residents of Vancouver, left leaning and generally into living on the East Side. So of course there will be more records in that area (This also explains why I saw no records from the Cambie Pub, Queen Eilizabeth Park, the Gas Town Steam clock or any other heavily trafficked tourist area)

  • The second is that the users of the I saw yous are probably Gen X or younger in terms of age. This means two things: (1) they are probably more keen than older folks to go online and post long shot statements of unrequited longing; and (2) they may feel less inclined to do the old fashioned thing and talk to the person they are checking out in the grocery store ;)

However, these are simply my unsubstantiated assumptions. I therefore challenge the West Vancouver Beacon to prove me wrong by starting their own I Saw You section and to produce data from other demographics as quickly as possible.


Population change and the geography of desire combined! See any correlations??

As always, if anyone has any suggestions, comments or complaints please contact me aaron @ or leave a comment below.

Thanks so much for reading and happy belated Valentines day!


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