Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
National Academy of Sciences
Individuals, communities, and societies ascribe a diverse array of values to landscapes. These values are shaped by the aesthetic, cultural, and recreational benefits and services provided by those landscapes. However, across the globe, processes such as urbanization, agricultural intensification, and abandonment are threatening landscape integrity, altering the personally meaningful connections people have toward specific places. Existing methods used to study landscape values, such as social surveys, are poorly suited to capture dynamic landscape-scale processes across large geographic extents. Social media data, by comparison, can be used to indirectly measure and identify valuable features of landscapes at a regional, continental, and perhaps even worldwide scale. We evaluate the usefulness of different social media platforms—Panoramio, Flickr, and Instagram—and quantify landscape values at a continental scale. We find Panoramio, Flickr, and Instagram data can be used to quantify landscape values, with features of Instagram being especially suitable due to its relatively large population of users and its functional ability of allowing users to attach personally meaningful comments and hashtags to their uploaded images. Although Panoramio, Flickr, and Instagram have different user profiles, our analysis revealed similar patterns of landscape values across Europe across the three platforms. We also found variables describing accessibility, population density, income, mountainous terrain, or proximity to water explained a significant portion of observed variation across data from the different platforms. Social media data can be used to extend our understanding of how and where individuals ascribe value to landscapes across diverse social, political, and ecological boundaries.
van Zanten, Boris T.; Van Berkel, Derek B.; Meentemeyer, Ross K.; Smith, Jordan W.; Tieskens, Koen F.; and Verburg, Peter H., "Continental-scale quantification of landscape values using social media data" (2016). Environment and Society Faculty Publications. Paper 1454.