Mapping the value of Estonian nature with social media

Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., have been with us for many years. As a result, they have accumulated a wealth of data on billions of people’s whereabouts and life events worldwide. After the famous Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook and Instagram restricted access to their data for external researchers. Fortunately, some social media sites, such as the photo-hosting Flickr, still allow researchers to analyse anonymised data stored by their owners in open access. As Flickr is designed for sharing pictures, it has become especially noticeable in urban studies and visual landscape research.

Common touristic data (such as overnight hotel stays) provide some insights into the number of tourists in Estonia, but they hardly capture the quality of their nature and city experiences. Moreover, traditional surveying rarely concerns local citizens. By mapping various aspects of landscape experiences – for example, taking evening or daylight landscape photographs – we get evidence of people’s values, preferences, and even unexpressed concerns related to city life and nature. As a result, social media data recognises problems in city governance, tourism policy, and protection of nature, which should be addressed to achieve a better quality of life for us and future generations.

If you would like to contribute to social media research conducted at the University of Tartu, we encourage you to share descriptions or photos of your experiences in Estonia and abroad via your favourite social media with the hashtags #mycityexperience and #mylandscapeexperience.

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