One study suggests that social networks like Instagram or Flickr can extract valuable data for the conservation of natural landscapes.
A study from North Carolina State University has found a link between the use given to social networks and nature conservation. The researchers who carried out this study have discovered how the information that appears on certain photography oriented networks, such as Instagram, Flickr and Panoramio, can be used to determine what landscapes should be protected to prevent their deterioration.
The rural landscape and even the roughest areas are constantly under transformation. The transformation of any type of infrastructure is enough to modify a landscape, whether it be by installing windmills, planning a road or developing a given area.
The criteria to modify or install infrastructure in one place or another are established in offices and, obviously, involve the advice of experts in the field. But it is difficult to know widespread feeling on the modification of a particular landscape. In order to find out about it, sometimes surveys are used on a small scale, but they are expensive to do and are not always very accurate.
The researchers from North Carolina State University realised that the data contained in Instagram, Flickr and Panoramio offers clues on how people value particular landscapes. If a lot of people take photos of an area of cornfields or of a grove at the foot of a mountain, we can deduce that these landscapes have value for people. In all respects, even cultural or emotional value. The researchers use geolocation data to know where to find these places and take note of their location.
The study particularly highlights the importance of Instagram, which also allows people to add comments and hashtags to their photos, which express the way the user feels much more clearly. After analysing all this, the researchers have classified the landscapes into four categories, from most to least visited.
Those who carried out the study think it is important to know the connection between people and landscapes when making nature conservation policies. It is not the only aspect to be taken into account when making decisions regarding the maintenance of an area, but knowing what people think can certainly help us to know what not to do.