Revealing Cultural Ecosystem Services through Instagram Images: The Potential of Social Media Volunteered Geographic Information for Urban Green Infrastructure Planning and Governance

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Revealing Cultural Ecosystem Services through Instagram Images: The Potential of Social Media Volunteered Geographic Information for Urban Green Infrastructure Planning and Governance


  • Paulina Guerrero Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Institute of Environmental Planning, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
  • Maja Steen Møller Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Anton Stahl Olafsson Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Bernhard Snizek metascapes.org, Denmark


Abstract  With the prevalence of smartphones, new ways of engaging citizens and stakeholders in urban planning and governance are emerging. The technologies in smartphones allow citizens to act as sensors of their environment, producing and sharing rich spatial data useful for new types of collaborative governance set-ups. Data derived from Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) can support accessible, transparent, democratic, inclusive, and locally-based governance situations of interest to planners, citizens, politicians, and scientists. However, there are still uncertainties about how to actually conduct this in practice. This study explores how social media VGI can be used to document spatial tendencies regarding citizens’ uses and perceptions of urban nature with relevance for urban green space governance. Via the hashtag #sharingcph, created by the City of Copenhagen in 2014, VGI data consisting of geo-referenced images were collected from Instagram, categorised according to their content and analysed according to their spatial distribution patterns. The results show specific spatial distributions of the images and main hotspots. Many possibilities and much potential of using VGI for generating, sharing, visualising and communicating knowledge about citizens’ spatial uses and preferences exist, but as a tool to support scientific and democratic interaction, VGI data is challenged by practical, technical and ethical concerns. More research is needed in order to better understand the usefulness and application of this rich data source to governance.


Keywords  cultural ecosystem services; e-governance; geosocial mapping; green space governance; spatial analysis; VGI


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/up.v1i2.609