New York – A new study reveals the extent of Instagram inequality in one of the world’s most visited cities.
Researchers at the City University of New York analysed millions of photos that were posted on Instagram in 2014 to identify the most shared locations in Manhattan.
It is well understood that some areas are more photogenic than others, but the extent of this Instagram inequality in cities, where some areas are well documented on Instagram while others are not, has never been analysed before.
To calculate the Instagram inequality of Manhattan, computer science professor Lev Manovich and PhD student Agustin Indaco mapped the distribution of Instagram photos across the borough’s 287 census areas.
They found that the majority of photos are taken in Midtown, with fewer taken in Lower Manhattan. Areas above 110th Street are seldom shared on social media.
The findings reveal that the level of inequality is greater among visitors than residents, with a rating of 0.669 on the Gini index, which is comparable to high levels of income inequality in less developed parts of the world.
‘Some areas are represented well, while others are invisible,’ the authors said in a statement. ‘This directly affects city economy and social life. The areas that are well represented in social media attract more people who spend time and money there.’
The hope is that urban planners and placemaking strategists will begin to use social media interactions as a measure of inequality to think about cities in a different way.
‘You don’t want people to spend all of their money on business in one place and you don’t want a city to be known for just one small area. So it has implications for how cities promote and advertise,’ Manovich explains.