ACM TechNews: Scientists Use Social Media–Vacation Photos From Flickr–to Study How People Use Natural Areas for Tourism

Scientists Use Social Media–Vacation Photos From Flickr–to Study How People Use Natural Areas for Tourism
Stanford Report (CA) (10/18/13)

Crowdsourced social media can be used to measure the benefits and value of natural areas such as parks and beaches. Scientists affiliated with the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University have utilized information from 1.4 million geo-tagged images from the Flickr photo-sharing site, and the user profiles associated with them, to see where people were going and where they were coming from. They compared this information with data from on-site surveys at 836 recreational sites around the world, and determined the Flickr information can serve as a reliable indicator of how many people visit a tourist attraction each year and when they are visiting. “Information from crowdsourced social media is revolutionizing the way we study people and understand their choices,” says Spencer Wood, lead author of the research. Researchers previously had to rely on local surveys and head counts to get this level of visitation information, but the use of social media is faster, more affordable, and better for looking at changes over time and space. The approach enables researchers to determine visitation rates and values for tourism and recreation without conducting local surveys. The researchers say crowdsourced social media also could lead to better management of natural areas.
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