Understanding human-nature interactions with location-based social media data

Authors: Vuokko Heikinheimo*, University of Helsinki, Digital Geography Lab, Tuuli Toivonen, University of Helsinki, Digital Geography Lab
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Recreational and Sport Geography
Keywords: social media, nature conservation, human-nature interactions,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: President's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Location-based social media provide valuable information about people’s experiences in different places. In nature destinations, such as national parks, social media may complement traditional methods for collecting information for management and marketing purposes. However, it is not clear to what extent the digital content retrieved from social media represent real world experiences, and recent changes in the APIs of popular social media platforms poses challenges for practical use of these data. In this presentation, we compare content retrieved from popular social media platforms to official visitor information from 39 Finnish national parks in order to understand the spatial and temporal distributions of nature-based experiences and activities in the focus areas. We compare the surveyed activities to those observed from social media, along with demographic variables from the survey and user characteristics retrieved from social media such as potential language and region of origin. Furthermore, we discuss data quality issues such as spatial accuracy and fitness-for-purpose of using social media for understanding national park visitation. Our results show the potential of using social media content analysis for detecting popular activities and emerging activities in popular parks, but also highlight the differences between existing sources of social media data. Finally, we discuss ways forward for using these rich sources of data for understanding human-nature interactions also in the future.

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