Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media


  • Nadav Hochman University of Pittsburgh
  • Lev Manovich The Graduate Center, CUNY




data visualization, Instagram, social media, cultural analytics


How are users’ experiences of production, sharing, and interaction with the media they create mediated by the interfaces of particular social media platforms? How can we use computational analysis and visualizations of the content of visual social media (e.g., user photos, as opposed to upload dates, locations, tags and other metadata) to study social and cultural patterns? How can we visualize this media on multiple spatial and temporal scales? In this paper, we examine these questions through the analysis of the popular mobile photo–sharing application Instagram. First, we analyze the affordances provided by the Instagram interface and the ways this interface and the application’s tools structure users’ understanding and use of the “Instagram medium.” Next, we compare the visual signatures of 13 different global cities using 2.3 million Instagram photos from these cities. Finally, we use spatio–temporal visualizations of over 200,000 Instagram photos uploaded in Tel Aviv, Israel over three months to show how they can offer social, cultural and political insights about people’s activities in particular locations and time periods.

Author Biographies

Nadav Hochman, University of Pittsburgh

A doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture department at the University of Pittsburgh.

Lev Manovich, The Graduate Center, CUNY

A Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY, a Director of the Software Studies Initiative, and a Visiting Professor at European Graduate School (EGS).




How to Cite

Hochman, N., & Manovich, L. (2013). Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. First Monday, 18(7). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v18i7.4711