Urban Design and Public Art on Instagram

Authored by: Brettany Shannon

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:


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Today, 800 million people post over 500 million images daily to the mobile photo-sharing social networking site (SNS) Instagram. Its popularity exemplifies the contemporary urban phenomenon of people dedicating their smartphone-enabled SNS engagement towards posting imagery of the urban design and public art they see in their cities. This chapter presents a visual, content, and discourse analysis of 800 unique Instagram posts bearing the hashtags #urbandesign, #diseñourbano, #publicart, and #artepublico to learn how Instagrammers frame, curate, and share images of urban public spaces, and if these posts indicate whether and how people distinguish urban design and public art from one other. Based on the collected data, I find that Instagram is a rich, albeit limited, source for studying how people perceive their urban spaces. Analysis of Instagrammers’ posted imagery, additional hashtags, and accompanying captions shows that people do see urban design and public art as distinctive, underscores people’s desire to engage with the urban realm, and suggests Instagram’s possible usefulness for urban design research.

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