GC Releases Social Media Inequality Study

Media Contact:  Tanya Domi, 212-817-7283, TDomi@gc.cuny.edu

Graduate Center Releases Social Media Inequality Study Examining 7.5 Million Instagram Images Using Economic Analysis
The project “Inequaligram” also tracks NYC’s socioeconomic gaps

New York, August 8, 2016 -- The Graduate Center of the City University of New York announced a groundbreaking study that explores the novel concept of social media inequality by analyzing 7.5 million Instagram images snapped and uploaded in Manhattan.
In their “Inequaligram” project, the authors introduced the concept of social media inequality: a framework for quantitatively comparing patterns in social media activities among parts of a city, a number of cities, or any other spatial areas. The authors determined that standard inequality measures used in economics can also be used to characterize social media inequality.
Their resulting study — Social Media Inequality: Definition, Measurements and Application, co-authored by Professor Lev Manovich and Ph.D. economics candidate Agustin Indaco — analyzed Instagram images to compare patterns of social media activities among different geographical areas of Manhattan.

The study focuses on a dataset of 7,442,454 public geo-coded Instagram images shared from March 2014 through July 2014, combined with information from 287 Census tracts in Manhattan that were used to analyze socioeconomic factors. The authors divided the Instagram images into two groups: those posted by New York City residents and those posted by tourists or short-term visitors.
"I did not expect to see such a large difference between different areas of Manhattan in Instagram use. It is as though they are different planets," said Manovich, a computer science professor at the Graduate Center and director of the Software Studies Initiative.
According to co-author Agustin Indaco, the study’s breakthrough came when “we realized we could use standard inequality measures, such as the Gini coefficient, to study just how unequal the distribution of Instagram images are in NYC." 
When viewing a map of Manhattan, the study determined that tourists mostly congregated and posted images in the Midtown area. Other areas in Manhattan received fewer posts. Notably, above 110th Street, Instagram posts were nearly invisible when plotted on a map.
To visually see the differences in sharing by locals and visitors, the study plots locations of 200,000 images randomly selected from the dataset.To visually see the differences in sharing by locals and visitors, the study plots locations of 200,000 images randomly selected from the dataset.
The inequality of Instagram sharing in Manhattan by locals turns out to be bigger than inequalities in levels of income, rent, and unemployment. The inequality in image sharing by visitors turns to be larger than income inequality in most unequal countries in the world.
This study uses the geo-coded Instagram images shared in Manhattan during five months (March-July) in 2014. This dataset was originally created for On Broadway (project commissioned by New York Public Library). Jay Chow downloaded all Instagram data and images. Mehrdad Yazdani prepared the data, separated locals and visitors, analyzed hashtags, and also aligned image locations with Census boundaries working together with Ran Goldblatt.
On Broadway allowed the authors to develop the conceptual framework for Inequaligram project: analysis of social media patterns across small city areas, and comparison with Census indicators for these areas. Manovich proposed the term "social media inequality" to refer to differences in social media between areas. Indaco proposed use of inequality measures from economics for this purpose. 
Inequaligram is one of many projects created by the Software Studies Lab. These projects analyze millions of images shared on Instagram and Twitter around the world.
The study has implications for urban planners, tourist organizations, and individual businesses. It provides the tool to measure inequality in social media sharing across one city, or any number of cities. By understanding how patterns in one city compared to others, the officials and businesses may make better decisions on how to promote and make their city more visible and accessible to visitors.
To see the project visit: http://inequaligram.net/. For a copy of the study visit:  http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/social-media-inequality.
About the Graduate Center, CUNY
The Graduate Center (GC) is the focal point for advanced teaching and research at the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's largest urban public university. Devoted exclusively to graduate education, the GC fosters pioneering research and scholarship in the arts and sciences, and trains students for careers in universities and the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. With over 35 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, and 20 research centers, institutes, and initiatives, the GC benefits from highly ambitious and diverse students and alumni — who in turn teach hundreds of thousands of undergraduates every year. Through its public programs, the GC enhances New York City’s intellectual and cultural life. Visit www.gc.cuny.edu to learn more.

Submitted on: AUG 8, 2016

Category: Press Room