Visualizing Millions of Photos to Find Cultural Patterns Around the World

The Approach

How do we explore social media’s visual data which contains billions of photographs shared by hundreds of millions of contributors? What types of insights can we gain from analyzing this massive visual universe?

Phototrails is a research project that uses media visualization techniques for exploring visual patterns, dynamics and structures in user-generated photos.

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The Methods

Using APIs provided by popular media sharing services, we crawled millions of publicly shared photos and their metadata. We analyze every image and then visualize groups of images together using our software tools.

Explore our visualization layouts and techniques that use different aspects of the data in order to present it in new and revealing ways.

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The Research

The first comprehensive paper that includes our media visualizations, results, and detailed analysis is tilted: Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media. It was published in the July 2013 issue of the journal ”First Monday” devoted to internet research.

The paper presents analysis of 2.3 million Instagram photos shared by people in 13 global cities.

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