Information-seeking behavior of Instagram users

SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #3

Instagram Users (Instagrammers) are an active and varied community, though they skew to the younger side. Over half (55%) of all internet users in the 18-29 range are registered for the service, according to Pew Research.  Still a large chunk, 28% of internet users in the 30-49 age range are signed up, 11% in the 50-64 range, and 4% of internet users 65+ are Instagrammers. More than half login to the free app on a daily basis. There is a large community of photographers and designers that share work and inspirations to the site and many other shared-interests communities who share snapshots of their daily lives.
Instagram Demographics
Instagram itself exists at the very beginning of the lifecycle of information, as a primary source that happens right after an event. Instagram photos are immediate, superficial, and ephemeral in nature. The instant-ness or sharing a message, a photo usually accompanied by a caption is the main appeal. In fact, the name Instagram is a portmanteau of the word “instant” a reminder of various forms of instant photography and “telegram” which explains the messaging and personalized, intimate nature of Instagram. (

The majority of users are non-corporate and use the platform for non-work purposes. Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS) in the context of small world can be applied to Instagrammers to understand the motives and intentions in how they approach information seeking. ELIS in the context of “small world”:

…refers to social environments where individuals live and work, bound together by shared interests and expectations, and often economic status and geographic proximity as well.[56] In small-scale communities of these kinds, activities are routine and fairly predictable, and everyday information seeking and sharing are oriented by generally recognized norms and role expectations based on beliefs shared by members of the community.

There are many sub-communities on Instagram, and they are interconnected with lots of overlap. They seek and share based on interests or even geographic proximity. These shared interests can be found via hashtags, the keywords that are placed in the caption of each photo by the poster to convey additional meaning or search terms that link their photo to others in the same category. For example, a photo might be tagged #dachshundsofinstagram so that others may connect and view other photos of dachshunds. Beyond sharing an image of one’s dachshund, a user might ask for advice or answers from fellow dachshund owners. The dachshund owner community within Instsgrammers can find and answer this question by searching on the popular hashtags for dachshund owners. Shared interests can also be found with geolocations that are part of the metadata created at the time of posting. If someone posts a photo and located is at Griffith Park, they can then search other photos of Griffith Park and gather information about activities, attractions, and amenities of the park through the eyes of other IG users.

Emergency Barking Only @chiefofsecurity #dachshundsofinstagram #weinerdog #doxie #dadjokes

A photo posted by Krystal Boehlert (@kboehlert) on

According to Mason & Robinson, emerging artists are similar to artists in general in the information seeking behaviors. The photographer, designers, and artists that use IG enjoy the serendipitous inspiration that may result from browsing IG, the social connectedness of searching the internet, as well as traditional sources and library materials. Browsing is done through one’s own friends list, or by searching on a hashtag under a photo to find similar or related content. This can be extrapolated to many of the sub-communities that browse Instagram on a daily basis and connect with users with shared interests and seek more information based on hashtags. More research in online communities and social media will be helpful in furthering my research.


Duggan, M. (2015). Mobile messaging and social media 2015. (Pew Research Center). Retrieved from Pew Research Center website:

Helen Mason, & Lyn Robinson. (2011). The information‐related behaviour of emerging artists and designers: Inspiration and guidance for new practitioners. Journal of Documentation, 67(1), 159–180.

Savolainen R. Everyday Life Information Seeking. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition. Taylor and Francis: New York, Published online: 09 Dec 2009; 1780-1789.


Instagrammers as Information Community

SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #2


In 1945, Vannevar Bush describes an advanced form of photography and note taking:

One can now picture a future investigator in his laboratory. His hands are free, and he is not anchored. As he moves about and observes, he photographs and comments. Time is automatically recorded to tie the two records together. If he goes into the field, he may be connected by radio to his recorder. As he ponders over his notes in the evening, he again talks his comments into the record. His typed record, as well as his photographs, may both be in miniature, so that he projects them for examination. (Section 3, para. 29)

In As We May Think, Bush not only describes digital photography, he calls it “dry photography”, as a natural progression of technology but also the way in which people interact with photography. He imagines an investigator  records his observations with image and sound with the ability to immediately review these notes. That sounds awfully close to how we use our phones today to take pictures and videos to record and experience our daily lives with the addition of publishing and easy sharing.

This kind of daily photography and online interaction is common today. I am interested in the information community of  Instagram users or “Instagrammers”, participants in one of the many ways people share information online today. Instagram is an online mobile photo sharing app that allows users to share photos and short videos. Similar to other social media sites, members of the Instagram community can interact with each other by commenting, liking, and sharing other people’s posts.

Hashtags (a user created vocabulary of keywords) form another important feature of this community, by linking like minded images, topics, and users together. There are large scale groups unified by hashtags like the Weekend Hashtag Project and more idiosyncratic and individualized tags. Hashtags are often used to link together participants in an event in real time or a movement that happens asynchronously.

Using Durrance and Fisher’s definition of Information Communities (2003), this group could be defined as a “online community network” (p. 2). Instagram provides a place for people to give and receive information. Outside of the app there are blogs and other related information sharing sites around the interests of app users, whether its a subject interest or people seeking information to improve their photography.  Instagrammers and their subgroups are a narrow focus within the broader community of photo sharing sites and social media.

Durrance and Fisher also state five characteristics that information communities share (pp. 3-5) and Instagrammers certainly can be described in these terms. The information seeking and sharing primarily happens online, taking advantage of technology for the purpose of information sharing. Users visit the app to upload, view, and interact with photos. Users also interact with external sources such as blogs or in person meetups brought together through their participation in the Instagram community. According to Pew Research Center, the Instagram user demographics skew towards a younger crowd though they span an otherwise diverse group of people, (p. 13) who then interact and collaborate via the photo app. Topics can include photojournalism, art, hobbies, fashion & lifestyle, travel, political action, family life and much more. Hashtags on photos are used to share specific events or activities, as a way of meeting people’s needs seeking information through the app. Instagrammers share back channel information (updates, directions, translations, and visual guides) that allows other to participate, digitally and in person, that might have barriers otherwise. Instagrammers create distinct socially connected communities among users that are part of larger community.

I look forward to exploring the information seeking behaviors of this information community. I hope this will inform my work as an information professional because as online image sharing becomes more ubiquitous, metadata and image management are even more vital to organizing information.

Good morning 2016! #happynewyear #losangeles #griffithpark

A photo posted by Krystal Boehlert (@kboehlert) on

Reference List:

Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved from

Duggan, M. (2013). Photo and video sharing grow online. (Pew Internet & American Life Project). Retrieved from Pew Research Center website:

Fisher, K., & Durrance, J. (2003). Information communities. In K. Christensen, & D. Levinson (Eds.), Encyclopedia of community: From the village to the virtual world. (pp. 658-661). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from


Wikipedia: Wikiproject Women Wikipedia Design

H.G. Wells predicted a “Permanent World Encyclopedia” in 1937:

As the core of such an institution would be a world synthesis of bibliography and documentation with the indexed archives of the world. A great number of workers would be engaged perpetually in perfecting this index of human knowledge and keeping it up to date.

It’s amazing to think about how this parallels the evolution of Wikipedia as a source of bibliographic records and summaries, created and maintained by the masses. However democratic and egalitarian this may sound, women editors are grossly underrepresented.

Wikipedia editors are predominantly male EN

via WIkipedian: Goran tek-en

Not only are women Wikipedians missing from the picture, but women architects/designers/artists are underrepresented as well. Today a Wikipedia #wikiD edit-a-thon took place at the Kappe SCI-Arc Library. Nina Briggs, archivist for AWA+D, and Becka Cooling, librarian at SCI-Arc, led a workshop in editing Wikipedia and why its important to participate in the formation of the internet encyclopedia. #WikiD is a worldwide project to enhance the representation for women architects and today’s efforts also fall under the project Art + Feminism who host another series of edit-a-thons to train people in editing Wikipedia.

There are three main learning curves to keep in mind when attending or facilitating a workshop in Wikipedia. First: there are Wikipedia rules, protocols, etiquette, and culture. Secondly: there is the basics of research, neutral writing, and proper citations. Then there is the technical component of navigating the site, working within the HTML editor and finding help files when style or format questions arise. All participants come with varying backgrounds and skill sets. These workshops allow for collaboration between members, a physical manifestation of Wikipedia itself.

I had a great time exploring the guidelines and editing tutorials and added a couple images to a recent #wikiD article on Rebecca L. Binder. Specifically I added the first three images of buildings that are accredited to her. You are allowed to use a copyrighted photo under the premise of fair use, though it is preferable to use public domain or Creative Commons licensed images. All three images I added today were found in Wikimedia Commons. The attribution was already determined and it was easy to embed these images into the article after they were sourced.

In Despina Stratigakos, ‘Unforgetting Women Architects’, Sue Gardner of Wikimedia says:

Wikipedia will only contain ‘the sum of all human knowledge’ if its editors are as diverse as the population itself: you can help make that happen. And I can’t think of anything more important to do, than that.


Upcoming: The next #wikiD events in Los Angeles will be March 5 and April 30. Join us!

2016 Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

March 5, 2016 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
SCI-Arc Kappe Library, 2nd Floor/North End
960 East 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Women in Architecture #wikiD Writing Workshop

April 30, 2016 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Woodbury Library
7500 N Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, CA 91504