Mapping and Web Archiving Instagram

SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #6

One of the key features of Instagram is the ability to add geotags based on the location that the photo was taken. This is useful in adding context to the photo so that viewers know where the user was. This also helps other users in the same place find photos of nearby users.This feature is often used during large events like concerts, marathons, or at college & university functions. It works in addition to any hashtags that were added to the photo caption.

Instagram users can search for a known location while posting their photo. There is also an option to create a custom location. Businesses and organizations often add their name as a location so that users can browse photos on site as a part of their social media marketing strategy. For example, here are photos that have been marked with a geotag for “Getty Museum.”

There are a multitude of services that will create a map visualization of all photos in a certain location. Below is an interactive map from a web service called Instamap that pulls up a number of photos from a specified location. Each photo can be enlarged for viewing and there is a click through to view in the Instagram app. These photos are ones found at or around the Getty Center.

From the museum’s perspective, it could be useful to see how people are engaging with the artworks. The museum can also use this information to interact with visitors by liking their posts and commenting or answering questions. This tool might also be useful for visitors to view other people’s photos from the museum to see what highlights they missed or other things they want to see while visiting.


Another emerging technology that is useful to the Instagram community is web archiving. Web archiving is still nascent in its development and use. Web archiving collects and preserves portions of the internet for future use and study. The Internet Archive has been archiving websites for nearly 20 years but websites and technology are ever changing. The Internet Archive uses a technology called Archive-It. It is a subscription based service and the Internet Archive hosts the WARC files. The New York Art Resources Consortium has been arching important art websites and they area viewable here.

The new kid on the scene is Rhizome and their Webrecorder. It is open sourced and the WARC files are self-hosted. Anybody can record a website for preservation into a WARC file for future playback by visiting and entering the URL of the website you’d like to save. You can download the Web archive player here. A cool example of an interactive web project archived using this tool is the Instagram account @veteranas_and_rucas. The archived version is viewable here. As you can imagine the static text and image sites are easier than more complex media rich sites or things with interactive and dynamic content. Rhizome just won a $600k Mellon grant for further development of this tool.

Using Webrecorder, I created a WARC of Instagram photos located at the Getty Center. The WARC file can be downloaded here:

Don’t forget, you’ll need to download the Web Archive Player to view the file.

Archiving the ephemeral nature of social media is an exciting frontier to be a part of. As technology moves forward, it is important to find ways to save content, both for nostalgic purposes and for future analysis and study. These tools, mapping interactives and web archiving are useful to the Instagram community in understanding the impact one social media platform has on their lives. It is also useful to see how the community as a whole has changed over time.

Web Archive player

Patron Privacy on Social Media

SP16: INFO-200 Sec 10 – Inf. Comm – Blog Post #5


The NYPL Instagram account is very active and successful in getting people to interact with their posts and engaging users. It shares information about library resources, events. It runs contests, recommends books, and promotes other library sponsored activities. All of this makes them more effective at communicating with their audience and providing access to information. They do however need to be careful in how they protect the privacy of their patrons as they are interacting with the Library’s social media.

The third point on the ALA Code of Ethics refers to a patron’s privacy:

We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.

Last week, the NYPL held a Q&A with Marley Diaz of #1000BlackGirlBooks. (Look her up, she’s incredible!) How are these questions from patrons being handled? How can the library protect the patron’s privacy? Is there an expectation of less privacy because the question was asked on a public platform? What happens if Instagram posts are archived at the Library of Congress like Twitter is? Patron interactions, that otherwise would be confidential, could now become public, far beyond the reach of a user’s followers and friends lists.

Other things to consider are the rules that govern the platform, since it is owned by a private company. Instagram as a company has a set of community guidelines for people posting to and engaging with the social media platform. They are a private company so they are allowed to make rules beyond the law. In fact, they have been criticized for  their censorship, specifically for banning photos of female nipples (with the exception of mastectomy scars, breastfeeding, and art). Many photographers have had their photos pulled off the site for violating community guidelines. There is a hashtag campaign to #freethenipple that asks how a photo showing female nipples is any different than shirtless male. An Instagram user might come to a library looking for information on the history of censorship. Intellectual freedom and censorship are important information needs of Instagram users – they are both creators and consumers of content. Additionally, the current state of copyright laws on the internet and how they are being abused as tools for censorship, is important for Instagram users to be aware of.