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.

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