Can social media inform the causes and consequences of environmental change?

Frontiers in the Environment: Big Questions

Managing complex social-ecological systems requires information about how humans are affecting the environment and how environmental changes affect human wellbeing. Gathering data on the interactions between people and the environment across space and time is challenging and resource intensive; the years required for data collection and model development cannot often be reconciled with the sense of urgency to inform policy and management decisions. Scientists are starting to explore the potential of “big data” sources, including data from geo-located social media, to address this challenge. Spencer Wood, a senior scientist with the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, and Brent Hecht, a College of Science and Engineering assistant professor, will describe how using several types of data from social media such as Twitter and Flickr can help researchers understand how people value and benefit from ecosystems. They will examine the potential of social media to improve our understanding of the feedbacks between human behavior and their values and environmental change.

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