#mup #MasterofUrbanPhotography

Juliana was kind enough to share with me a blog post she came across the other day entitled “Instagram and Architecture – A Case of the CN Tower.” For those of you who don’t know, Instagram is an app that let’s you share photos you take with the world. Much like Twitter and Facebook, it’s another form of social networking except it’s exclusively centered around photos and videos. The gentleman who authored the article, Sheraz Khan, decided to search Instagram for the hashtag (aka the pound key) “#cntower”. Doing this would pull up any and every photo that used this identifier. He then posed some interesting questions: “What parts of the monument are the most interesting? What do these buildings actually look like?” Essentially, he wondered how architects and urban planners could use pictures that people take to get an idea of how people view buildings and monuments. Can this information be used? Furthermore, can it be helpful?

Here’s my take on it…

I, personally, never thought of using Instagram, and other iterations of social medium centered around photos, in this fashion. I think it is interesting to see HOW people view buildings but I don’t know of a way that architects and urban planners can use this effectively. I’m not seeing it yet. I don’t think these photos are telling architects something that they don’t already know. By nature, towers draw attention to themselves. This is nothing new. Architects have known this and they plan this. That’s why you 1) don’t see them everywhere and 2) when you do see them, they’re in strategic spots. That’s all a part of the site analysis portion of architectural programming that takes places before the pen even hits the paper. Same goes for domed buildings and other buildings that feature some unique physical characteristic. There are certain architectural elements that are intentionally designed and that’s based on where the building will be built. Architects also already know there the “important” sides are. They take into account which sides of the building faces a more public street or a private space and this factors into the design of that particular elevation. That’s also a part of site analysis. So, while I do think it’s interesting to see the many photos that people take of different spaces and buildings, I’m not certain that it’s telling architects and urban planners something they don’t already know.

Grant it, there are some cases where things happen by accident, in that they are “not planned”. I mean, people sometimes gather in the most unexpected places. How often do you see places that were “planned” that aren’t being used as “planned”? Conversely, how many times do you see people hanging out and fraternizing in spaces that were “not planned” or using those spaces for a purpose other than what was intended? Now THAT would be an interesting query. If you could somehow use this technique of photos on social media to discover a link in HOW spaces are being use versus how they might have been PLANNED on being used, you’ve got something cooking…
This image, a collage of various photos from taken by Instagram users, was taken from Sheraz Kahn's blog post entitled "Instagram and Architecture - A Case of the CN Tower"

This image, a collage of various photos from taken by Instagram users, was taken from Sheraz Kahn’s blog post entitled “Instagram and Architecture – A Case of the CN Tower”

What do you guys think? How should architects and urban planners use social media in their work? Can they???

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4 thoughts on “#mup #MasterofUrbanPhotography

  1. Wendell,
    I think that social media is something that planners can and should use, although they need to recognize that not everyone has access to it.

    I did some quick searches for #chambana and I found some interesting photos: http://statigr.am/viewer.php#/detail/565311967749776208_211485039, http://statigr.am/viewer.php#/detail/558795955038626538_211485039
    #urbanalove

    I think that looking at geo-tags as well could be helpful. That way you could go look at a particular park and see the sorts of photos that people are taking of it…

    • I, too, agree. The fact that not everyone has access to it is another can of worms in and of itself. I’ve read a couple of articles on this very topic but that’s for another day. There are some interesting materials and literature out there on the inequalities of social media and the internet. Anyway, I think the challenge is in trying to find how to use social media EFFECTIVELY as planners and architects. I want to believe there is a way. I just don’t know what it is yet :-/

      • I think that it is helpful to perhaps use what is being produced on social media as one data point…and not the only data point. I think if you view it as a “helpful tool” and not the ONLY tool, that will help you not fall into some of those traps.

        I also just googled “instagram urban planning” and I found this great post: http://www.crowdcity.com/instagram-urban-planning-tool

        “With Instagram, design standards are found out that reflect community preferences. It functions like an image preference survey that gives users the possibility to like and comment on photos. Creative ideas that really have a chance can be evaluated and new incentives can be developed.”

  2. Pingback: New Scupturalism | Georgia Globe Design News

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