‘I See Change’ Project Uses Instagram to Track Climate Change

What started with environmental reporter Julia Kumari Drapkin tracking changes in western Colorado is rolling out nationwide.

Social media has provided a wealth of data on human behavior that can be studied and quantified. From studies of emotion and other behavioral studies, we can gain a lot of insight from social media activity. However, it’s more rare that we use social media for studying the world around us. A project called I See Change hopes to study climate change through Instagram.

The project was created in 2013 by environmental reporter Julia Kumari Drapkin. It was initially started to track changes in western Colorado, but this year the project rolls out nationwide, according to Gizmodo.

Climate change is often too large and nebulous a term for people to understand, and the project aims to simplify the conversation by localizing it. The goal is to have users catalog small changes, such as early blooming flowers, changes in bird migration, or weather patterns that seem unusual for the season.

Drapkin was quoted saying:

It’s the little changes—the details we see on our regular walks, in our homes, the small talk at the post office or the corner store—that can add up to big, big differences.

Instagram, and other social networks, are almost ideally suited to this type of research collection. Use of hashtags allows easy data collection, geotagged status updates can be compared over time, and as phone camera technology gets better users can upload higher quality pictures.

In many cases, users might already be uploading this data. Prompting users to tag their updates with #Iseechange would not only make the data easy to find, and it could also put users in the mindset of noticing changes in their natural environment.

DigitalTrends notes that participating would be easy and profound data could be collected:

Taking a picture of a hailstorm or a budding flower may not cost you much in terms of time or effort, but by collecting large numbers of these types of pictures, global changes can be mapped.

To learn more, or to get involved, visit the I See Change website.