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23 July 2016

Inequaligram: How do Cities Look on Instagram?

  • To visually show the differences in image-sharing by the city’s locals and visitors, we plot the locations of 200,000 images randomly selected from our dataset. See more images on the project web site, Inequaligram.net.

How does a city such as New York is represented in millions of Instagram posts created by locals and visitors? Which parts of a city receive most attention and which remain invisible? How can we quantify and measure these patterns? We investigate these questions using methods from economics and cultural analytics.


Lev Manovich and Agustin Indaco. Web site design by Dāvis Muižnieks. 2016.





Every world city has large inequalities in income, wealth, education, social well-being, and access to services. Social media sharing adds new inequalities. In some parts of the city people share many images that show their experiences and places they visit. In other areas, they share much less. In this way, some parts of a city become “social media rich” while others remain “social media poor.”

Inequaligram project analyzes 7,442,454 public Instagram images shared in Manhattan over five months. We use measures of inequality from economics to understand differences in sharing between parts of a city.

The ratio between a Census tract with most images and the tract with least images is staggering: 250,00 : 1. The inequality of Instagram images by locals turns out to be bigger than inequalities in levels of income, rent, and unemployment. The inequality of visitors' images is larger than income inequality in the most unequal countries.