Capturing perceptions: Instagram and the High Line



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Kansas State University


The public’s fascination for using tools to view the landscape dates as far back as mid-1600. The Claude Glass, while void of definitive origin, gained popularity among tourists and amateur artists as a way to replicate the picturesque landscape first embraced by French painter, Claude Lorrain. The iPad, in conjunction with the Instagram App, offers today’s viewer a similar experience with the modern convenience of saving and disseminating the views to the masses.

While the repetitive nature of history only further solidifies the success of Instagram, the difference with today’s device lies in the ability to harness, inventory and analyze the data using an Application Programming Interface (API). Through a series of photos collected of the High Line in New York City over a seven-day period using the Instagram API Console, this study looks to answer the question, how can Instagram be used to gather user perceptions about the built environment? Working within the context of an adaptive process, the developer end of Instagram was proficiently mastered and a new tool was created as a means of conducting the research query. Both manual and automated processes were applied to expose commonalities and hidden patterns. While the ambitious undertaking revealed Instagram could be applied, the study opened up more questions concerning the viability of using a new tool capable of querying public images as a way to inform landscape architecture practitioners.

As our world becomes more and more data centric, the design profession has the ability to tap into this relatively untouched resource as a means to gather information and shape the future of the built environment. This research offers a subjective analysis of passive images not capable of revealing the story behind the lens. Future research questioning the motivation behind the camera is needed to ground the idea of capturing perceptions through Instagram and move the ideas formulated in this study past theory.



Landscape architecture, Instagram, Planning, Social media

Graduation Month



Master of Landscape Architecture


Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning

Major Professor

Stephanie A. Rolley