Researchers found that neighborhoods with a higher proportion of Flickr photos tagged "art" saw a higher spike in property prices. Christopher Intagliata reports.
Urban gentrification is thought to happen like this: artists move into lower income neighborhoods, looking for cheap gallery and living space. "So they move into these neighborhoods, and they make these neighborhoods really pleasant to live in. They kind of create a nice kind of buzzy scene." Chanuki Seresinhe, a data scientist at the Warwick Business School, in the U.K. Next come the hip cafes and shops. "But what happens is of course then other people are then attracted to move into these areas. And so the demand for these places increases, and housing prices then go up."
So the story goes. But Seresinhe and her colleagues wanted to see if online data told the same story. So they analyzed four and a half million photos uploaded to Flickr, from 2004 to 2013—each geotagged somewhere in London. Then they tallied how many of each neighborhood's photos were tagged "art." And they found that neighborhoods with a higher proportion of "art"-tagged photos actually did see a higher spike in property prices during the study period. The results are in the journal Royal Society Open Science. [Chanuki Illushka Seresinhe et al, Quantifying the link between art and property prices in urban neighbourhoods]
Foursquare and Twitter data can also track gentrification trends, as another recent study showed. But the link here isn't necessarily predictive—maybe neighborhoods with rising prices just attract more photo-tagging art enthusiasts. "That's why I wouldn't say, you know, go out and buy a house in an artsy neighborhood, you're going to be rich in five years' time. Because sometimes there could be other factors involved."
But the connection does suggest your photos and social media posts can be used for more than bragging about brunch. "Sharing this data could be so valuable for academic research. We can actually use this data to do something good in the world." Like giving local organizations and urban planners a better look at how and why cities change. All you've got to do, is add a few tags.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]