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InstaDavos: What are the World Economic Forum participants sharing?

Published on
31 Mar 2016
Written by
Vyacheslav W. Polonski

Insights from semantic network analysis of Instagram photos and hashtags at Davos 2016

THE GIST: Semantic networks provide a powerful analytical tool that can give us valuable insights into the context of online conversations. Using data from Instagram, I have analysed the photographs and hashtags from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016 that were shared from within the Congress Centre in Davos. This is what Forum attendees were really talking about in the informal realm of social networks.

January 2016: Business leaders, policy makers, public figures, academic experts, social entrepreneurs and media representatives from around the world come together to attend the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos-Klosters. The 2016 agenda was shaped by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its implications for businesses, politics and society. While most mass media outlets focused their coverage on public Forum debates that concerned the future of the global economy, there was a completely different level of informal conversations that happened simultaneously on online social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — both between Forum participants and with the general public.

As the incoming Curator of the Oxford Hub of the Global Shapers, I have been closely following the discussions at the Annual Meeting 2016 and I was wondering what kinds of meaningful insights we can draw from a more immersive and more systematic analysis of the online interactions between Forum participants and other members of the WEF communities.

For the 2015 Annual Meeting, I have already explored the global network structure of the Global Shapers community, which provided valuable insights into the context and the patterns of connections between Global Shapers worldwide. Now, generating a more dynamic perspective on the activities and conversations happening around the World Economic Forum and its flagship events would be the next logical step.

Both from the perspective of the individual attendee and that of the Forum, considerable advantage can be gained from mapping and understanding the structure of these networks. Thus, for this analysis, I have first drawn a geo-fence around the Davos Congress Centre with a radius of 1.5 km. Next, I have captured all geo-tagged social media content that has been shared between 20–23 January 2016 within this geo-fence in and around Davos-Klosters. Finally, I have analysed this data using tools from the well-established tradition of social network analysis and the new field of network science. In this blog post, I present some novel insights from this semantic network analysis of hashtags and Instagram photographs for the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016.

Insight 1: Forum attendees have been prolific in their social media use during the Annual Meeting.

Even though only 599 users were sharing pictures on Instagram (out of the 2,795 Davos participants), the entire Forum community was extremely active on social media during the Annual Meeting from within the Davos Congress Centre and its immediate neighbourhoods. A total of 1,162 photographs have been posted during the Annual Meeting 2016 from within and around the Davos Congress Centre using 1,919 different hashtags.

Insight 2: Most popular Davos Instagrammers are celebrity chefs, top-models and the UN.

The most followed Instagrammers who were present and active during the Annual Meeting 2016 were celebrity chef Jamie Oliver jamieoliver (followed by 4,207,879 people), the official UN account unitednations (followed by 583,538 people) and F1 racer and health & wellbeing expert Susie Wolff susie_wolff (followed by 151,376 people)

Out of all the pictures shared in this area, the top 5 pictures that attracted the most attention from the public were shared by Jamie Oliver jamieoliver (WEF photo with 63,096 likes and 438 comments), Serbian top-model Zoryana Volkova zvolkova (WEF photo with 4,162 likes) and the UN unitednations (WEF photo with 3,918 likes). The distribution of attention to all Davos photographs is skewed and heavy-tailed. Most photographs have a small number of likes and comments, whereas a selected few photographs attract a lot of attention and are appreciated by the general public.

In terms of posting activity, the most active Davos Instagrammers during the Annual Meeting 2016 were tradeshift (12 photos), globcitz (11 photos), seamusconwell (11 photos) and Bono u2news (11 photos). If one considers all other preceding Instagram activities, the most active Instagrammers who have posted at least one photograph during the Annual Meeting 2016 were the IT professional Sebastián Piñero sepinero (5,407 photos shared), a Georgian special correspondent in Brussels kardavabrussels (5,348 photos shared) and, again, the official Bono/U2 Instagram account u2news (4,232 photos shared).

Insight 3: Davos Instagrammers don’t like to use filters.

As expected, the most commonly used hashtags across all photographs shared from the geo-fenced area were #davos (co-tagged with other hashtags 1,198 times), #switzerland (co-tagged with other hashtags 727 times) and #wef (co-tagged with other hashtags 686 times). Furthermore, 57% of shared Davos photographs have not used any filters on Instagram. For the remaining 43%, the top 5 most commonly used filters were: Clarendon (26.40%), Lark (12.80%), Juno (7.00%), Amaro (5.40%) and Lo-fi (4.80%).

Insight 4: Cultural stereotypes about the “old” Davos are gradually disappearing.

More thoughtful hashtags like #impact and #genderequality were used 10x times more often than hashtags that reinforce old stereotypes about Davos (#swag, #davosproblems, #davosparty, #onlyatdavos, #casino, #golf, #billionaire and#cigarporn). Nevertheless, the two exceptions to this trend are the hashtags #money and #luxury (23rd and 33rd most used hashtags respectively), which still persist and rank highly above other seemingly more important hashtags e.g. #shapingdavos and #leadership (ranked 78th and 86th in terms of popularity respectively).

Insight 5: Forum participants have an obsession with snowy weather and mountainous places.

There was a disproportionate use of weather-related hashtags in the dataset, most notably #snow (8th most used hashtag) and other related hashtags such as #winterbeauty, #mountainview, #winter and #alps.

Insight 6: There was no unified hashtag to bring all the conversations and narratives together.

Forum attendees inconsistently used the hashtags #davos, #wef, #wef16, #wef2016, #davos2016, #worldeconomicforum2016, #davos16 and #davosklosters (in descending order of popularity). Yet, having a unified hashtag for an event is important to bring people together and foster online conversations.

Insight 7: Semantic clusters of hashtags reveal topics that need to be better integrated into main Forum conversations.

Some general hashtags were semantically highly interconnected with all other hashtags in the network e.g. #mountains, #happy, #coffeelife, #politics and #voyageeverywhere. Nevertheless, there were some other hashtags that were semantically separated from the main conversations, forming their own internally highly interconnected communities.

On the one hand, it is good that clusters such as [#foodporn, #hungry and #firstworldproblems] as well as [#gymlife, #fitnessmotivation and #gymrat] were separated from the main conversations that were happening at the Annual Meeting. On the other hand, however, it is alarming that other more important and more meaningful semantic clusters were somewhat disconnected from the main discussions at Davos e.g. the semantic clusters around [#change, #hope, #causes and #philanthropy] as well as [#emancipation, #independence and #womenrights]. It is, therefore, extremely important to integrate these topics into the ongoing online debates and encourage Forum attendees to participate in these discussions.

5 most popular Instagram photographs from the WEF Annual Meeting 2016

  1. Jamie Oliver’s slightly under-dressed photograph (1st most popular in terms of likes and comments)

2. Top-models at the World Economic Forum (2nd most popular in terms of likes)

3. Behind-the-scenes with Ban Ki-moon at Davos (3rd most popular in terms of likes)

4. Bringing a better fashion-sense to Davos (4th most popular in terms of likes)

5. Up in the mountains (5th most popular in terms of likes)

Honourable mention: Pugs and WEF security (2nd most popular in terms of comments)

Honourable mention: Selfie with Emma Watson (3rd most popular in terms of comments)

About the author: Vyacheslav (@slavacm) is a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, researching complex social networks, digital identity and technology adoption. He has previously studied at Harvard University, Oxford University and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Vyacheslav is actively involved in the World Economic Forum and its Global Shapers community, where he is the Curator of the Oxford Hub. He writes about the intersection of sociology, network science and technology.

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