Aesthetic appreciation of the cultural landscape through social media: An analysis of revealed preference in the Dutch river landscape

Koen F. Tieskens*, Boris T. Van Zanten, Catharina J.E. Schulp, Peter H. Verburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Aesthetic enjoyment and perception are increasingly recognized as important values of cultural landscapes. The study of these values transcends mere physical attributes of the landscape and requires assessment of its social meaning. In recent years the usage of social media has gained momentum to study the aesthetic preferences and perception of the environment. However, until now the different approaches have not yet been sufficiently combined to provide more in depth understanding of what attracts people in the landscape We propose a robust methodology using social media photos from Flickr and Panoramio to estimate the correlation between landscape attributes and landscape preferences. We combine formal modeling of spatial photo distribution based on the occurrence of landscape elements with content analysis of the photos to pinpoint what it is in a landscape that attracts people. We use the Kromme Rijn Area –a peri-urban area in the center of the Netherlands and a popular recreation area- as case study area. The analysis shows that this area is appreciated by its visitors and residents for the presence of monumental buildings, small water bodies and opportunities for hikes along grasslands. The method successfully linked the structural elements of the landscape with the revealed preferences, providing a way of quantifying the appreciation of the landscape. Qualitative surveys remain essential to study motivations for outdoor recreation, but social media data can be incorporated as evidence of what elements of the landscape are valued, where people are interacting with the landscape, and how these interactions characterize a landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-137
Number of pages10
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Early online date16 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


This research was supported by the PROVIDE project (Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, grant agreement no. 633838) and the LandSense project, (Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, grant agreement no. 689812), both funded by the European Commission . We thank the anonymous reviewers for their careful reading of our manuscript and their many insightful comments.

FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
European Commission
Horizon 2020689812, 633838


    • Aesthetic enjoyment
    • Crowd sourcing
    • Cultural ecosystem services
    • Peri-urban area
    • Recreation
    • Tourism


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