Exploring social media as a tool for disentangling cultural ecosystem service values of whale-watching to inform environmental judgements and ethics: the case of Húsavík, Iceland

Sílvia Gómez*, Beatriz Patraca Dibildox, Jade Nicole Zoghbi ., Eduardo Ariza Sole, Maria Wilke, Neils Einarsson, Sveinbjörg Smáradóttir, Edward Huijbens, Catherine Chambers

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This explorative study contributes to developing methods using social media data and social network theory in tourism studies to unravel cultural ecosystem values. Focused on the case of an emblematic village for whale-watching activity, Húsavík, in Skjálfandi Bay, Iceland, this study explores the cultural ecosystem service values of individuals as expressed through social media (TripAdvisor and Instagram) related to the practice of whale-watching. The aim is to document the cultural ecosystem service values and environmental judgements which provide information that could be used in future marine planning efforts. For this, 650 TripAdvisor entries posted between 2019 and 2021 were analysed, together with 100 images posted on Instagram between 2021 and 2022. The Social Network Analysis enabled visualization of the interconnected hashtag networks underscoring human-nature interactions. Instead of environmental and conservation values, the results show that they relate to ‘ocular consumption’ and ‘aesthetic consumption’. The lack of conservation values, cultural heritage values, or even spiritual values is likely a reflection of the Instagram and TripAdvisor platforms. We conclude that social media data should always be complementary to narrative and qualitative data.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Ecotourism
Early online dateJan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Nature-based tourism
  • Social media data
  • Sustainable management
  • Whale-watching values

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