Tag Archives: instagram

This is the world’s most “instagrammable bird” — and you’d never guess it

If you had to pick the most “instagrammable bird” in the world, you probably wouldn’t go for the frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) — a nocturnal bird found in Australia and Southeast Asia that is often mistaken for an owl.

But science says otherwise. A study analyzed almost 27,000 photos of birds across Instagram accounts with a combined following of 3.5 million users and found the unassuming frogmouth took the top spot in the ranking.

The Frogmouth. Image credit: Flickr / Rae Allen

“It just does not look like any other bird, with its almost anthropomorphic facial features,” lead researcher Katja Thommes, a psychologist from the University of Konstanz in Germany, told BBC. “And frogmouths are quite rare. Even in our 20,000-image database, it featured only 65 times.”

Thommes and a group of German researchers were curious to see what makes a great bird photo. They found that despite popular belief, appeal has little to do with conventional notions of beauty. We might “like” a photo over a bird’s color or some specific appealing feature, but oftentimes, the more unusual an animal looks, the more people respond to it — and the more interest it draws.

To see which bird would likely raise the most interest on Instagram, the researchers used a method called Image Aesthetic Appeal (IAA), which is based on the liking behavior in Instagram. In a nutshell, the method computes a measure of aesthetic appeal based on the number of likes. The score normalizes absolute numbers of likes for time and reach, that is, for how many people have presumably seen an image.

“I thought this method, the I.A.A. score, will be a great tool to investigate bird photographs in terms of aesthetic appeal and inform people which birds are the most photogenic,” Gregor Hayn-Leichsenring, the study’s co-author, told The Guardian. “Or possibly, I just wondered why nobody likes my own bird photographs.”

The turaco, one of the birds that was on top of the ranking. Image credit: Flickr / Charles Ewing

Instagram is home to numerous bird-focused accounts, and the platform hosts a constant stream of bird photographs with several hundred thousand followers. For the study, the researchers picked nine of the largest bird accounts and collected a total of 27,621 images, calculating IAA scores for each of them and extracting the species of each bird.

The surprising winner in the ranking was the frogmouth, which the researchers see as poetic justice, considering it was once named the world’s “most unfortunate-looking bird.” Well, there is some karma in the world.

These stocky and disheveled birds have piercing yellow eyes and wide, hooked beak, which gives them their name.

“They look perpetually angry,” Tim Snyder, the curator of birds at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, told the New York Times. “The look on their face just looks like they’re always frustrated or angry with you when they’re looking at you, and that’s just the makeup of the feathers and the way their eyes look and everything. It’s kind of funny.”

The magpie is a common bird that ranked surprisingly high on the list. Image credit: WIkipedia Commons

Other birds high up in the ranking are colorful pigeons with decorative plumage, the emerald turaco (Musophagiformes) with its crown-like head feathers, and the hoopoe also wearing a distinct feather crown and showing off typical high-contrast feathering. Magpies (Corvidae) and broadbills (Myiagra) also ranked high on the Instagram list.

On the low end, the researchers found two types of seabirds, the sandpipes (Scolopacidae) and the oystercatcher (Haematopodidae). Storks (Ciconiiformes) and vultures (Falconiformes) also complete the team of the not-so-appreciated birds. You can read the full list here.

The sandpipe. Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

“The ranking of bird families demonstrates that the IAA score is not necessarily tied to the beauty of the depicted bird. Presumably, interestingness, idiosyncrasy, and the situational context all play their part in the aesthetic appeal of bird photos to the human observer,” the researchers wrote.

While the study didn’t focus on this, perception matters for conservation purposes. Simply put, more popular animals get the attention, while less popular ones are left behind. By analyzing which animals are more popular, researchers can make sure they also receive the much-needed conservation attention.

The study was published in the journal i-Perception.

Income inequality, not gender inequality, leads to female sexualization on social media

A new study found that, contrary to popular belief, sexualized images of women on social media aren’t associated with gender inequality and female oppression — but they are associated with environments in which incomes are unequal and people are preoccupied with relative social standing.

Although we’ve taken important steps to reduce gender inequality, society is still a long way from placing men and women on equal footing. The over-sexualization of women is often regarded as an important aspect and, ironically, this has been exacerbated by social media. In a new study, Khandis Blake of the University of South Wales analyzes what makes some women more willing to share sexualized images of themselves on social media.

In other words, Blake and colleagues analyzed why women post sexy selfies.

The researchers focused on Instagram — a social media network focused exclusively on photos, and which greatly emphasizes body image. Previous research has already shown that Instagram can be associated with greater body image concerns and negatively influence women’s appearance-related concerns — and it doesn’t take a peer-reviewed study to see that Instagram is riddled with sexy selfies.

“Publicly displayed, sexualized depictions of women have proliferated, enabled by new communication technologies, including the internet and mobile devices,” researchers write. “These depictions are often claimed to be outcomes of a culture of gender inequality and female oppression, but, paradoxically, recent rises in sexualization are most notable in societies that have made strong progress toward gender parity.”

What they found is that gender inequality wasn’t a good predictor of sexualized selfies. Rather, researchers noted another trend: women who posted more sexy selfies were more likely to live in areas where income inequality is high, and to be of low income themselves.

“We found no association with gender oppression,” the researchers continue. “We find that female sexualization and physical appearance enhancement are positively associated with income inequality and generally are unassociated with gender inequality. The relationship between income inequality and female sexualization is particularly strong and robust in more developed countries and across US cities and counties.”

It’s important to note that the study established a correlation and not a causation. There are many parameters for which the study authors could not control. For instance, social inequality is often associated with big, industrialized cities — which also tend to have more social media activity and are more libertine. Still, the correlation is very robust and could pave the way for a better understanding of a common phenomenon that has been largely ignored by the scientific community.

The study has been published in PNAS.

You Instagram photos may look cool — but they’re almost certainly not original

No matter what you’re posting on Instagram, it’s probably already been done before. A lot.

Your gorgeous and delicious lunch. You and your friends having fun. Even your breathtaking mountaintop photo — it’s all been posted and reposted to social media, and there’s an account to prove it.

It’s called @insta_repeat, and it’s the brainchild of a 27-year-old artist and filmmaker from Anchorage, Alaska, who chose to remain anonymous. Speaking to Photography Shelter, she discussed what the reasoning behind the project is:

“There is a lot of mimicry everywhere in media, not just on Instagram. A purpose of Insta_Repeat is to critique originality in media creation through the lens (pun intended) of this one ‘genre’ of Instagram photography accounts.”

Phone in the wild ??????? PT.I

A post shared by Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) on


It’s not just that these photos are repetitive, she says, but they perfectly sum up a type of social media posts — the “live authentic” type.

“What makes these images unique targets is the specific genre these accounts I feature fit within. It’s this genre of adventurous and creative living, tagged with phrases like “liveauthentic” and “exploretocreate” that seems so ironic and thus an interesting target to me,” the woman adds.

So, from standing in front of cave exits, to impressive mountain photos, to photos of people taking photos — she captures it all. It’s still a pretty new account, but the message is clear: originality is a scarce commodity on social media.

Tent Hole PT.VII

A post shared by Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) on

It’s quite likely that people are trying to emulate the experience of popular personalities and Instagramers — so-called influencers with thousands and thousands of followers. Whether people are doing it simply for the ‘gram’ or they simply lack creativity,

However, there is still some value in repetition, the profile creator, who works as an artist and filmmaker, explains. It’s just not what you’d expect from people enjoying their vacations and weekends.

“I also think there’s an incredible amount of value in emulation both when someone is learning and continuing their craft,” she says. “Improving upon and building upon what has been done…is an important part the evolution of art.”

So, what about you? Do you follow your own path, or do you try to emulate what’s popular on the web? Leave your opinion in the comment section — creativity is encouraged.

Feet in front of Horseshoe Bend ?

A post shared by Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) on

Not art nor Instagram: Food art does not represent reality

Often times, social media (especially Instagram) seems like an endless stream of food. Everyone wants to show you their craft ice cream or their goji pancakes. But do those photos really represent reality? A study says people have been misrepresenting food for over 500 years, starting with classic paintings.

Francisco Goya, Still Life with Fruit, Bottles, Breads (1824–1826).

To compare the painting above to an Instagram photo would almost be blasphemy — one is a delightful piece of art, the creation of which remains restricted to the mind and hands of talented painters, whereas the other can be done by anyone with minimal efforts; and yet, the two are pretty similar in scope. They want to immortalize delicious food, and put it in a good light. But while our Instagram feeds might be riddled with exquisite treats, most people usually eat pretty regular food. If you’d try to guess what people eat only by looking at Instagram, you’d end up with a wildly inaccurate idea. Could the same thing be happening with historical paintings of food?

Flaunting food

Researchers from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab wanted to see if that is the case. Brian Wansink, Anupama Mukund, Andrew Weislogel analyzed paintings of meals between the years 1500 and 2000. The idea was to compare how often an item might show up in paintings with how often it might show up on the table.

“To initially explore this question, 750 food-related paintings were screened down to 140 paintings from Western Europe and the United States depicting small, family meals,” they write in the study.

What they found was that common foods, such as chicken, eggs, and squash were rarely represented in paintings. Instead, shellfish often snuck into paintings, even when they weren’t commonly eaten — quite the opposite. In Germany,  a country with a small coastline shellfish appeared in 20% of all paintings. Arguably, they were represented particularly because they were such a rare sight.

Osias Beert the Elder, Dishes with Oysters, Fruit, and Wine.

The argument is backed up by lemons. More than half (51.4%) of the paintings from the seafaring Netherlands contained non-indigenous tropical lemons. Apples were also a preferred subject of painters, likely due to their attractive shape and rich symbolism, being represented 302% more frequently than they appeared in family meals. Meanwhile, bread appeared 74% less frequently.

When life gives you lemons

Here are some other striking findings:

  • 39% of paintings from the age of exploration featured shellfish
  • 28% of paintings from the age of enlightenment featured lemons
  • 26% of paintings from the age of enlightenment featured grapes

Giovanna Garzoni, Still Life with Bowl of Citrons (1640).

All in all, painters weren’t really concerned with offering an accurate representation of what people ate, and it’s easy to understand why. You want to have an aesthetically pleasing painting, especially when you have a patron who puts your own bread on the table.

“In general, paintings tend to feature meals with foods that were either aspirational to the commissioning family, aesthetically pleasing or technically difficult for the painter, or that encoded cultural, religious, or political information for informed viewers.”

In other words, they were more interested in flaunting haute cuisine — much like people are today. In fact, foodscapes faded in popularity until the rise of the internet, which brought them right back on the plate. People want to make life seem more interesting, and food is a very good place to start.

“When there’s pressure to tweet something different all the time, you try to make your life look more exciting,” says Brian Wansink, director of the lab and lead author of the study. “But it’s nothing compared to what they were doing 500 years ago.”

Aside from saying quite a lot about our society, this also raises an alarm flag for several other studies which were based on food paintings. These foodscapes might not be reliable at all, at the whim of every

Journal Reference: Brian Wansink, Anupama Mukund, Andrew Weislogel — Food art does not reflect reality. A quantitative content analysis of meals in popular paintings.

New algorithm can detect depression by Instagram photos

It’s a simple principle which could help improve millions of lives.

Valencia vs Inkwell filters, via The Next Web.

Since time immemorial, color has been associated with emotion. Bright colors are associated with positive emotions, while neutral or darker ones are more likely to carry on negative feelings. This simple concept led Harvard’s Andrew Reece and Chris Danforth to believe that they could investigate if someone was suffering from depression only by looking at their Instagram photos.

They recruited some 500 workers from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, 170 of which agreed to have their Instagram accounts analyzed. Of these, 70 users were clinically depressed.

Overall, researchers identified 40,000 photos, selecting the most recent 100 photos for each volunteer. For depressed individuals, they chose the 100 photographs posted before their diagnosis. They identified some relevant variables, such as hue, color saturation, contrast and so on, while also subjectively rating the “happiness” of a picture from 0 to 5. They also used a face recognition software to identify how many people there were in the photo.

The thing with Instagram is that it makes it very easy to apply filters in a way that’s representative for your mood, and you can greatly influence the aspect of a photo. Researchers quickly noticed that people suffering from depression preferred the ‘Inkwell’ filter, which converts color photographs to black-­and-­white images. They also favored pictures with more black or blue in them, and showed an overall preference towards darker colors.

Meanwhile, non-depressed volunteers preferred the ‘Valencia,’ a filter that lightens photographs. The detection algorithm isn’t perfect, but overall, it boasted a 70% accuracy, which could at the very least highlight people at risk for depression. The fact that this information can be so easily obtained from Instagram could make a big different for the hundreds of millions of users.

“These findings support the notion that major changes in individual psychology are transmitted in social-media use, and can be identified via computational methods,” say Reece and Danforth.

Brilliant pictures show life through a tent door

Few things in life are as rewarding as leaving everything behind and going camping. The sheer serenity and pleasure that often accompanies camping is something that’s hard to rival – and hard to replace. I was quite happy to see the #ourcamplife tag blooming on Instagram, with people sharing the beautiful views from their tents.

Of course, leaving your tent open is not the ideal thing to do as insects and dust can easily get in, but it’s well worth the risk for a shot like this.

A photo posted by nancythebeat (@nancythebeat) on

A photo posted by Mirsa Sadikin (@mirsasrim) on

But the “view from the tent” is more than just than just a nice photo – it’s a personal statement. It says “this is all the luxury I need”, this thin structure is all that separates and protects me from nature and I’m having a great time with this. It’s not the most glamorous of shots, but you almost feel like you’re there.

Here is just a small selection of what I’ve found while scrolling through the tag posts – if you have your own camping images like these, I’d be more than happy to add them here.

A photo posted by Hannes Becker (@hannes_becker) on

A photo posted by katie|goldie (@goldiehawn_) on

A photo posted by Alex Oswell (@barefootyogi) on

A photo posted by Zack Melhus (@zmelhus) on

Google AI will tell you how many calories there are in your food pics

We’ve all seen them – the food pics are everywhere. Instagram has basically become a food porn haven, with everyone sharing their delicious lunch or snack. But those pics could actually yield valuable information, and tell you how many calories you’re eating.

Image via Daily Vedas.

I honestly don’t think we need to give people more motivation to post food pictures (Instagram could serious be so much better), but it just seems like there’s no good way to stop people, so if you can’t stop them… help them. That seems to be the thought process behind one of Google’s recently announced projects. According to CNETKevin P. Murphy, a researcher who works with Google’s research lab and specializes in artificial intelligence, algorithms and theory, said the new AI uses “the depth of each pixel in an image” and “sophisticated deep-learning algorithms” to identify food, judge its size and come up with a calorie count. The photos don’t even need to be high-definition for the thing to work. The AI will not get it right at first, but the algorithm will be built in such a way that it will learn and adapt, and it will eventually start getting it right.

The point isn’t to embarrass people or brag about your healthy diet – it’s to enable us to keep a sort of food diary where we easily keep track of our calorie intake. Sure, there are some good calorie calculators out there, but it’s all portion-based; in other words, it can be very difficult to know how big your portion is. However, there is more than just weight watching at stake. Murphy noted at the presentation that his big hope is that the technology could be some day used to monitor things like traffic and spot ways to improve it (for example helping drivers find a parking spot quicker). But in the mean time, obesity remains a big problem (especially in the US), and I feel confident that a commercial version of Im2Calories would be widely successful.

“To me it’s obvious that people really want this and this is really useful,” he said. “Ok fine, maybe we get the calories off by 20 percent. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to average over a week or a month or a year. And now we can start to potentially join information from multiple people and start to do population level statistics. I have colleagues in epidemiology and public health, and they really want this stuff.”

However, it may still be a few years before this technology actually gets implemented. While the algorithms are constantly improved, Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds said that they are still at a research phase and no actual products are planned for the near future.