A Path Toward the Use of Trail Users' Tweets to Assess Effectiveness of the Environmental Stewardship Scheme: An Exploratory Analysis of the Pennine Way National Trail


Large and unofficial data sets, for instance those gathered from social media, are increasingly being used in geographical research and explored as decision support tools for policy development. Social media data have the potential to provide new insight into phenomena about which there is little information from conventional sources. Within this context, this paper explores the potential of social media data to evaluate the aesthetic management of landscape. Specifically, this project utilises the perceptions of visitors to the Pennine Way National Trail, which passes through land managed under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS). The method analyses sentiment in trail users' public Twitter messages (tweets) with the aim of assessing the extent to which the ESS maintains landscape character within the trail corridor. The method demonstrates the importance of filtering social media data to convert it into useful information. After filtering, the results are based on 161 messages directly related to the trail. Although small, this sample illustrates the potential for social media to be used as a cheap and increasingly abundant source of information. We suggest that social media data in this context should be seen as a resource that can complement, rather than replace, conventional data sources such as questionnaires and interviews. Furthermore, we provide guidance on how social media could be effectively used by conservation bodies, such as Natural England, which are charged with the management of areas of environmental value worldwide.

Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy