Limitations of Social Media Analysis for Participatory Urban Planning Process

In previous post we discussed how social media participatory process can help city designers, planners or administrators in decision making process. In this post we discuss the limitations / shortcomings of social media participatory process for urban planning. This post is a short summary of the paper titled as ‘Missing intentionality: the limitations of social media analysis for participatory urban design’ by Luca Simeone.


The objective of this case study was to find limitations of social media analysis for participatory urban planning process. They analysed what city inhabitants are publishing on their social media profiles to perceive what they think and how they live in urban environment. They mentioned the shortcomings / limitations they found during this urban planning process based on social media analysis.

Data Set Used:

They collected data from four different social media channels i.e Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Flickr. This data was then analyzed to see the most congested areas by tracking the number of contributions originated from specific geographic locations.


They proposed a method consisting of following steps:

  1. Collect data from social media channels
  2. Apply multiple strategies (like text mining) to analyze this data
  3. Choose the appropriate urban planning tasks e.g knowing user’s feelings towards local government policies, or to find best place to build hostel for university students etc.
  4. Visualize the results to see the patterns / results
  5. Make decisions based on the results


  1. Not all city inhabitants have equal access to the technologies and skills to post Geo-located contributions
  2. Restricted access to social media data due to their privacy policy
  3. Lack of intention to participate in participatory process

Author focused on the point that we analyse the social media data without knowing user’s intention. Whereas when we say participatory process then it means that user should be willing to participate in the design process or they should at-least know that their activities are being tracked for the purpose of planning process. According to author’s point of view this is the main limitation of this social media participatory process for urban planning.


Social media analysis can be used to support urban design, decision making process. But at present their are certain limitations out of which lack of intentionality of the user’s is the major shortcoming of this process.



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