An Oklahoma State University assistant professor has won an award for looking closely at social media and the public’s perception of public water spaces.
The project, “Developing a Social Media Data Based Post-Occupancy Evaluation Method: New Understandings of Social and Physiological Attributes of Designed Waterscapes,” which used the Fort Worth Water Gardens as the basis for the research, recently was awarded the 2020 Certificate of Research Excellence Award from The Environmental Design Research Association. Only six awards were presented.
“Social media is a fast-growing area in social studies, which often is utilized to understand public opinions and usage,” said Bo Zhang, assistant professor with OSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. “However, few studies have used social media to understand site-scale environmental design issues. Using the efficient and ever-growing data sets from Instagram, this study developed an analytic procedure using social media data to study site-scale built environment.”
Zhang, who partnered with researchers from North Dakota State University and China’s Shaoxing University, said more than 6,000 Instagram posts from nearly 4,450 users about the Fort Worth Water Gardens were mined and categorized to help understand the dynamics of human usage and perception of urban waterscapes.
“Our research yielded new perspectives and insights about engaging water features in the design of public landscapes. By quantifying the data, designed water features were presented as big draws in public spaces in cities, which helps enhance the vibrancy of city life,” he said. “This study expands the current understanding of urban waterscapes, as well as develops and demonstrates a new kind of post-occupancy evaluation procedure for the social media age. The analytic procedure exemplified in the study also can be an efficient decision-making tool for professionals in the design industry.”
Environmental Design Research Association is the largest American organization of environmental design researchers from design professional fields, including architecture landscape architecture, interior design and urban planning.
The Certificate of Research Excellence is a professional certification that recognizes and celebrates exceptional, rigorous, practice-based environmental design research studies. Applications to CORE undergo double-blind review by an interdisciplinary panel of experts. Evaluations are based on research rigor and research value.
Zhang came to OSU in 2015. In addition to his role as an assistant professor, he is a landscape architect, urban designer, architect and LEED-certified professional. He teaches landscape construction, communications, open space design and urban design. As a designer and educator, his goal is to convey his practical experience, intellectual thinking and communication skills to the students. His studio has been involved in several community service projects, including a public park, museum ground, church campus and university campus garden.
During his tenure at OSU, his students have placed in 22 domestic and international competitions and awards.