A little background: I was listening to WNYC last week and came across a debate about “selfies.” I started wondering what selfies really are. And then, I came across the following dataviz project.

“Selfiecity” is a project conducted by a computer science team at CUNY to analyze more than 3,000 selfies from Instagram in five cities of the world – New York, Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow and Sao Paulo.

The team collected more than 600,000 in those five cities and selected 640 “single selfies” from each city, with the help of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk workers, for analysis. The team looked at age, gender, pose and facial expressions (smiles, angry, etc) by using a facial analysis software.

Some of the interesting facts are:

  • Only three to five percent of images analyzed are actually selfies.
  • Significantly more women take selfies in all of the five cities.
  • Most people in the photos are fairly young with the median age of 23.7. Bangkok is the youngest city (21.0). New York City is the oldest (25.3).
  • The project’s mood analysis revealed that you can find a lot of smiling faces in Bangkok (0.68 average smile score) and Sao Paulo (0.64). Moscow had the least smiles.


The project is less conventional and scientific. It has a lot of flaws, including how to identify a person’s age. Person’s mood is subjective. It needs more samples from other cities to find global trends. But, this project has made me think about how we can approach a vast amount of information/data on social media.