Public Participation in the Digital Age: Social Media Reactions about an Iconic Species

Miss Montannia Chabau-gibson1

1Griffith University, City of Gold Coast , Australia


Democracy can be classified as a system of parliamentary decision-making processes that can shape a cities character. Political systems aim to minimise citizen distrust by engaging with all levels of governance to learn about the values of inhabitant human’s and non-human’s. Public participation is usually achieved through traditional methods such as surveys, and focus groups. However, these methods can be limited by spatial and temporal scale, cost, and can introduce unintentional bias from the creators.

With the emergence of the digital age, social media data can provide complementary information for human geography by utilising user created content. With the introduction of new data collection methods, this can assist in providing the social license for public members that do not usually participate in engagement due to their differences, disadvantages, or barriers.

With the City of Gold Coast experiencing a significant growth in population, accommodating for this has resulted in pressure for environments to change. The development of native ecosystems has subjected species to vulnerability, this includes icons of national heritage such as the Koala (Phascolarctos Cinereus).

A comparison analysis will investigate user created content derived from Twitter and Google Trends data to learn about how the public communicate online about Koalas.


Fourth year Urban and Environmental Planning (honour) student Montannia Chabau-Gibson is using Twitter to examine people’s attitudes and feelings about Koala’s on the City of  Gold Coast, including responses to key news items and initiatives.

This research follows her previous work with co authors Prof Catherine Pickering’s and Jesse Raneng investigating conservation, planning, and recreation use of natural areas including the Spit, City of Gold Coast. The findings from this research was presented at the 9th International Conference on Monitoring and Management of Visitors in Recreational and Protected Areas in Bordeaux, France.

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The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

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