During the week of June 17, 2018, three local news sources covered the installation of our Broad Street Parklet (see Morning Call, 69 News, and Lehigh Valley Live). In this post, we explore some of the themes that emerged as over one hundred individuals discussed these articles on Facebook.
- The majority of online commenters held a negative impression about parklets (62%). Just 12% of comments in this study expressed a clear positive sentiment about parklets, while the remaining comments (26%) were neutral.
- Safety concerns (25% of comments) and improper use of the street (18% of comments) were the two most frequently cited online critiques of Lehigh Valley parklets. Surprisingly, the loss of parking was a distant fifth, appearing in just 6% of online comments.
- Individuals commenting on the Broad Street Parklet online approached the subject with a variety of emotions; however, the three most prominent tones were sarcasm (29%; example: “all fun till a car crashes into it”), casual (19%; example: “looks dangerous”), and annoyance (17%; example “Are you kidding?”). An additional 8% of commenters were outright angry about the project (example: “STUPID!!!!!!”).
- In general, this study reveals how social media can amplify the major thematic concerns surrounding parklets. However, when cross-referenced with our perception survey results, it also becomes clear that social media comments have a tendency to overstate disapproval while understating approval (read the perception survey analysis here).
We downloaded Facebook comment data on June 26 using the social media marketing platform, Socialfy. The Facebook Post ID, News Source, Message, Likes, and Reply Comments were recorded for each of the three news articles. The number of comments collected from each news source is as follows:
- 103 comments from WFMZ’s article (Post ID: 10160457597630557)
- 3 comments from Lehigh Valley Live’s article (Post ID: 10156104673385358)
- 27 comments from Morning Call’s article (Post ID: 10155756312712903)
The total number of comments included in this analysis is 133. Once downloaded, we loaded the data into a spreadsheet, reading and assessing each of these 133 comments to determine its major theme, overall sentiment, and linguistic tone. The coding scheme is as follows:
|Safety Concern||This category accounts for any comment that primarily discusses the parklet’s safety, both positive and negative.|
|Use of Street||This category accounts for any comment that primarily discusses the use of a street for something other than vehicular travel, both positive and negative.|
|General Comment||This category accounts for any comment that does not fit into any of the other categories well. Typically, these comments featured generic language (i.e. “interesting”) without ascribing that comment to a particular feature.|
|Historical Context||This category accounts for any comment that refers to the history of parklets, local politics, and city regulations.|
|Parking Issue||This category accounts for any comment that primarily discusses the issues of parking, both positive and negative.|
|Tagged Friends||This category accounts for any comment that was used to tag a friend, ensuring that the tagged individual would also see the post. Typically, these comments were coded as neutral, as they encouraged a friend to read the post.|
|Response to a Previous Comment||This category accounts for any comment that primarily responds to a previous poster’s comment, rather than the news article or the parklet itself.|
|Parklet Appeal||This category accounts for any comment that addresses the design, quality, and/or appeal of the parklet (or using the parklet).|
|Positive||The language and tone of the comment suggested that the author held a favorable opinion of the parklet.|
|Neutral||The language and tone of the comment offered an opinion of the parklet that was neither positive or negative.|
|Negative||The language and tone of the comment suggested that the author held an unfavorable opinion of the parklet.|
|Sarcastic||Language displays signs of irony and/or mockery indicative of contempt.|
|Excited||Language displays signs of heightened energy, positive or negative (i.e. single word in capslock, and exclamatory language and punctuation).|
|Casual||Language is straightforward, relaxed, and/or informal. Typically, casual language lacked signs indicative of the other categorized tones.|
|Annoyance||Language displays signs of mild irritation, suggesting the poster was bothered by the article and/or the concept of parklets.|
|Angry||Language displays explicit signs of distress and heavy discomfort (i.e. excessive use of caps lock, heavy use of exclamatory language and punctuation, and the presence of aggressive and/or indecent language).|
|Informative||Language displays signs that the message is intended to inform and explain without other clear signs of emotional investment.|
|Amused||Language displays signs that the commenter is entertained and/or delighted at the article and/or the concept of parklets. Amusement can be positive, neutral, or even negative, depending on the message content and context.|
After assessing each of the comments, we imported the data from Google Sheets into Tableau, a software program that allows users to create interactive data visualizations for the web. Once connected, we used Tableau to visualize the social media comments based on their themes, sentiments, and tones.
The embedded document below offers an interactive overview of social media sentiment surrounding the Lehigh Valley Parklet project. By hovering over the bar graphs on the right-hand side, you can read each of the 133 individual comments and see how we collected, assessed, and coded the message. Sentiment is color-coded as negative = red, neutral = yellow, and positive = green.
As seen above, the data clearly shows that Facebook commenters are highly skeptical of parklets, amplifying some of the major thematic concerns surrounding the project. These comments draw attention to safety concerns (both real and imagined) and suggest that parklets are simply an improper use of a parking space, especially in a community where parking is already limited.