Digital co-construction of relational values: understanding the role of social media for sustainability

  • Fulvia CalcagniEmail author
  • Ana Terra Amorim Maia
  • James John Timothy Connolly
  • Johannes Langemeyer
Special Feature: Review Article Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability


There is a deeply relational aspect to the systems people employ for sorting through and prioritizing plural values assigned to social–ecological interactions. Spurred by interpersonal relationships and adhesion to societal core values, such as justice and reciprocity, relational values go beyond instrumental and intrinsic approaches to understanding human behaviour vis-à-vis the environment. Currently, this relational dimension of values is entering the spotlight of the cultural ecosystem services (CES) literature focusing on non-material benefits and values people derive from ecosystems, such as aesthetics and sense of place. Relational values foster reflections on appropriateness and morality of preferences and respective behaviours in contributing to collective flourishment across space and time, holding implications for social–ecological justice and sustainability. Recently, several studies explored the potential of using social media data for assessing values ascribed to CES, but did not look at how this emerging approach could contribute to an enhanced understanding of relational values. In order to take up this goal, we conducted a systematic review, screening 140 publications and selecting 29 as relevant for exploring the extent to which relational CES values are inferable through social media. Our results show that social media data can reveal CES values’ plural and relational dimension. Social media platforms, thus, can be understood as new arenas for the co-construction of values, where relational values stemming from social–ecological interactions are negotiated and defined. Yet, work on their implications for social–ecological justice and sustainability needs to be extended.


Cultural ecosystem services Social media analysis Relational values Sustainability 



We acknowledge financial support from the 2015–2016 BiodivERsA COFUND call for research proposals through the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PCIN-2016-002) and from the European Research Council (Greenlulus 678034). F.C. thanks the AGAUR Catalan governmental agency (Grant number 2018FI_B00635) and the Institute for the right to university studies in Lazio, Laziodisu (Grant “Torno Subito 2017” number 7425-18092017) for the funding received to support this study. A.T.A.M. acknowledges support by the European Commission through an Erasmus Mundus scholarship (JEMES CiSu UAB2016/No. 1). J.J.T.C. thanks the Spanish Ministry of Sciences, Innovation, and University’s Subprogram of Juan de la Cierva Incoporacion (IJCI-2016-31100). We also thank the reviewers for their valuable remarks.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary file1 (DOCX 65 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA)Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Edifici Z (ICTA-ICP)Cerdanyola del VallèsSpain
  2. 2.Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM)BarcelonaSpain

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