The Scales of Human Mobility | SAD Seminar Series

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SAD Seminar Series 2020 presents a talk from Laura Alessandretti, Assistant Professor at Technical University of Denmark

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The Scales of Human Mobility

There is a contradiction at the heart of our current understanding of mobility patterns. On one hand, a highly influential stream of literature driven by analyses of massive empirical datasets finds that human movements show no evidence of characteristic spatial scales. There, human mobility is described as scale-free. On the other hand, in geography, the concept of scale, referring to meaningful levels of description from individual buildings through neighborhoods, cities, regions, and countries, is central. Here, we resolve this apparent paradox by showing that human mobility does indeed contain meaningful scales, corresponding to spatial containers restricting mobility behavior. The scale-free results arise from aggregating displacements across containers. We present a simple model, which given a person’s trajectory, infers their neighborhoods, cities and so on. We find that the containers characterizing the trajectories of more than 700,000 individuals worldwide do indeed have typical sizes. We show that our description improves on the state-of-the-art in modeling, and allows us to better understand effects due to socio-demographic differences and the built environment.

Laura Alessandretti is an Assistant Professor in Modelling of Human Dynamics at the Technical University of Denmark. She researches aspects of human behaviour through the analysis of large-scale datasets, mostly collected from mobile phones.

SAD 2020 | Spatial Analytics + Data Seminar Series

An international showcase to the best scholarship involving geography and data co-sponsored by Newcastle University, University of Bristol & the Alan Turing Institute.

From segregation and social networks to machine learning and movement, the Spatial Analytics + Data seminar series is a place for dialogue among scholars united by interest in geographic data & spatial analysis, as well as a platform for cutting-edge methods and thinking in spatial social science.

The seminars feature speakers from a wide variety of academic backgrounds & career stages, and are held nearly every week on Tuesday, 1500 UTC throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

For more information, please contact the series organizers &

Spatial Analytics

Working across disciplines to analyse and model spatial data to address complex societal challenges in areas such as health, mobility, education and economic development.

Spatial data are increasingly ubiquitous in terms of availability, as well as application to a range of societal challenges, such as health, mobility, education, or economic development. Newcastle also possesses a strong core of expertise where spatial data, modelling, and analysis are concerned, in disciplines that span all faculties.

Data NuCore

The Data NUCoRE aspires to transform research across the University by driving forward the development and application of new methods for extracting value from data. By fostering collaborations with researchers from across the University, we will nurture the development of new methods for extracting value from data, and encourage novel applications of new methods in a variety of domains.

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