Realising the Potential of Social Data Flows
Research Seminar with Dr Clio Andris
The rise of the ‘big data’ era has seen an explosive growth in portable and personal technologies that produce digital social networks and connections, as well as huge streams of data. Researchers and practitioners in a variety of disciplines have been struggling to cope with these developments. The challenges include the capture, analysis and application of such data to key areas of human activity such as healthcare, urban planning, and service delivery in a timely and effective manner. This presentation takes the concept of social data flows as an emerging area of theory and analysis, and explores the implications for a number of audiences including healthcare and related human service providers.
A ‘social flow’ is defined as an agent-based decision to move, telecommunicate or state a relationship across geographic space. These types of flows can be observed in airline flight patterns, GPS traces, peer-to-peer social networks, migration, remittances, phone calls, online ‘friends’, and many other vectors that illustrate our need to connect geographic space through our actions. Modelling these flows, and the personal relationships that they reveal, has presented a challenge to researchers who typically use layer-based geographic information systems (GIS) for environmental modelling.
In this talk, Dr Andris explores projects and methods to harness social flow data using creative online, private and public data sources. The results can help us spark new discussions about opportunities to examine inter-place connectivity and interpersonal health, through data-driven exercises that have qualitative underpinnings. Potential policy implications include where to locate new facilities and infrastructure, how to re-evaluate what constitute underprivileged communities, and how to better distribute economic and social resources towards community building, development and enrichment. Another highly relevant area is the smart city paradigm and how social flow data can inform community engagement in high-technology urban environments.
Dr Clio Andris is Assistant Professor of Geography at Penn State University as well as the Director of the Friendly Cities Lab and on the Graduate Faculty, Social Data Analytics. She has held postdocs at the Los Alamos National Lab (visitor), the Santa Fe Institute, MIT, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and her PhD in Urban Information Systems was awarded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. Since then she has conducted an expanding body of research at the intersection of social networks, urban systems and digital technology including the application of spatial analytics and data visualisation methods to investigate social connectedness, social capital and social data exchanges in a variety of environments.