Identifying and modeling the structural discontinuities of human interactions

S. Grauwin, M. Szell, S. Sobolevsky, P. Hovel, F. Simini, M. Vanhoof, Z. Smoreda, A.-L. Barabasi & C. Ratti
Scientific Reports
7, Article number: 46677 (2017)
April 26, 2017


The idea of a  hierarchical spatial organization of society lies at the core of seminal  theories in human geography that have strongly influenced our understanding  of social organization. Along the same line, the recent availability of  large-scale human mobility and communication data has offered novel  quantitative insights hinting at a strong geographical confinement of human  interactions within neighboring regions, extending to local levels within  countries. However, models of human interaction largely ignore this effect.  Here, we analyze several country-wide networks of telephone calls - both,  mobile and landline - and in either case uncover a systematic decrease of  communication induced by borders which we identify as the missing variable in  state-of-the-art models. Using this empirical evidence, we propose an  alternative modeling framework that naturally stylizes the damping effect of  borders. We show that this new notion substantially improves the predictive  power of widely used interaction models. This increases our ability to  understand, model and predict social activities and to plan the development  of infrastructures across multiple scales.

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