Linked Activity Spaces: Embedding Social Networks in Urban Space

  • Yaoli Wang
  • Chaogui Kang
  • Luís M. A. Bettencourt
  • Yu Liu
  • Clio Andris
Part of the Geotechnologies and the Environment book series (GEOTECH, volume 13)


We examine the likelihood that a pair of sustained telephone contacts (e.g. friends, family, professional contacts, called “friends”) uses the city similarly. Using call data records from Jiamusi, China, we estimate a proxy for the daily activity spaces of each individual subscriber by interpolating the points of geo-located cell towers he or she uses most frequently. We then calculate the overlap of the polygonal activity spaces of two established telephone contacts, what we call linked activity spaces.

Our results show that friends and second-degree friends (e.g. friends of friends) are more likely to geographically overlap than random pairs of users. Additionally, individuals with more friends and with many network triangles (connected groups of three friends) tend to congregate in the city’s downtown at a rate that surpasses randomness. We also find that the downtown is used by many social groups but that each suburb only hosts one or two groups. We discuss our findings in terms of the need for a better understanding of spatialised social capital in urban planning.


Activity space Daily movement Call data records Mobile phones Social networks Friendship Relationships Cities Built environment 



Call data records


Geographic information system(s)


Keyhole markup language


Linked activity spaces


Points of interest



This research was partially supported by the Army Research Office Minerva Program (grant no. W911NF-121A −0097), the John Templeton Foundation (grant no. 15705), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (grant no. OPP1076282), the Rockefeller Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation (grant no. 220020195), the National Science Foundation (grant no. 103522), the Bryan J. and June B. Zwan Foundation, and the University of Georgia.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yaoli Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chaogui Kang
    • 3
    • 4
  • Luís M. A. Bettencourt
    • 2
  • Yu Liu
    • 3
  • Clio Andris
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Santa Fe InstituteSanta FeUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Remote Sensing and Geographical Information SystemsPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.MIT Senseable City LaboratoryCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Department of GeographyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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