Putting big data in its place : understanding cities and human mobility with new data sources.

Five years later I managed to finish my PhD after all. I’ll never be able to fully thank my family and friends, my advisor, any my collaborators for their support and encouragement.


According the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2008 marked the first year in which the majority of the planet’s population lived in cities. Urbanization, already over 80% in many western regions, is increasing rapidly as migration into cities continue. The density of cities provides residents access to places, people, and goods, but also gives rise to problems related to health, congestion, and safety. In parallel to rapid urbanization, ubiquitous mobile computing, namely the pervasive use of cellular phones, has generated a wealth of data that can be analyzed to understand and improve urban systems. These devices and the applications that run on them passively record social, mobility, and a variety of other behaviors of their users with extremely high spatial and temporal resolution. This thesis presents a variety of novel methods and analyses to leverage the data generated from these devices to understand human behavior within cities. It details new ways to measure and quantify human behaviors related to mobility, social influence, and economic outcomes.

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