The Urban Village

Sep 6, 2014

Analyzing mobile communication data reveals how a person’s social network changes when moving from a small town into a big city. A team of researchers from both the Santa Fe Institute and the MIT Senseable City Lab worked with Orange Labs, British Telecom and Raschke Software Engineering to study how cities affect our social relationships.

The study (focusing on Portugal and the UK) reveals a fundamental pattern: our social connections scale with city size. People who live in a larger town make more calls and call a larger number of different people. The scaling of this relation is 'superlinear,’ meaning that on average, if the size of a town doubles, the sum of phone contacts in the city will more than double in a mathematically predictable way.

Group clustering (the odds that your friends mutually know one another) does not change with city size, it seems that even in large cities we tend to build communities or villages around ourselves.

For more information see the Urban Village or the paper: The scaling of human interactions with city size.