Cell Phones, Communities, and Complex Networks

James Bagrow 

Wednesdays@NICO Seminar, Noon, January 18 2012, Chambers Hall, Lower Level

Dr. James Bagrow, Northwestern University


Researchers today are surrounded by massive data. From particle accelerators and digitized libraries to high-throughput biological assays and online social networks, the quantities of available data are enabling revolutionary discoveries across science. Networks are a way to understand these complex systems. One feature common to many networks is that of modular or community structure: densely interconnected groups that often fulfill key structural of functional roles in the system. Understanding these communities is challenging, yet offers hope for meaningful simplifications of massive data. We introduce a new approach to the community problem and apply it to a number of data sources. We focus on a cutting-edge, country-wide mobile phone dataset. This de-identified dataset records social activities for millions of phone users and provides detailed spatiotemporal trajectories, allowing us to explore social networks and individual human mobility. We show that the modular nature of human mobility explains a number of the observed features of these mobility patterns. Finally, there are few analytic approaches that account for complex network structures such as communities. We present our attempts at progress along this front.


James Bagrow joined Northwestern’s Department of Engineering Sciences, Applied Mathematics and NICO in 2011. Previously he was a postdoc in the Barabasi group at Northeastern University where he worked on social networks and human mobility. Dr. Bagrow received his PhD in physics in 2008 from Clarkson University. His research interests include complex networks, human dynamics, and statistical physics.