We will discuss how the daily activities of individual people define and delineate different kinds of places, and how this can also be done by taking an algorithmic approach using large datasets. I'm going to talk about people, places and algorithms in relation to two studies I have been involved in recently. The first is a study of US 'megaregions' published in 2016 and the second is from a more recent paper on Scotland from 2018, using similar methods. In both cases we used an algorithmic approach, and commuting data, to create a new set of boundaries for a nation. The results demonstrate that algorithms can play an important part in helping us understand human activity, but also that they are a reflection of the underlying decisions made by humans in the first place. I will also talk about the responses to these pieces of work, public engagement with academic work and how writing about people and places can be a risky enterprise.
Alasdair Rae research focuses on regions, housing, neighborhoods, inequality, transport and spatial analysis. <http://ajrae.staff.shef.ac.uk/>, , <http://www.statsmapsnpix.com/>. Follow him on Twitter at @undertheraedar.