Research Themes


Social flows are defined as the flow of people (migrants, commuters, travelers, remittances), information (e-mails, telephone calls, chats, online networks), and thoughts (through mass media, memories and social ties).  We try to build social flow theory that examines why traces occur and how they affect place and people. We create categories, classifications, analytical methods and caveats for understanding these (inter)personal transactions within a GIS environment.


We find the hidden connections  that we can’t see on a map by developing a new measure of social distance: the strength of social flows between places. Social distance can be short for highly-connected distant places or far for nearby places with little connectivity. We study what drives social distance and social nearness: political/administrative, natural and infrastructural boundaries, institutions (universities, military bases, governments), language, religion, social networks, or immigration status.


We look beyond measuring places by demographics like race and income to measuring their spatial connectivity patterns: the geometric extent to which places are connected to all other places. This adds and extra layer of information that can reflect the culture, diversity and idea flow of a city in a way that traditional census data cannot. We automate this process with digital technologies.


We help urban planners plan for love and romance by finding the amenities that best support personal relationships. Parks, bars, Tinder, kayaking? We ask how socialization differs by what else or who else is accessible, how relationships are maintained over changing geographic circumstances, and  how the landscape changes depending on the types and salience of local and distant relationships.


Feb 2019: Clio Andris will be giving a talk kindly sponsored by the Penn State Institute for CyberScience on Valentine’s Day! <3  Register to attend or watch on zoom!

Feb 2019: Clio Andris is featured as a co-guest editor for the International Journal of Geographical Information Science, special issue on Spatial Social Networks with Xinyue Ye. Submit your abstracts by Feb 14th.

Feb 2019: Xi Liu and the FCL team has a new paper in EPJ Data Science called “Inside 50,000 living rooms: an assessment of global residential ornamentation using transfer learning.” It uses Airbnb data and computer vision to learn about how people decorate in different cities!  CHECK OUT MEDIA FROM PSU + Springer Blog.  

Nov 2018: Clio Andris is featured as a co-guest editor for the Journal of Spatial Information Science

Nov 2018: Clio Andris becomes an affiliate member of the Population Research Institute (PRI) at Penn State

Nov 2018: Xi Liu is organizing a session at AAG called “Challenges in Deep Learning for Location-based Social Media”

Nov 2018: Hanzhou Chen defends his thesis proposal defense “Pinpoint vs. Distributed Neighborhood Changes in Metropolitan Areas: Finding Rules for Urban Simulation.” Thanks to committee Dr. Chris Fowler and Dr. Alan MacEachren. 

Nov 2018: Clio Andris gives a campus seminar talk in the Dept. of Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Management (RPTM) (thanks to RPTM prof and collaborator Dr. Bing Pan!)

Oct 2018: Clio Andris joins SoDA Program Committee at Penn State.

Oct 2018: FCL students Beichen Tian and Brynne Godfrey analyze phone call patterns of refugees.

Oct 2018: Xi Liu gives talk at Carto Spatial Data Science Conference in NYC “Measuring the Intangible in Cities”

Oct 2018: Clio gives Operations Research Colloquium at Penn State; “Envisioning Social Networks and Social Flows in Environmental Systems Research.”

Sep 2018: Xi Liu presents the results of study using Airbnb to find out how 50,000 global living rooms are decorated at GIScience in Melbourne, 2018. (Thanks to H. Miller).

Sep 2018: We have received over 1000 surveys from the Neighborhood Community Survey project! We are mining the data with help from our networked team.

Sep 2018: Clio Andris presents spatial interaction research during TRANSP Seminar at the University of Tennessee.

Aug 2018: Clio Andris presents ‘Social Data Flows’ research at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

July 2018: Clio Andris analyzes how athletic ‘pull power’ can increase diversity on campus.

Our Projects

Challenges for Social Flows

The social flow is a linear geographic feature that evidences an individual’s decision to connect places through travel, telecommunications and/or ...
Read More

Measuring Geographic Pull Power: A Case Study of College Athletics

Student athletes increase the diversity of schools. Which universities draw students from distant and diverse locales? We put together “pull ...
Read More

Using Yelp to Find Romance in the City: A Case of Restaurants in Four Cities

Findings: There’s a certifiable difference in urban hot spots and demand depending on couples’ relationship stage. Key factors for selecting a romantic ...
Read More

Wealthy Hubs and Poor Chains: Constellations in the U.S. Urban Migration System

Findings: Geographically isolated, large cities (like Dallas and Phoenix) tend to receive the most migrants from other US cities. Destination cities ...
Read More

Measuring Attraction and Redistribution of Institution-Based Movements

Findings: Penn State draws more students that are closer to the university and come from higher income families. Alumni from large ...
Read More

A Geographic Information System (GIS)-Based Analysis of Social Capital Data: Landscape Factors That Correlate with Trust

Findings: We trust our neighbors less when there are more people, lower housing value, weaker amenities (libraries and schools), and lower ...
Read More