We are a research group within the School of City & Regional Planning and School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. We are working on a new field of study: interpersonal relationships and social networks in geographic space. Keywords: geographic information systems (GIS), social networks, urban planning, information visualization, complex systems.

If you are interested in GRA, GTA, independent study, applying to the lab, or other research experience (inside GaTech or outside GaTech, either one), please fill out this form.

Research Themes

We analyze traditional social networks from sociology within a GIS environment. We develop metrics to show how relationships are hindered or helped by the built environment, and how powerful individuals benefit from the surrounding environment. (see Foundational Paper, Syrian Refugee Project, Facebook Project, and Mafia Project)

How connected are places? We measure how connected places are and how this reflects the culture, diversity, and idea flow of a city. We find hidden connections by developing a new measure of social distance: the strength of social flows between places. Social distance is driven by connecting over political/administrative, natural, and infrastructural boundaries, and through institutions (universities, military bases, governments), social ties, and shared culture. (see Foundational Paper, COVID-19 Regions PrePrint, Big Brothers Big Sisters Project, and NCAA Athletes Project)

We help urban planners plan better cities by finding the amenities (parks, bars, Tinder, kayaking?) that best support personal relationships such as friends, families, co-workers, organization-based relationships, and romantic relationships). (See Yelp Project and Romance in-State College Paper)

We create interactive visualizations and tools for exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) with HCI principles in mind. (see Data and Interactive Page)


December 2021: A new paper about romance in the built environment was published in the Journal of Urbanism. This research was conducted in State College PA and found that couples enjoy the outdoors and restaurants. It suggests that planners should build spaces for couples to spend quality time together.

October 2021: Xiaofan Liang presented her research, completed with Clio Andris and Brian Brainerd, at the ACSP 2021 Annual Conference: Identifying Vacant, Abandoned, and Disinvested (VAD) properties through Human-in-the-loop Machine Learning Model Presentation

March 2021: Clio Andris has received an NSF CAREER award, and FCL will be partnering with some exciting groups to advance the study of spatial social network analysis: Award Abstract # 2045271 CAREER: A Research and Educational Framework for Incorporating Spatial Heterogeneity into Social Network Analysis

Past Talks

Thu. April 15, 2021, 3:00, Ohio State University, Quantitative Methodology Center. Title: “Spatial Social Network Analysis” Join here.

Tue. April 13, 2021, 10:15 AM,  University of Zurich, GIScience Colloquium. Title: “Methods for Non-Planar Network Analysis and Related Case Studies” Join here.

Thu. March 25, 2021, 4:00, Georgia State University, Dept. of Geosciences Colloquium. Title: “Measures of Chainness in the Built Environment: A Case Study of Restaurants” Join here.

Mon. March 15, 2021, 2:30, Atlanta Regional Commission, (Panel) “Title: The Importance of COVID-19 Data: Empowering Communities through Information” Join here.

Thu. March 11, 2021, 4:30, University of Tennessee, Dept. of Geography Colloquium, Ralston Speaker Series. Title: “Spatial Social Network Analysis of the American Mafia” Join here.

January 28, 2021, 4:30, Auburn University, Dept. of Geosciences Colloquium. Title: “Non-Planar Spatial Network Analysis in Geographical Systems.” Join here.

December 1, 2020, 16:00 UK (11 AM). We will give a presentation entitled: “Analysing Interpersonal Ties and Social Networks Using GIS” Spatial Analytics and Data Seminar Series. Join here.

November 20, 2020, 3:30-5 ET. We will give a presentation entitled: “Spatial Social Network Analysis: A Story of the American Mafia in the 1960’s” The Ohio State University Dept. of Geography Colloquium Series. Join here.

November 19, 2020: Clio will present at the GaTech College of Design New Voice Research Forum at 11 AM ET. She will talk about hamburgers and Trump. Join here.

November 10, 2020. Xiaofan Liang and Seolha Lee will present: “Demographic and Behavioral Characteristics of Individuals with Global, Local or Glocal Connectivity Patterns” at the North American Regional Science Conference (NARSC). This project was sponsored by The Knight Foundation.

November 9, 2020: Check out our new paper: “Real-time, interactive website for US-county-level COVID-19 event risk assessment” in Nature Human Behavior and companion website at https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/.

October 26, 2020. Xiaofan Liang presented her work with Clio Andris – “A R Online Tutorial for Visualizing Spatial Social Networks” – in the MoVIS: Information Visualization of Geospatial Networks, Flows, and Movement Workshop at IEEE VIS 2020. This work is funded by a Data Science Research Scholarship from Georgia Tech IDEaS.

October 10, 2020, 12:30-1:45 ET. We will give a presentation entitled: “Planning for Interpersonal Relationships: Data, Analytics, and a Romantic Case Study” GaTech Colloquium Series. https://planning.gatech.edu/events/fall-2020-research-seminars.

September 24, 2020: Tableau is running a webinar on Special Cartography as part of its Data+Women program. Go to this website to register for the event.

Aug 2020: We have had an exciting summer with a lot of great projects and student successes. Congrats to our new grads and we look forward to sharing our new projects!

Apr 2020: Xiaofan Liang is presenting Measuring McCities: Quantifying “Chainness” of Foodscapes in the United States at AAG 2020’s Virtual Session.

Apr 2020: With our GISConnect collaborators, FCL is unveiling the exciting GISConnect Video Series featuring women in GIS at AAG 2020’s Virtual Session.  

Apr 2020: Through support from the College of Design, we are organizing GaTech’s first symposium on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Good in Urban Analytics (DISA). It will be postponed. 

Jan 2020: UCGIS has added Social Networks to the GIST Body of Knowledge! Thanks to our editor, Eric Shook.

Jan 2020: Our topic, Social Life in Environmental Planning, was listed as one of NSF’s top 100 research questions for this cool “out-of-the-box contest” on big ideas.

Jan 2020: Xiaofan Liang was awarded a GaTech IDEaS (Institute for Data Engineering and Sciences) Data Science Research Scholarship, working with Prof. Diyi Yang on spatial social network configurations. 

The rest of 2019: Congrats to Xi Liu and Hanzhou Chen for graduating with PSU Geography degrees. Thank you to their awesome committee members, Alan MacEachren, Donna Peuquet, Chris Fowler and Bruce Desmarais and our Dept. Chair, Cindy Brewer.

Feb 2019: Clio 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 is a co-guest editor for the International Journal of Geographical Information Science, special issue on Spatial Social Networks with Xinyue Ye.

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: 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: 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.