Meet Kofoworola Modupe Osunkoya, a visiting PhD Researcher from Tallinn University of Technology

We are excited to introduce Kofoworola Modupe Osunkoya, a visiting PhD Researcher from the Urban Spatial Analytics research group at Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech). Modupe is visiting us at the Digital Geography Lab from November 2023 to June 2024 to study urban vitality through social media activity. Check out our mini-interview with Modupe to learn more about her research and interests.

Kofoworola Modupe OsunkoyaWho are you, and what is your role at your home university?

I am Kofoworola Modupe Osunkoya, a PhD Researcher in the Future Smart City project, Urban Spatial Analytics research group at the Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. I am also an Urban Spatial Analyst with vast experience in planning, designing, and executing sustainable urban mobility.

I obtained two (2) Master’s degrees: Urbanism and Strategic Planning from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, and Transportation Science from Hasselt University, Belgium. My current focus within the Future Smart City project revolves around exploring ‘smart’ urbanity, new mobility concepts, and the development of sustainable urban futures.

Specifically, my role in the project entails investigating “New Urban Design and Analysis Methods for Transforming Mobility and Urban Morphology.” My research interests lie at the intersection of New Urbanism, Transport Planning, and Urban Planning, where I am passionate about advancing innovative approaches to address contemporary urban challenges.

Please introduce your research topic.

My PhD thesis “Re-discovering Urban Vitality Measurement for Cities in Digital Transition” studies urban vitality in digitalizing cities, its tradition, current and potential measuring methods, and how (big) data can be applied to better recognize vital areas and support their emergence via urban planning and governance. I have combined multi-sourced data, such as mobile phone and traditional data (socio-economic, mixed-uses, population), to analyze the vital urban places and changes over time and space in Tallinn, Estonia.

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GREENTRAVEL project well represented at the People and Planet Conference in Lahti

After kicking off the GREENTRAVEL project (“Greener Urban Travel Environments for Everyone: From Measured Wellbeing Impacts to Big Data Analytics”) in 2023, the project team is in full speed with advancing various project activities and working towards attaining first project results. Some of these will be presented at the People and Planet – from Theory to Solutions Conference, which takes place on 13–15 February 2024 in Lahti, Finland. The GREENTRAVEL project team will participate at the conference in various ways.

🟡 Doctoral Researcher Robert Klein will be giving an oral presentation in the session “Transformation towards healthy and sustainable mobility” on Wed Feb 14, 13:00. In his study “Capturing seasonality in urban travel environment greenery throughout Europe”, he demonstrates how accounting for seasonal variation can influence which cities can be deemed more green or less green.

🟡 Technical expert Roope Heinonen will be presenting a poster on his recent advancements with the Green Paths 2.0 tool, which helps users to find healthier routes and displays environmental exposure along the way. The new version focuses on making the tool more widely applicable in different cities and for new kinds of exposure. The poster presentation takes place on Wed Feb 14, 14:20-15:20, and posters will be visible throughout the whole conference. See the poster below!

🟡 Postdoctoral Researcher Silviya Korpilo will be hosting a discussion session in a world café setting on Wed Feb 14, 16:30-17:15. There, all interested conference attendees can join in to get familiar with and discuss about ongoing research in the newly established Finnish Nature and Health Research Network (LuontoTerVe).

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URBANAGE project closing

Authors: Tuuli Toivonen, Christoph Fink, Elias Willberg

For the past 2.5 years, the Digital Geography Lab has participated in the international H2020 consortium URBANAGE that is coming to its end now in January 2024.

Europe’s rapidly aging population and the rise of disruptive technology in urban planning were at the pivot point of the URBANAGE project. Urban planning needs to better take into account the needs of a growing older population, and advances in technologies make more evidence-based urban policy come into reach. The project focused on how Digital Urban Twin technology could be used to assist planning for age-friendly cities. It was carried out at three pilot sites across the European Union, namely the cities of Helsinki and Santander, and the region of Flanders. The main partners in Helsinki were Forum Virium Helsinki and the University of Helsinki. Postdoctoral researcher Christoph Fink has been our key researcher in the project, while Elias Willberg worked in more targeted tasks.

The project informed its research in a co-creation effort that aimed to learn from lived experience. Most relevantly, we inquired what factors are important for improving the accessibility and mobility of older adults in future cities. The project then developed a dashboard to collect spatial information on the age friendliness and to expand and advance the toolbox planners need for improved solutions, for example with accessibility or green comfort in mind.

The Digital Geography Lab contributed to the project in a variety of ways. Our biggest contribution was to explore the mobility environment of older people at the scale of urban areas. We employed both a conceptual and an analytical perspective, and critically examined the role of technology in doing so.

In one of our studies, we empirically examined the impact of winter conditions on older adults’ mobility landscapes. We produced valuable information for age-sensitive routing, and challenged the simplicity of the “15-minute city” concept, suggesting to better consider the varying realities of urban residents (Willberg, Fink & Toivonen, 2023).

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Kerli’s Lectio Praecursoria

Capturing segregation through space and time: New insights from the activity space approach and big data

Lectio Praecursoria in the public examination of Kerli Müürisepp’s doctoral dissertation on 25 November 2023

Photo by Christoph Fink

The city of the twenty-first century is a site of diversity, connection, and opportunity.

Cities have never been as diverse as today in ethnic, socio-economic and demographic terms, nor with regard to attitudes, lifestyles and activities.

Much of that diversity is the outcome of the increasing mobility and migration of people, both within and across countries. The United Nations has estimated that over 280 million people live outside of their home country – this is more than half of the population of the European Union.

In Finland, the share of foreign-background people is still rather modest compared to its neighbours – Estonia and Sweden – and compared to many other European countries. Yet, roughly half of Finland’s foreign population live in the Helsinki region and the share is in rise. Undoubtedly, the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, has become a site of diversity.

Often, people move to cities with the hope for attaining better education, advancing in their career, and improving their quality of life. And they rightly do so – social diversity creates the values and the benefits of the contemporary city. By bringing different groups together and fostering connections between them, the socially diverse city ought to reduce prejudice and foster social cohesion; promote creativity, innovation, and economic performance. The socially diverse city ought to ensure social mobility – that is, provide equal opportunities to advance in life for all of us, regardless of our backgrounds.

What an ideal city it is.

But, the reality is far more complicated – the city is far from being ideal, is far from providing equal opportunities for all.

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GREENTRAVEL project in full swing!

We are having exciting times at the Digital Geography Lab! 2023 marks the start of the European Research Council -funded project “Greener Urban Travel Environments for Everyone: From measured wellbeing impacts to Big Data analytics” (GREENTRAVEL) – the biggest and longest research project of the lab to date. After months of planning and recruitments, we are happy to announce that the GREENTRAVEL project team is complete, and the project is running at full speed.

The transdisciplinary GREENTRAVEL project runs until 2027 and has a budget of 1.98 million euros. The project focuses on studying the greenery of urban travel environments from various perspectives. More specifically, the project has set out to produce a novel understanding of the quality, availability and wellbeing impacts of green urban travel environments. Moreover, it will produce knowledge on how equally green exposure during travel and related wellbeing impacts are available to urban populations. Ultimately, the project will provide approaches and analysis on where to add greenery to advance equity. The project is led by professor Tuuli Toivonen.

The GREENTRAVEL project team. Photo by Christoph Fink.

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The case for the societal benefit of user-generated big data research – DGL responds to EU on research data access

Authors: Tatu Leppämäki, Tuuli Toivonen, Olle Järv together with other Digital Geography Lab members

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is legislation by the European Union that aims at protecting the users of and mitigating risks caused by online platforms, covering anything from social media sites to search engines and online retailers. It does this by obligating the platforms to, for example, be transparent about content recommendation systems, and effectively tackling content manipulation and spreading of disinformation. Due to their significant effect on our societies, the legislation sets more obligations for very large online platforms (VLOP): this class of platforms include social media giants, such as Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok.

As a research group that has successfully applied user-generated data to study multitude of topics, our interest in the legislation stems from its sections that obligate VLOPs to give means to access data uploaded on their platform for appropriate research purposes (Article 40 of the act). While these purposes are limited for scrutinizing the systemic risks caused by the platforms in the legislation, we believe there is much potential for social good through responsible research employing public user-generated data.

The European Commission recently asked for feedback on the implementation of researcher data access under the DSA. Drawing from a decade of big data research, our response argues for the benefits of researcher data access beyond studying systemic risks. The response is split into a short opinion text and direct responses to some of the questions posed by the Commission (find the guiding questions here). You can read our response below or via the feedback service. If you’re a researcher using or curious about data from online platforms, or just an interested citizen in Europe or elsewhere, you may give feedback until the midnight of Wednesday, 31st of May 2023. Continue reading “The case for the societal benefit of user-generated big data research – DGL responds to EU on research data access”

How is our research related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Authors: Janika Raun with all Digital Geography Lab members

In 2015, all United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), each with their own set of associated targets (169 in total). The goals address social, economic, and environmental development aspects and call for urgent action, e.g., to end poverty, reduce inequalities and tackle climate change (Fig. 1). The SDGs are increasingly used by different actors of the society to structure and communicate their actions around sustainability.Figure 1. 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Source: https://sdgs.un.org/goals

Why the SDGs matter for us in DGL?

Universities play a crucial role in the achievement of SDGs as knowledge, innovation, evidence-based solutions, and good quality education are the basis for reaching the targets. As an interdisciplinary research group focusing on spatial Big Data analytics for fair and sustainable societies, we have always worked towards advancing sustainability. As SDGs, despite critique towards them (Arora-Jonsson, 2023), are increasingly used to communicate the sustainability actions in the society, we decided to map also our research activities at the Digital Geography Lab against the SDGs.

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MOPA project successfully completed! We showed the potential of electricity consumption data in multi-local living and second home research

Authors: Janika Raun, Olle Järv

MOPA (Monipaikkaisen asumisen rytmit, paikat ja asiakasryhmät) project revealing multi-local living patterns in South Savo based on electricity data analysis has reached its end. The project was led by the researchers from Ruralia Institute (Torsti Hyyryläinen, Manu Rantanen, Toni Ryynänen) and was done in collaboration with the Digital Geography Lab researchers Janika Raun, Olle Järv and Tuuli Toivonen.

AIM OF THE PROJECT

We started the project by thinking more broadly about how different big data sources could be utilised in second home research. We first provided an overview on the potential use cases in Finnish (Raun & Järv 2022), which then finally resulted in a coherent perspective paper, “New avenues for second home tourism research using big data: prospects and challenges”, published in the Current Issues in Tourism Research (Raun et al., 2022). The article is available open access here: https://doi.org/10.1080/13683500.2022.2138282.

Our literature analysis for the article revealed that so far utility consumption data has been used relatively little in second home and multi-locality research. However, it has a high potential to uncover where second homes are located and when they are actually used and visited. Thanks to the fruitful collaboration between Ruralia Institute and the local electricity company Suur-Savon Sähkö Oy we were able to use monthly-level electricity consumption data of second homes and analyse what it can tell us about the multi-local living practises in South Savo. Our aim was to understand the spatiotemporal rhythms, variations, and trends in second home usage patterns and identify different user groups. Read more about the start and aims of the project from one of our previous blog posts.

WHAT WERE THE MAIN RESULTS?

Electricity consumption in second homes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our results reveal that the electricity consumption in second homes has increased, especially during the years 2020 and 2021, indicating the intensified usage of second homes during the pandemic. The increase was biggest in areas with the highest relative share of free-time residences, such as Hirvensalmi, Mäntyharju, and Puumala municipalities. This finding is in line with the results of a previous study made in Finland using mobile phone data, which indicated that people escaped from cities when the pandemic started, and the increase of people was biggest in municipalities with the highest relative share of second homes (Willberg et al., 2021; and DGL blog posts here). The increase in electricity consumption was highest during the spring and autumn months, indicating that people extended their summer season and spent more time in their second homes also late spring and early autumn (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Monthly median electricity consumption (kWh) in municipalities during three periods: average for 2015-2019, 2020 and 2021. N represents the number of free-time residences in January 2021. Continue reading “MOPA project successfully completed! We showed the potential of electricity consumption data in multi-local living and second home research”

MSc thesis on studying multi-local living in Finland using mobile phone data and electricity consumption data

Author: Iivari Laaksonen

Why is the study relevant?

Multi-local living can be defined by individuals or families having access to more than one residence in their everyday lives. It is a complex social phenomenon causing weekly and seasonal changes in population numbers as people move between regions. This means that the phenomenon is tightly connected to human mobility. In prior research, multi-locality has been mainly studied using official statistics that fail to capture the dynamic nature of people’s mobilities and dwelling. To address this in my thesis, I utilized spatially and temporally accurate big data sources − mobile phone and electricity consumption data − to capture people’s presence and mobility. More accurate information about multi-local living can be useful for local businesses and regional planning in rural areas.

How was the research done?

In my thesis, multi-local living was studied in Finland and in the county of South Savo, which has the highest proportion of second homes/free-time residences in the country. The study was done by analyzing spatiotemporal changes in people’s presence (mobile phone data from Telia Crowd Insights) and by examining how the changes relate to the number of second homes (official statistics) in different areas with correlation analyses. In addition to monthly comparisons, analyses were conducted separately for workdays and weekends to assess how people’s multi-local practices differ between weekdays. The study period of the thesis was from November 2018 to August 2019.

Mobile phone data also contains information about people’s origins (previous night location). This allowed to assess the proportions of origin counties of people visiting South Savo. Moreover, mobile phone data was used to assess the results of second home occupancy in South Savo gained from electricity consumption data which had been previously calculated in the MOPA research project.

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Geoparsing: How to gain location information from (Finnish) texts?

Author: Tatu Leppämäki

In a nutshell: A geoparser recognizes place names and locates them in a coordinate space. I explored this topic in my thesis and developed an open source geoparser for Finnish texts: find it in this GitHub repo. 

As geographers, we are interested in the spatial aspects of data: where something is located is a prerequisite to the follow-up questions of whys and hows. Of the almost innumerable data sources available online – news articles, social media feeds, digital libraries – a good portion are wholly or partly text-based. Texts and the opinions and sentiments within are often related to space through toponyms (place names). For us humans, it’s very easy to understand a sentence like “I’m enjoying currywurst in Alexanderplatz, Berlin” and the spatial reference there, but geographical information systems process data in unambiguous coordinates. To bridge this gap between linguistic and geospatial information, the text must be analyzed and transformed: in other words, it must be parsed. This is the motivation for the development of geoparsers. 

Geoparsing: what and why 

Geoparsing can be divided into two sub-tasks: toponym recognition and toponym resolution. In the former, the task is to find toponyms amidst the text flows and in the second, to correctly locate the recognized toponyms. A geoparser wraps this process and outputs structured geodata. 

Geoparsing: a top-level view. 

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