GALE: Global Accessibility to Local Experience

Project: Research

Project Details


"Recommender Systems have been generated in the past 15 years with the aim to suggest to individual users opportunities arising in the virtual space of the Internet on the basis of the individual profile of the user, her/his past history as a customer/web-user and even her/his friends' community in social networks. Further, the rise of online social networks such as Facebook has allowed for a new source of information to be exploited by recommendation systems: the user social network.
Internet access is now becoming increasingly mobile and smart phones are changing the way people interact with places and with each other in an increasingly complex manner. Smart phones are starting to impact the way users access information on the go and receive suggestions. More specifically, innovative recommender systems are currently being developed to exploit GPS-based or other location-sensitive information, associated on-the-go to individual users through smartphones. This second generation of recommender systems, by being location-based, pose an entirely different set of problems which not only have to do with the knowledge of the user (her or his profile), but also with that of the places. Knowledge of places can be achieved by means of guides, textbooks and journey reports, or by direct experience. These ways are quite different in nature. The former is globally accessible (everybody can get it from afar) and relatively fast to obtain, especially in the age of the Internet. The latter is only locally accessible (one needs to be in the place to access it) and, being generated by those living in the place through personal local interaction, it becomes accessible only after long-term interactions and the construction of personal relationship of mutual trust. When visiting a new place, you would necessarily rely only on global information to navigate the place and access its resources. Conversely, if you are a local, your knowledge of the place is mostly constructed through your personal long-term exchange with what all your neighbours are doing every day and with their favourite places in the neighbourhood; as a result, you not only would rely on local knowledge, but you would also contribute - by interacting locally - to the formation and continuous re-shaping of the information used by your neighbours too in their interaction. If we name the long-term, locally generated knowledge of the place neighbourhood knowledge, we can say that what people locally do in places is in one way or another dependent on the extent to which they have access to the neighbourhood knowledge.
The second generation of recommender systems allows global place-users, i.e. people visiting a place who are not experienced with the place itself, to access globally available information. However, a good deal of information is still not exploited in these systems, as the geographic and the social only meet in a superficial way: in other words, the system does not take advantage of any information about the particular use of the place that local communities have done in the past and do at the moment.
As neighbourhood knowledge information is now becoming increasingly available through the viral expansion of location-based social networks such as foursquare or Gowalla, it is now possible to explore a third generation of recommender systems, where knowledge about how the place had been used in the past (historical use) or is used at the moment of the inquiry (real-time use) by communities of users is the key element of the system. The main motivation behind the GALE project is to pioneer such third generation recommender systems which would make it possible for the rapidly growing population of global city users to access a level of information, that of the neighbourhoods knowledge, which is inherently inaccessible to global repositories, and to do that in real time."

Key findings

"Neighbourhoods have always been seen by planners as fixed geographical entities, i.e. circles fo r=400mts around a centre of retail and services. The Neighbourhood Unit, an early XXth Cent. concept, is such fixed geographic entity, and the backbone model for urban design since inception and up to our days. Our findings demonstrate that this model is not accurate as it does not reflect the fluid nature of social relationships in the current liquid modernity. However, it turns out that the relationship of urban communities with urban places is not determined by urban spatial features (such as the location services and retail), but at the same time is not completely independent by them. Somewhere in-between spatial determinism and spatial irrelevance, urban communities in their continuous floating and re-shaping do generate spatial patterns that are in fact influenced by the location of retail and services.
Moreover, if we define communities as groups of interests that are defined according to a specific profile of place attendance, we observe that while communities may remain stable in time, a large majority of their users change (around 70% of turnover in the three-months time period).
This, plus a number of other more specific findings, has profound implications for urban designers."
Effective start/end date23/09/1313/04/16


  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £231,527.00

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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