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Beyond the physical structures that contain daily routines, urban city dwellers repeatedly encounter strangers that similarly shape their environments. Familiar strangers are neither formal acquaintances nor completely anonymous faces in daily urban life. Due to data limitations, there is a lack of research focused on uncovering the structure of the "Familiar Stranger" phenomenon at a large scale while simultaneously investigating the social relationships between such strangers. Using countrywide mobile phone records from Andorra, we empirically show the existence of such a phenomenon as well as details concerning these strangers' relative social relations. To understand the social and spatial components of familiar strangers more deeply, we study the temporal regularity and spatial structure of collective urban mobility to shed light on the mechanisms that guide these interactions. Furthermore, we explore the relationship between social distances and the number of encounters to show that more significant physical encounters correspond to a shorter social distance. Understanding these social and physical networks has essential implications for epidemics spreading, urban planning, and information diffusion. © 2021. The Author(s).


Yan Leng, Dominiquo Santistevan, Alex Pentland. Understanding collective regularity in human mobility as a familiar stranger phenomenon. Scientific reports. 2021 Sep 30;11(1):19444

PMID: 34593831

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