From Data to Rhizomes: Applying a Geographical Concept to Understand the Mobility of Tourists from Geo-Located Tweets

Federica Burini, Nicola Cortesi, Giuseppe Psaila

In geography, the concept of “rhizome” provides a theoretical tool to conceive the way people move in space in terms of “mobility networks”: the space lived by people is delimited and characterized on the basis of both the places they visited and the sequences of their transfers from place to place. Researchers are now wondering whether in the new era of data-driven geography it is possible to give a concrete shape to the concept of rhizome, by analyzing big data describing movement of people traced through social media. This paper is a first attempt to give a concrete shape to the concept of rhizome, by interpreting it as a problem of “itemset mining”, which is a well-known data mining technique. This technique was originally developed for market-basket analysis. We studied how the application of this technique, if supported by adequate visualization strategies, can provide geographers with a concrete shape for rhizomes, suitable for further studies. To validate the ideas, we chose the case study of tourists visiting a city: the rhizome can be conceived as the set of places visited by many tourists, and the common transfers made by tourists in the area of the city. Itemsets extracted from a real-life data set were used to study the effectiveness of both a topographic representation and a topological representation to visualize rhizomes. In this paper, we study how three different interpretations are actually able to give a concrete and visual shape to the concept of rhizome. The results that we present and discuss in this paper open further investigations on the problem.