The Complexity of Urban Information Gathering

  • Abdulfatai Popoola

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Information gathering efforts are routinely organised to get information about fugitives, help people during crises or during search and rescue missions. The success of any information gathering effort is largely dependent on the environment it is carried out in: for example, search efforts in hostile environments are unlikely to succeed compared to those in friendly areas. Also, well-planned and organized cities might be easier to search compared to ill-planned or disorganized cities. This thesis introduces a new way of measuring the difficulty of information gathering: the eigenvector centrality distribution of the dual graph of a city’s road network; this measures the probability that a random walker stumbles on the information desired. Empirical analysis of these distributions provided us with a basis for comparision and identifying trends. Results show that it is significantly easier to search and retrieve information in North American cities compared to European and Asian cities. Also the younger a city is, the less difficult it is to search. Finally, we show that city structural forms (planned, unplanned and partly planned) have no effect on the difficulty of finding information. These results can be applied in urban planning and development, disaster response and diffusion modelling. Moreover, since potential hotspots can be easily identified, our model can be used in monitoring crime and search and rescue missions.
Date of AwardJun 2013
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorIyad Rahwan (Supervisor)


  • Information Gathering; Urban Planning; City/Social Networks.

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