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Open Data and Quantitative Techniques for Anthropology of Road Traffic

by   Ajda Pretnar Žagar, et al.
University of Ljubljana

What kind of questions about human mobility can computational analysis help answer? How to translate the findings into anthropology? We analyzed a publicly available data set of road traffic counters in Slovenia to answer these questions. The data reveals interesting information on how a nation drives, how it travels for tourism, which locations it prefers, what it does during the week and the weekend, and how its habits change during the year. We conducted the empirical analysis in two parts. First, we defined interesting traffic spots and designed computational methods to find them in a large data set. As shown in the paper, traffic counters hint at potential causes and effects in driving practices that we can interpret anthropologically. Second, we used clustering to find groups of similar traffic counters as described by their daily profiles. Clustering revealed the main features of road traffic in Slovenia. Using the two quantitative approaches, we outline the general properties of road traffic in the country and identify and explain interesting outliers. We show that quantitative data analysis only partially answers anthropological questions, but it can be a valuable tool for preliminary research. We conclude that open data are a useful component in an anthropological analysis and that quantitative discovery of small local events can help us pinpoint future fieldwork sites.


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