Are Safer Looking Neighborhoods More Lively? A Multimodal Investigation into Urban Life

ACM Multimedia 2016

9 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2016

See all articles by Marco De Nadai

Marco De Nadai

Fondazione Bruno Kessler; University of Trento

Radu Vieriu

Università degli Studi di Trento

Gloria Zen

Università degli Studi di Trento

Stefan Dragicevic

University of Trento

Nikhil Naik

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Michele Caraviello

Telecom Italia - Telecom Italia - Rome

César Hidalgo

University of Toulouse; University of Manchester; Harvard University

Nicu Sebe

University of Trento

Bruno Lepri

Fondazione Bruno Kessler

Date Written: August 1, 2016

Abstract

Policy makers, urban planners, architects, sociologists, and economists are interested in creating urban areas that are both lively and safe. But are the safety and liveliness of neighborhoods independent characteristics? Or are they just two sides of the same coin? In a world where people avoid unsafe looking places, neighborhoods that look unsafe will be less lively, and will fail to harness the natural surveillance of human activity. But in a world where the preference for safe looking neighborhoods is small, the connection between the perception of safety and liveliness will be either weak or nonexistent. In this paper we explore the connection between the levels of activity and the perception of safety of neighborhoods in two major Italian cities by combining mobile phone data (as a proxy for activity or liveliness) with scores of perceived safety estimated using a Convolutional Neural Network trained on a dataset of Google Street View images scored using a crowdsourced visual perception survey. We find that: (i) safer looking neighborhoods are more active than what is expected from their population density, employee density, and distance to the city centre; and (ii) that the correlation between appearance of safety and activity is positive, strong, and significant, for females and people over 50, but negative for people under 30, suggesting that the behavioral impact of perception depends on the demographic of the population. Finally, we use occlusion techniques to identify the urban features that contribute to the appearance of safety, finding that greenery and street facing windows contribute to a positive appearance of safety (in agreement with Oscar Newman's defensible space theory). These results suggest that urban appearance modulates levels of human activity and, consequently, a neighborhood's rate of natural surveillance.

Keywords: Urban perception, Mobile phone data, Computer vision, Social studies, Urban Planning

Suggested Citation

De Nadai, Marco and Vieriu, Radu and Zen, Gloria and Dragicevic, Stefan and Naik, Nikhil and Caraviello, Michele and Hidalgo, César and Sebe, Nicu and Lepri, Bruno, Are Safer Looking Neighborhoods More Lively? A Multimodal Investigation into Urban Life (August 1, 2016). ACM Multimedia 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2817202

Marco De Nadai (Contact Author)

Fondazione Bruno Kessler ( email )

Via Sommarive 18
Povo
Trento, 38123
Italy

University of Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152
Italy

Radu Vieriu

Università degli Studi di Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152
Italy

Gloria Zen

Università degli Studi di Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152
Italy

Stefan Dragicevic

University of Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152
Italy

Nikhil Naik

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Michele Caraviello

Telecom Italia - Telecom Italia - Rome ( email )

Corso d'Italia 41
Rome, 00198
Italy

César Hidalgo

University of Toulouse ( email )

41 Allées Jules Guesde - CS 61321
Toulouse
France

University of Manchester ( email )

Booth Street West
Manchester, M15 6PB
United Kingdom

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nicu Sebe

University of Trento ( email )

Via Giuseppe Verdi 26
Trento, Trento 38152
Italy

Bruno Lepri

Fondazione Bruno Kessler ( email )

Via Sommarive 18
Povo
Trento, 38123
Italy

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