For Researchers

GPS Tracking

Screenshots of the GPS Tracker

Screenshots of the Belfast Pathways App

Belfast Pathways, our bespoke GPS Tracking Android App, is available Open Source at GitHub. The scripts and database structure that we used on the server are also available at GitHub, meaning that replication of our system should be quite easy. To use it, simply set up the database and scripts on the server, set the server base URL at Belfast-Tracker/app/src/main/res/values/strings.xml. From there, you should be able to install the app to android devices and start collecting data! more detailed setup instructions are provided in the repositories.

This software can be used to track participants at any temporal resolution that the researcher requires, though based upon our testing we found that collecting a location every 4-seconds provides a good compromise between detail and device battery life.

In order to facilitate good results, the Belfast Pathways application has a number of distinctive features:

  • The app runs 'in the background' on the device, preventing accidental deactivation from the participant. If the app is closed, it will continue to collect data, and it will even resume data collection if the device is re-started.
  • Should the participant not wish to be tracked, then they can use the 'Pause Tracking' functionality, whereby they can specify a period of time that they would like to tracking to pause for. After this time period has elapsed, tracking will resume.
  • Data is logged to a local database, which is bulk-uploaded to the server when the device connects to a WiFi network with Internet connectivity. If the device remains connected to WiFi, then uploads will take place at regular intervals (we recommend two hours). Furthermore, the local data will only be deleted once the server has confirmed that it has been successfully uploaded.
  • These measures minimise the potential for data loss, whilst also avoiding any cost from mobile data use on the part of the participant. An illustration of the data collected using this method can be seen in the maps section of this website.

Walking Interviews

Walking interviews, which probed a number of sociospatial factors shaping people’s mobility patterns, were a key methodological component of the Belfast Mobility Project. Based on the premise that ‘emplacing’ (Riley 2010) interviews in local landscapes can serve as vital ‘prompts’ (Evans and Jones 2011, 856) that reveal critical spatial knowledge and meanings, the project employed a modified version of Kusenbach’s (2003) ‘go-along’ method, in which the researcher accompanies a participant during their ordinary activities and routines. In this instance, the interviews comprised a flexible and open-ended sequence of questions asked ‘en route’ as the researcher and interviewee walked around the local area retracing a ‘typical’ journey for the participant. These interviews were audio-recorded and later transcribed. A second researcher photographed aspects of the landscape that featured prominently in the interviewee’s narrative, allowing images to be GPS/GIS linked to interview excerpts. The route of the walk was also tracked using the Belfast Pathways smartphone application described in the previous section.


Sectarian Graffiti


Sectarian Graffiti in the Ardoyne

Prior to leaving on the walk, each interviewee took part in a short indoor interview that focused on their personal background, social networks and ties to the local area. They were then given the following set of instructions:

Imagine you are a tour guide and we are visiting your community. We want to get an idea of how you use and experience the local environment on a typical day. We are particularly interested in how living in a divided part of the city affects your everyday life.

Throughout the walk, we sought to explore how different kinds of sectarian (and, in our instance, paramilitary) threat shaped how participants moved through and used the local environment. The goal was to gather as much concrete information as possible about how particular environmental features affected residents’ lived experience of using and moving through their local area. Thus, the interviewers took the opportunity to point out potentially relevant features that were present throughout the journey and explore how residents themselves felt about encountering these aspects en route. At the same time, they remained sensitive to more hidden or subtle landscape features that may have a meaning only for ‘insiders’ to the area.

We present below a sample interview schedule. The order and precise content of the questions varied across interviews, in response to the accounts provided by our participants during their actual walk. However, this schedule captures the core questions and themes that we addressed.

Theme 1: Identity/Visual Markers/Affect

Theme 2: Community

Theme 3: Facilities/Access

Survey and Questionnaire


The BMP survey used a non-random sample of 520 participants, gathered via door-to-door recruitment across several key sites in North Belfast. This sample had the following characteristics:

Primary sites for survey participant recruitment in North Belfast

Survey participants were drawn from four key sites:

Map of primary survey sites in North Belfast

Key aims and questionnaire

The survey was designed to explore the relationship between social psychological factors such as intergroup contact experiences, strength of group identity and perceived intergroup threat and self-reported attitudes towards activity space segregation, including relevant policy attitudes (notably, attitudes towards government proposals to remove interface barriers between catholic and protestant communities).

The full questionnaire used in our survey is available here and some notes on the nature of our main variables and details on how they were coded is available here.


Conference Papers

Whyatt, D., Huck, J.J. & Davies, G. (2017). Belfast Mobility Project: Integrating PGIS and GPS to Understand Patterns of Segregation. In: Proceedings of the GIS Research UK 25th Annual Conference, Manchester, UK.

Davies, G., Huck, J.J., Whyatt, D., Hocking, B., Jarman, N., Sturgeon, B., Bryan, D. & Dixon, J. (2017). Belfast Mobility: Extracting Route Information from GPS Tracks. In: Proceedings of the GIS Research UK 25th Annual Conference, Manchester, UK.

Whyatt, J.D., Davies, G., Huck, J.J., Dixon, J., Hocking, B., Jarman, N., Sturgeon, B., & Bryan, D. (2016) Belfast Pathways: Space-Time Analysis of Every Day Activities in a Segregated Environment. In: Proceedings of the GIS Research UK 24th Annual Conference, Greenwich, UK.