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    Footfall and the territorialisation of urban places measured through the rhythms of social activity

    Dargan, Edmund D.W. (2022) Footfall and the territorialisation of urban places measured through the rhythms of social activity. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    The UK high street is constantly changing and evolving in response to, for example, online sales, out-of-town developments, and economic crises. With over 10 years of hourly footfall counts from sensors across the UK, this study was an opportunity to perform a longitudinal and quantitative investigation to diagnose how these changes are reflected in the changing patterns of pedestrian activity. Footfall provides a recognised performance measure of place vitality. However, through a lack of data availability due to historic manual counting methods, few opportunities to contextualise the temporal patterns longitudinally have existed. This study therefore investigates daily, weekly, and annual footfall patterns, to diagnose the similarities and differences between places as social activity patterns from UK high streets evolve over time. Theoretically, footfall is conceptualised within the framework of Territorology and Assemblage Theory, conceptually underpinning a quantitative approach to represent the collective meso-level (street and town-centre) patterns of footfall (social) activity. To explore the data, the periodic signatures of daily, weekly, and annual footfall are extracted using STL (seasonal trend decomposition using Loess) algorithms and the outputs are then analysed using fuzzy clustering techniques. The analyses successfully identify daily, weekly, and annual periodic patterns and diagnose the varying social activity patterns for different urban place types and how places, both individually and collectively are changing. Footfall is demonstrated to be a performance measure of meso-scale changes in collective social activity. For place management, the fuzzy analysis provides an analytical tool to monitor the annual, weekly, and daily footfall signatures providing an evidence-based diagnostic of how places are changing over time. The place manager is therefore better able to identify place specific interventions that correspond to the usage patterns of visitors and adapt these interventions as behaviours change.

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