Mobilities and Interactions of People Crossing State Borders: Big Data to Reveal Transnational People and Spaces

In the age of globalization, increasing flows of mobilities crossing state borders represent a key manifestation of transnationalism – one of the central concepts and theories for understanding socio-spatial processes and phenomena beyond nation state borders. Socio-spatial interactions such as transnational human mobilities and social engagement are the centerpiece of forming and transforming existing political, economic, cultural, religious and social spaces, and boundaries and identities.

In the EU “borderless world”, cross-border interaction and integration is a key issue towards balanced and sustainable socio-spatial cohesion within the EU. However, not much is known about the rapidly increasing bordering practices - cross-border daily mobilities and social interactions - that are one underlying force to the transforming of new functional transnational spaces and shaping transational people.

This research applies novel big data approach to provide invaluable insights for research and practice on transnational socio-spatial interactions. We consider big data sources from mobile devices such as mobile phone positioning and social media data as proxies for people, and examine how such data allow us to reveal cross-border mobilities, social networks and interactions of people in a global world. Our particular focus is on people who cross state borders to perform their daily life practices, and how these practices are influenced by external factors (e.g. COVID-19).

Our research seek:

  1. Enhanced concepts and methods to understand socio-spatial practices of people beyond state borders from big data;
  2. Conceptual framework to understand transnational spaces and transnational people;
  3. New knowledge about the emerging functional transnational spaces and their role in European spatial planning; and
  4. Information for policy-making and indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of cross-border policy initiatives and progress towards EU's spatial planning goals.

We currently examine cross-border regions in the whole Europe based on publicly available geo-located Twitter data, and more specifically focus on three case study regions: 1) Finland - Estonia; 2) The eight Nordic-Baltic countries; and 3) The Greater Region of Luxembourg. In collaboration with Mobility Lab at Tartu University, we use a longitudinal smartphone tracking study on transnational Estonians living in Finland.


Interested to work with this topic as part of your MSc, PhD or post-doc research? Email me!

Former contributors: Matti Moisala (MSc student); Bryan Vallejo (MSc student); Emily Dovydaitis (MSc student); Emil Ehn­ström (MSc student); Samuli Massinen (MSc student)



Järv, O., Aagesen, H. W., Väisänen, T. L. A. & Massinen, S. (2022). Revealing mobilities of people to understand cross-border regions: insights from Luxembourg using social media data. European Planning Studies.

Aagesen, H. W., Järv, O. & Gerber, P. (2022). The effect of COVID-19 on cross-border mobilities of people and functional border regions: the Nordic case study from Twitter data. Geografiska annaler. Ser. B, Human geography.

Heikinheimo, V., Järv, O., Tenkanen, H., Hiippala, T., & Toivonen, T. (2022). Detecting country of residence from social media data: a comparison of methods. International Journal of Geographical Information Science.

Järv, O., Tominga, A., Müürisepp, K., & Silm, S. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on daily lives of transnational people based on smartphone data: Estonians in Finland. Journal of Location Based Services.

Järv, O., & Silm, S. (2021). Käigud Soome ja Eesti vahel – tuhandete püsieluviis. Postimees, 18-19. (Translated title of the contribution: Mobility between Finland and Estonia - lifestyle of thousands).

Järv, O., & Müürisepp, K. (2021). Virolaiset Suomessa – ylirajaisuus, monipaikkaisuus ja koronakriisi. Elo. Suomalais-virolainen kulttuurilehti, 2021(2), 12-15. (Translated title of the contribution: Estonians in Finland – transnationalism, multi-local living and corona crisis).

Silm, S., Järv, O., Masso, A. (2020). Tracing human mobilities through mobile phones. Handbook of Research Methods and Applications for Mobilities. Büscher, M., Freudendal-Pedersen, M., Kesselring, S. & Grauslund Kristersen, N. (eds.). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, p. 182-192.

Poom, A., Järv, O., Zook, M., Toivonen, T. (2020). COVID-19 is spatial: Ensuring that mobile Big Data is used for social good. Big Data and Socety.

Järv, O., & Müürisepp, K. (2020). Sotsiaalmeedia andmete sotsiaal-ruumiline analüüs. In A. Masso, K. Tiidenberg, & A. Siibak (Eds.), Kuidas mõista andmestunud maailma? Metodoloogiline teejuht (pp. 597-621). (Gigantum Humeris). TLÜ Kirjastus, Tallinn University Press. (Translated title of the contribution: Socio-spatial analysis of social media data).

Silm, S., & Järv, O. (2020). Mobiiltelefonid ühiskonna aegruumilises analüüsis. In A. Masso, K. Tiidenberg, & A. Siibak (Eds.), Kuidas mõista andmestunud maailma? Metodoloogiline teejuht (pp. 622-652). (Gigantum Humeris). TLÜ Kirjastus, Tallinn University Press. (Translated title of the contribution: Mobile phones for space-time analysis of society).

Kährik, A., Järv, O., Tammaru, T., Anniste, K. (2019). Eestlased Soomes – lõimumine, sidemed kodumaaga ja hargmaisuse mustrid. (Translated title of the contribution: Estonians in Finland - integration, links to homeland and forms of transnationalism).


Söderholm, M., Aagesen, H., Väisänen, T., & Järv, O. (2023). BorderRegion_KDE - A Tool to Capture Cross-Border Regions from Human Mobility. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10418690.


There are six MSc theses published related to the BORDERSPACE project:


The research has received several fundings:

  • Academy of Finland (Academy Research Fellow) for the period 2020-2025

  • University of Helsinki (post-doctoral grant) for the period 2018-2020

  • Kone Foundation (post-doctoral grant) for the period 2017-2023