The urban networks discussed in this volume, and that appear in the literature more broadly, are characterized by significant diversity. This is perhaps not a surprise as the study of urban networks is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on theoretical foundations from geography, economics, psychology and sociology, and on methodological tools including ethnographic and qualitative methods from sociology, and quantitative methods from mathematics and physics. However, although the flexibility of network models to capture a wide range of urban phenomena is a key strength of the approach and a source of intellectual diversity, it can also be a source of confusion. Different fields and different research questions require studying different types of urban networks, often defined in very different ways, which obscures their commonalities. In this introductory chapter, we sketch a framework for integrating the diversity of urban networks by situating them along the dimensions of level and scale. These two dimensions define, respectively, the aggregation and spatial scope of the nodes, and therefore provide critical parameters for defining an urban network. In some instances, a network’s level and scale are defined implicitly by the research question, but we contend there is still value in being explicit about level and scale. Similarly, although a great deal of past research on urban networks has explored only specific intersections of level and scale (for example, networks of people at the local scale, or networks of cities at the global scale), we contend that exploring urban networks with different combinations of levels and scales offers opportunities for new insights that the reader will find in this volume. We begin by describing the level/scale framework in general, then discuss the case of economic urban networks as an extended example, and use the framework to explore commonalities among the diverse urban networks in this volume. We conclude by discussing ways that levels and scales can be made more explicit in urban networks, and the potential benefits for studying urban networks at multiple levels and scales.
Browse by title
John D. Graham
This Handbook of Public Transport Research aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the latest research in a growing field: the field of research on urban public transport. The quantity of public transport related research papers has doubled in the last nine years. Why? For two reasons. First, researchers have been increasingly inspired by the topic. It is an applied and practical topic affecting the quality of life of billions of people. It is also a field with significant challenges, seeking new and original solutions. These challenges range from the difficult interface of engineering, operations and human perceptions in user satisfaction and performance management, to the tricky balance between prudent financial management, operations planning and the social access goals making subsidies essential. These challenges require a multi-disciplinary perspective to wicked problems in Engineering, Planning, Psychology and Design, which is why the field is intellectually as well as tactically challenging. The foundation of many of these challenges is the conflicting congestion and environmental relief, and the social equity objectives that justify public transport in cities.
Monika Büscher, Malene Freudendal-Pedersen, Sven Kesselring and Nikolaj Grauslund Kristensen
The growing field of mobilities research focuses on the flows and movements of people, artefacts, capital, information and signs on different social and geographical scales. Scholars in mobilities research are working on the physical movement of people and goods, digitalised (social) relations and communication between individuals, groups, organisations and institutions, the experience and embodiment of space in motion and dwelling, and many other subjects. Mobilities research examines the systems and practices of mobilities from different theoretical, epistemological and methodological perspectives, but with a common ontology of mobilities as the constitutive element of societies, politics and economies (Urry 2000; Sheller and Urry 2016; Sheller 2017; Jensen et al. 2019). This Handbook reflects the variety and diversity of the field in respect of research methods and applications for mobilities research, while also illuminating the multiple dimensions of mobilities, from transport to tourism, cargo to information as well as physical, virtual and imaginative mobilities. In these contexts, the motivation to make methods mobile springs from a deep appreciation of how ‘the reality is movement’ (Bergson 1911, p. 302). The new mobility paradigm (Sheller and Urry 2006) not only broadened the perspective by including social and cultural practices in the study of mobilities, but also added a new epistemological, creative, normative, public dimension to doing research. Mobile methods provide new insights by mobilising an analytical approach to the constitutive role of (im)mobilities (Büscher et al. 2010; Fincham et al. 2010). This may literally mobilise researchers in ethnographic go-alongs, as many of the authors in this Handbook describe (for example, Wilson, Chapter 12 in this volume), or metaphorically mobilise research by self-tracking (Duarte, Chapter 6 in this volume), following the mobile positioning of mobile phones (Silm et al., Chapter 17 in this volume) or through cultural analysis (Perkins, Chapter 15 in this volume), and it may mobilise research subjects in planning (Bennetsen and Hartmann-Petersen, Chapter 22 in this volume) or through phronesis (Tyfield, Chapter 33 in this volume). Mobilising research means employing the understanding of how research objects, subjects field sites and collaborators are mobile and in movement rather than geographically fixed or static. With the mobilities paradigm, interdisciplinary research and qualitative methods have come to the fore, compared with earlier traditions of mobility and transportation research (see, for example, Yago 1983; Vannini 2015). Researchers and research users engage with mobile methods, to investigate the emergent nature of reality and the way in which social and material phenomena are socially constructed and made durable in and through the intra-actions of many human and non-human agencies (Barad 2007).
Roger W. Vickerman
Chia-Lin Chen, Haixiao Pan, Qing Shen and James Jixian Wang
Since the economic reform and opening-up policy initiated in 1978, changes brought about by a series of consecutive reforms in Chinese society are unparalleled in human history. In this “post-Mao era”, the urbanisation process accelerated dramatically as “a policy exploitive of the rural sector” (Chan, 1994: 97) under the Mao regime had shifted to an urban development policy that “is not simply subordinated to industrialization policy…” and “should be treated as an inevitable process of modern development…” (Chan, 1994: 104). The rate of urbanisation, which denotes the proportion of the population living in urban areas, was merely 10.6 per cent in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded. Over the course of the next thirty years, this proportion rose modestly to 17.9 per cent, whereas, since then, urbanisation has rocketed, with a further steep rise occurring soon after China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001. In 1999, the rate of urbanisation was 30.89 per cent, a strong growth of 13 per cent over 21 years. In less than 18 years, the rate of urbanisation in 2017 had risen to 58.52 per cent, a 28 percent increase, doubling the growth between 1978 and 1999 (NBSC, 1999 and 2018). Transport, either as a means to meet development needs or by itself as an economic growth strategy, has played an indispensable role in contributing to rapid urbanisation, and vice versa. The aphorism of the British economist Colin Clark (Clark, 1958) – “transport is maker and breaker of cities” – proves to be insightful to depict the interactive relationship between transport and urbanisation through a series of developmental crises and technological breakthroughs. For Chinese cities, the pattern of interaction between urbanization and transport is much more complicated than that of most advanced economies, where development of the transport infrastructure took a fairly long period of time to reach its present state. Chinese cities have been a major arena for experiments; from large-scale motorisation to public transit development, from state-led rail transit development to spawning entrepreneur-driven business ideas (such as dockless bike-sharing systems and online ride-hailing systems), all concurring and overlapping in a relatively short time and leading to dramatic urban transformation with considerable challenges for sustainabl development in contemporary China. A recently-published book, Unsustainable Transport and Transition in China by Loo (2018), specifically addresses these challenges.