Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems
Edited by Elizabeth Garnsey and James McGlade
Chapter 3: Cities: Continuity, Transformation and Emergence
3. Cities: continuity, transformation and emergence Michael Batty, Joana Barros and Sinésio Alves Júnior HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS Cities are never what they seem. Our usual response when faced with trying to understand their form and function is to revert to the almost reﬂex actions which are instilled into us from an early age whereby we try to make sense of the world by ‘adding things up’. With cities in existence before we even begin, we know that this strategy will not work. Our own behaviour is hard to reconcile with the kind of routine order that we see when we observe the ways in which people travel to work, the places where housing estates are built, and the almost mindless ﬂocking that we see when we visit entertainment centres, from sports arenas to large shopping malls. In short, the ‘whole is more than the sum of the parts’ (Simon 1962). We cannot assemble the whole by simply adding up the parts, for all would agree that there is something more that makes cities function as ordered wholes. Equally, we cannot get at their essence by simply tearing apart the whole and examining the parts; through its reductionist strategy, classical science simply fails us when we try to understand such complexity. Half a century ago, science began to deal with complexity under the banner of general system theory (Bertalanﬀy 1972). Since then there has been a sea change in many sciences as highly centralized, purist explanations from the...
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