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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Self-organization is an example of nonlinear behavior. We see self-organization everywhere. Best known are the elephant paths through the grass, representing shortcuts people like to make, individual behavior which results in a collective result. To some extent we see this behavior as well in traffic. Look, for example, this particular road crossing with traffic lights. It looks very well arranged. But you can imagine drivers already wondering in their cars, when is the light going to turn green. When can I go? What happens if we take away the traffic lights? A total chaos. We know very well what will happen when we are in our car, and being part of this mess, it’s stressful. It creates anger, and is sometimes frightening.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds And we don’t want that. There is an alternative though, in between order and chaos, a more fluid approach. It’s the roundabout, a self-guided, a self-organizing mechanism. Most people like it a lot, as long as we don’t get too much of those on our way. Another example, the neighborhood. Since the early 20th century, housing development has become highly regulated. There were clear motives for this. In the past there were severe health problems, such as cholera due to a lack of hygiene and uncontrolled development. This had to be countered by urban planning. The authorities decided to work on neighborhood development in an ordered and structured way. Since then, planners have designed neighborhoods.

Skip to 2 minutes and 4 seconds These are perhaps slightly boring, with not much diversity and a lack of identity. But that’s what we’ve been doing for 100 years, successfully.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds Could this have happened if there is no regulation at all? I wonder if we want to go back to this kind of development. I doubt it. In between order and chaos, several alternatives can be imagined. This could result in more diversity while maintaining a certain quality, for a price which might remain reasonable. A spatial concept that supports such an alternative is called organic development. It’s a flexible approach, as some diversity is allowed. While order is being maintained as well through its design. People feel at home in such environments, as the diversity is enough to create feelings of belonging and identity.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds Lately citizens do not just become more flexible in their approach to find a good place to live and to build houses which are appreciated. They are also willing to take into account the space between the houses, which contributes as well to the identity of the neighborhood, and can easily increase further quality of the neighborhood. On top of this, it also creates social capital, thanks to informal control mechanisms, which is a consequence of the community meeting and knowing each other. This too is very much an advantage for a neighborhood being healthy and appreciated. People knowing each other, willing to talk to each other, and also willing to point at each other when things go wrong, to change it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds This is what happens in between order and chaos, when people are allowed to take responsibility to develop their environment to their liking.

Self organisation in cities

This video shows how self organisation shapes many cities.

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