Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsIn this lecture, we're going to look, again, at a city-- at various examples-- examples that make clear that our life is not always extremely ordered; our life is, neither, full of chaos. But life, quite often, evolves in between these two-- in between order and chaos. And these developments we call "nonlinear." What we're going to look at is a few examples of transitions-- of jumps between stable periods-- and where we see patterns emerging-- nonlinear patterns; patterns that emerge out of transitions. Let's have a look.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsA city has been defined as a complex, adaptive system. And we could relate, to that, loads of interesting notions-- emergent patterns, self-organization, path dependency, co-evolution, adaptivity, et cetera. What relates to it, as well, is a transition-- a jump between two stable phases where structure and function co-evolve. In this example, we'll see a white circle evolving into a grey square. That's basically a very abstract presentation of what is happening, in a transition. Structure and function change, through the jump. And you cannot, really, predict what will come out of this white circle, at the end-- in this case, in this example, a grey square.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 secondsBut let's see how this works, in practise-- in practise, where we have to ignore, a little bit, linear evolution and exponential jumps. We're going to look at co-evolution. And one example to start with is what I call the bike example. It's not a transition upwards; it's a transition downward. But it makes perfect sense. And the good thing about this example is, you all are part of this. You all have done this. You all understand it, this kind of transition and its stable layers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 26 secondsYou probably know what this sign means. This sign is there because of local authorities, explaining to you that something is happening ahead, on the track. And they advise you to turn right, because they have-- well-- developed for you a wonderful, new path. And at the end, you will, no doubt, end where you wanted to end, a little bit further on the road. But what's happening? In our world of anarchy, where we often ignore functionality, we keep on going. We ignore the signs-- sometimes, it's quite dangerous-- instead of following the signs-- the advice given by the local authorities. This is the path you should have gone, if you have taken the advice of the municipality seriously.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 secondsUnfortunately, in this picture, two bikes are there, but, probably, they need to be there, because, when I was there making pictures, there was hardly anyone there. Instead, most people kept on biking. But here, you see, this is the reason why the municipality asked you to turn to the right. They are repairing the road. And you can't go on; that's obviously clear. Please do go back. We are repairing, for you, the road. And, in time, you will have a wonderful, new bike path. But what is happening? There you go. This is what we call "self-organization." Without agreements of the various bikers, this bike path emerges as a new, stable level, aside from the traditional, fancy bike path now under repair.

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 secondsWe all know this. We all behave more or less the same. While we do not negotiate with each other to go along the bike path and ignore the municipality's advice. There you go. A wonderful bike path, as long as it's not raining. A stable bike path. A new, stable level-- perhaps, on a little bit lower level, but splendid to pass it. No problem at all. These paths we call, among academia, "elephant paths." They're there because individuals take the same path without discussing this with each other-- without coming to joint agreements. But there is a collective result. These paths are the result of autonomous processes. We call that "self-organization." And it's one of the characteristics of nonlinear behaviour.

Skip to 5 minutes and 11 secondsSort of the same thing we see if we look at traffic. Here, for example, we see a crossing, highly ordered with traffic lights. Ah-- almost a perfect order. But you see people, already, wondering, in their cars, when this is light going to turn green? Well, this is what happened if you take away all the traffic lights. You get chaos. And you know, very well, what will happen when you're in your car-- and are you being part of this incredible mess? It's frightening. You don't want that. What will we find to balance, in between? A more fluid approach, in between order and chaos-- a roundabout; a self-guided mechanism.

Skip to 5 minutes and 58 secondsAnd most of us like it, a lot, if we don't get too much of those on our way.

Skip to 6 minutes and 7 secondsAnother example is the neighbourhood. Since the early 1900s, housing development has been highly regulated. There were clear motives for this, because, in the past, we had severe health problems. Cholera, et cetera, came up. And therefore, the authorities decided, let's do it in an ordered, structured way. From then on, we have-- well, these neighbourhoods that are somehow slightly boring-- no creativity. It lacks identity and diversity, some say, but this is what we've done for a hundred years. This could happen, if there is no regulation at all. I'm not sure if we like these.

Skip to 6 minutes and 53 secondsIn between order and chaos, several advantages might emerge. You get diversity; you see some identity, while costs might remain reasonable. The spatial concept that now comes up, for these kinds of developments, we call "organic development"-- little bit of order, a little bit of diversity. People feel at home, because there is some identity. Well-- and you have some flexibility to do, a little bit, what you like, while, at the same time, well, you can draw on others' advice, experience, and so forth, to keep a certain tradition up.

Skip to 7 minutes and 35 secondsIf we look at these new developments-- for example, organic development-- we see there is even a step further to go, which is going to be highly interested-- hopefully, also, in the future-- where people not just become more flexible, in their approach to find a good place to build houses, et cetera, but also to take into account the spaces between the houses, which add up to the identity of the neighbourhood. And it makes the quality of the neighbourhood slightly better. And there is a lot of control, through this, as well. But this control is, well, almost emerging out of itself, from within, because the community does meet and does know each other.

Skip to 8 minutes and 19 secondsAnd that's also very much an advantage, for a healthy neighbourhood-- people knowing each other, willing to talk to each other, but also pointing, to each other, the things that are going wrong, to change it. This is what happens when you're trying to develop space, in between order and chaos.

The city: Between order and chaos

This lecture explores the evolution of cities somewhere between order and chaos. When cities evolve both their function and structure evolve together. Are we able to know what the city will look like?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World

University of Groningen

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: