Contact FutureLearn for Support
Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsIn this lecture, we're going to look in depth in a city's development. We do this on the basis of a model, an abstract model of non-linearity. You're going to see, if you stay with me that at the end of this lecture you might get a pretty good idea about how to see a city's development in a nonlinear way. The nonlinear model we are going to use represents the complex adaptive system. Basically, a complex adaptive system exists out of two layers interacting. One is the robust layer, which in this respect refers to the cities that do not easily disappear. Cities don't go. They stay. They remain. They are robust.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsWhile at the same time they relate with another layer, a dynamic layer. Cities are highly flexible as well. They change through time. They adapt to their context, to circumstances, to trends, and so on. The robust layer and the dynamic layer interact.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 secondsThese layers interact, in particular, in moments of transition. While going through a transition we see dynamics increasing, while stability or robustness is decreasing, until it gets a better fit with its environment. Then you see the dynamics decreasing and the stability increasing. The system is beginning to become more robust again. This is basically what a complex, adaptive system does. It is important to know it's not just these two layers within the system which are relevant. No. The system is also connected to its context, a context in between order and chaos, in between uniformity and diversity. So while being dynamic and robust inside, the system also responds to uniformity and diversity outside.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 secondsI'm proposing four connectors to make this internal and external relationship clear; cohesion, compatibility, competitiveness, and complementarity. For example, cohesion links the internal robustness with the external uniformity. And competitiveness links the internal dynamics with the external diversity. This might sound slightly abstract, perhaps. But it is not that hard. We're going to see what these notions mean for a city's development. Let's start with cohesion. I will use a business park as an example. A business park shows cohesion because of an integrated mix of activities which cover the basics for the park to perform well. There is knowledge exchange. There is sharing of energy and water. There is park management, smart transport activities, and so on. That's cohesion.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsIt gives the business park its robustness, which is rather essential.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 secondsCompatibility is another important notion for a city. Now I'll use the shopping mall as an example.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 secondsHow will it gets its robustness while being so diverse? How will it survive? Well, one aspect is that diversity is a major attractor for a shopping mall. People go there because it's diverse. More importantly, if one of these shops drops out, the shopping mall doesn't collapse. Because there are plenty of other shops. There is diversity, which gives it its robustness.

Skip to 3 minutes and 54 secondsMost of us are very well aware of what competitiveness means. Not just companies compete with each other, cities compete as well. Every city is willing to be the best, trying to be attractive to companies, shops, tourists. And if you believe all the branding, one is even better than the other. All want to compete to be special. But it's important to understand that you cannot just be special. Because that would isolate you. You have to be complementary as well. And that makes the complex adaptive system model complete. While everyone wants to compete, complementary is very much ignored. Which is a pity. Quite a few people forget you cannot compete without being complementary as well. Let's have a better look at complementary.

Skip to 4 minutes and 51 secondsPlease do follow my reasoning. What would a city center be without its neighborhoods? Basically nothing. As no one would go to the city center. And what would a neighborhood be without a city center? The neighborhood would be an unattractive place to live, as there are no shops nearby. This rhythm of a mutual dependency works on every level. It works like a fractal. So there we are. We have shown you the city and regions as a complex adaptive system. And we have introduced four connectors, four cornerstones of the complex, adaptive model through which we can understand its transformative behavior. Together, these four connectors tell you how a city and region could develop, could co-evolve.

Skip to 5 minutes and 42 secondsIf these four connectors are there in balance, a city and regions might evolve in a healthy way. We will not know much about a direction a city evolves in time. But what we do know is that the four characteristics, these notions, connectors; will be the center of the system. It gives the system, the city, and the regions their identity. It allows the city and regions to develop.

A model of non-linear city development

This lecture introduces a model of how cities can develop in a non-linear way. Characteristics of a transition of a city are about the dynamics and robustness of a city and about its uniformity and diversity. How do you recognise this?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World

University of Groningen

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: