Michael Batty (Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University of College London)
Abstract. For the first time, it appears that there is enough momentum in the world to beginning to define "a science of cities" or perhaps "a science for cities." Our concern with cities over the last century has largely been based on defining obvious problems and attempting to solve them without much understanding of how cities actually function and evolve. Much of this has been due to the fact that cities were regarded until quite recently as places to be avoided due to their evident diseconomies due to rapid "industrial" growth despite a recognition that they have always been the hubs of economic activity. In fact in western cities, the focus has been on moving away from cities, living in small towns albeit often with the hinterlands of cities, on building suburbs, and on positively planning for counter urbanization. In understanding cities, there are many different viewpoints, each emphasizing different forces that define how cities work and how their populations respond. Indeed, throughout the social sciences, different perspectives compete for pride of place in attempting to find the best explanations for how cities function and change. In this talk, I will sketch this background but then define the rudiments of what might be called more formally a science of cities from early developments in urban geography, social physics, urban economics, regional science and transportation, and attempt to take stock of what this has established. But then I will argue that much of this theory has been hard to apply and something much more basic is now required. Trends in data, a new understanding of how complex systems evolve, and new ideas in social physics and the micro-analysis of social behaviors all provide promising forces to provide a new understanding. We need to see this in context and we need to develop ways in which this science can be useful. I will argue that a science of cities can never be all embracing but it is a timely focus for our efforts.