This SFI-inspired project now centered at CU Boulder seeks the common properties of human settlements through history and across cultures.

We derive our view of human settlements from the Institute’s urban scaling research, which likens cities to stars: they attract people and accelerate interaction and social outputs, much the way stars attract matter and burn more brightly as they grow larger and denser. These social dynamics are a function of networks—interconnected systems of people and infrastructure arrayed in space.

With the discovery that modern cities display many of the emergent properties pre-modern cities and rural settlements do, the University of Colorado Boulder-centered project seeks to characterize and generalize urban life by developing a framework driven by contemporary, historical, and archeological data and informed by the tools and methods of complexity science.