Author Archives: Michael Batty

About Michael Batty

I chair CASA at UCL which I set up in 1995. I am Bartlett Professor In UCL.

Architecture and Collective Behaviour

Just published: a special Issue of Philosophical Transactions B (The Royal Society) on ‘Interdisciplinary approaches for uncovering the impacts of architecture on collective behaviour’. My own contribution is ‘open access’ and you can read it and print it from the web site here. The issue covers many aspects of collective behaviours at different architectural and spatial scales dealing with different social and physical systems. The commonality of diverse approaches to very different systems is well demonstrated by this issue. All the papers can be seen in terms of contents here.

The editors say:

“Built structures, such as animal nests or buildings that humans occupy, influence where and how individuals interact. These interactions lead to cooperation, collaboration, and collective behaviours, which are fundamental for the formation of functional human and animal societies. Despite the obvious influence of space on interactions, because spatial proximity is necessary for an interaction to occur, spatial constraints are rarely considered in studies of collective behaviour or collective cognition.

This special issue highlights ways in which structures impact society, for example through the impact of the built environment on information flow, disease transmission and health behaviours. In addition, the issue brings new research on how architecture affects collective behaviours of humans and animals. For example, humans have fewer face-to-face interactions than expected in open spaces and ground squirrels interact differently in open and closed spaces. This special issue creates a unique exchange of ideas among a wide range of disciplines including behavioural ecologists, evolutionary biologists, cognitive scientists, social scientists, architects, physicists, and engineers. The goal of this issue is to formalise and catalyse an interdisciplinary exchange that will propel the study of architecture and collective behaviour.”

Applied Urban Modelling 2018

This conference is the seventh in a by-now very well established meeting held each June in Cambridge UK, which brings together those working on land use transport interaction/integration models (LUTI models) in the narrower sense and more generally on urban simulation models. Although initially set up to continue work on aggregate land use and transportation models, it has broadened to include other kinds of models and this year there are interesting papers on very large scale models such as UrbanSim, PECAS and TRANUS as well as cellular automata models like SLEUTH. The programme is here and those wanting the papers should contact the authors. During the meeting we have had a session dealing with the contributions of Lionel March to urban modelling. I tweeted about this a couple of weeks ago but here is my contribution – the PDF of my talk about my work with Lionel some 44 years ago when we were both at the University of Waterloo in Engineering. Lionel of course set up the Centre for Land Use and Built Form Studies that morphed into the Martin Centre (at the University of Cambridge’s School of Architecture) in the mid 1970s. Much of what goes on in LUTI modelling can be traced to Lionel and I am not being melodramatic. My talk recounts what we did with probability theory and spatial interaction and how we tried to fashion ideas about priors, posteriors, minimum information and so on. There is much more to say about Lionel’s contributions but readers might be interested in my own thoughts which are in the attached PDF. Enjoy.

The Good City Conference

The Urban Transformations Consortium’s Conference on the theme of the ‘Good City’ was held in Oxford last week from April 18thto 20th. A variety of approaches to cities were presented with panel sessions devoted to healthy cities, shelter and ownership, labour markets and migration, environment and technology and social movements. These were contested with a series of more methodological and philosophic statements focussing around cities: the orderly city, the spontaneous city, the intelligent city, the self-sufficient city, the sustainable city and the imaginative city. Five keynote presentations were the highlights between the working sessions with contributions from different cities around the world: Detroit, Durban, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and London. You can see the program by clicking here.

My own contribution was the last one where I drew from our work in CASA in London with my themes that the city can be read through the generic theme of information – not smart cities, or even intelligent cities or virtual cities but information cities. Thus is an old idea but it is increasingly necessary to think of cities as being the hubs of information flow as we transform headlong from a world dominated by energy to one of information. I had a go at starting my talk by walking through a little fragment of the city and explaining how information technology characterises what we see on the walk, in the past as well as the present, but as a prelude to the future. You can get my talk if you click here and on the image above.